Fitness is fun and easy, right? But maybe you’ve noticed it gets a little more difficult after every birthday and especially that 30th, 40th and 50th. But staying slim, fit and healthy when you’re over 50 is possible, you just need to make some adjustments and take the right approach.
The first approach is for those of you who have been healthy, active and training through those many birthdays. If your program works for you and you and your physician are happy with the results, why change anything? Just keep in mind that your body changes as you age and you will need to adapt and overcome a slower metabolism, but your fitness activity now will pay off with increased energy, vitality and independence later in life.
The second approach is for 1. those of you have taken a break from exercise for a few (or twenty) years, 2. those who are just realizing that you should have been exercising and you’re new to training, and 3. those who have been advised by their doctor to make changes and exercise more. If you identify with any of these people, consider calisthenics.
Calisthenics, or bodyweight training requires NO gym membership, NO equipment (other than an exercise mat or padded surface for floor work) and NO special or expensive clothing or shoes, and you can start right now!
Calisthenics are also an effective form of exercise for weight control and fat loss, provide a beneficial cardiorespiratory effect if you include interval training, reduces stress, all without increasing your blood pressure like weight training or some forms of cardio. While weight and strength training has many benefits, resistance training can cause spikes in blood pressure and may be dangerous if you have high blood pressure.
Your over 50 calisthenics program can be safe, effective and rewarding if you follow some simple guidelines.
- Get clearance from your doctor and follow his/her recommendations.
- Always warm up and cool down to avoid injury. Don’t think that calisthenics are “easy” or not real exercise, a good combination of the right exercises can be very challenging.
- Start slowly and build as you get stronger. If you can only do 3 reps of an exercise today, try for 4 tomorrow and eventually you will be knocking out 10 and 20 reps with ease.
- Perform each exercise correctly and with proper form. Quality first over quantity.
- Progress at your own pace. Don’t get carried away with reps and numbers, but also don’t slack off once you reach your intermediate goals. To get results you must gradually increase either the number of repetitions or the speed or intensity of your workout.
Here are examples of some beginner level calisthenics:
- An excellent chest, arm and shoulder exercise. Start face down on the floor with your hands directly below your shoulders and while keeping your body in a straight line, raise and lower your body by bending at the elbows and using your ankles as a hinge. Keep your head up and eyes forward, never let your head be lower than your body, especially if you have high blood pressure as it increases the intracranial pressure and your blood pressure.
- Bodyweight squats are an excellent hip, thigh and butt exercise and as the squat uses many large muscle groups it burns calories and gets your heart pumping. Stand with your feet a little wider than shoulder width apart and your toes pointed slightly outward. Keep your head up and eyes forward as you lower your butt as though sitting in a low chair. Squat down until the tops of your thighs are parallel with the floor and then stand and repeat.
- Jumping Lunges. After your squats, stand with your feet a comfortable distance apart and step off (lunge forward) with your left leg until your left knee is above your left foot and your right knee is a few inches off the ground. Pause briefly and then jump straight up and switch your legs in midair, and land with your right leg in a forward lunge, now alternate left-right-left. Still think calisthenics are “easy”?
- Burpees are an excellent full body exercise and will work all muscle groups and leave you sweating and gasping for air. Burpees burn calories quickly. Stand up straight, feet at shoulder width and your hands at your sides. Squat down and place your palms face down on the floor in front of your and kick your legs straight back until you are in a pushup position and perform a pushup followed by kicking your feet back under your body just behind your feet. From this deep squat position jump straight up off the ground and then control your descent back into a squat position and repeat.
- Planks are a core and abdominal exercise and a good finishing (end of workout) movement. Start from your prone push up position but support your weight on your forearms and toes. Concentrate on keeping your body straight and hold this position as long as you can while tightening your abdominals and buttocks. Increase your plank time every workout.
These five simple exercises can be the core of your full body calisthenics program. When properly performed, your at-home bodyweight calisthenics program can be an excellent and effective stand-alone exercise program for overall fitness, health and weight loss or weight maintenance.
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