Fitness at any age can be a challenge, and it becomes increasingly difficult as we get older. As we age, our metabolism slows, our hormone and energy levels begin a steep decline, we begin to lose our balance and equilibrium and even lose bone and muscle mass…may as well hit the recliner and fade away, it’s all over. Right?
Wrong, once you understand these physiological changes and their underlying causes, you can overcome every single one of them through diet, exercise and the occasional addition of dietary supplements. While you can’t avoid aging and the effects of aging, you CAN slow the process and stay fit and healthy over 50 and well beyond.
Let’s start with diet. Remember when you were 18 or 20 and could eat burgers, fries, a shake and a couple of slices of pizza and still be hungry? Your 18-year-old body had an active 18-year-old metabolism that could process and burn that garbage food as fuel. But, now you have a 50+ year old metabolism and foods like that would fill the fat cells on your hips or around your waist. You need leaner and cleaner foods to build and maintain a leaner and cleaner body and to reduce the age related inflammation and pain that you may soon experience.
Reduce and gradually eliminate the overly-processed and pre-packaged convenience foods that are packed with sugar, salt, the wrong kinds of fats and carbs, and then pumped full of artificial flavors, colors and preservatives.
Avoid the pizza deliveries and drive-up windows and spend time learning about nutrition, healthy natural foods and how to prepare them. You’ll find that the right combination of fats, carbs and proteins in the right proportions spread out equally throughout your day will stabilize your blood sugar and hormones, increase your body’s fat burning and metabolism and provide the boost in energy you need to move on to the next step…
Exercise. Exercise helps your body burn fat, fire up your basic metabolism, strengthens your heart and lungs reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases, improves balance and agility, and builds or maintains bone strength and muscle. If you are just starting out, start slowly and include training in the three types of fitness: cardiovascular, strength or resistance, and flexibility.
Cardiovascular training increases heart rate and respirations and improves your heart health as it burns fat and calories. Running, swimming, cycling, and similar activities work your large muscle groups requiring your body to work harder and meet these new and challenging demands.
Weightlifting, also called resistance training help strengthen muscle, maintain bone density and improve speed, quickness and agility allowing you to recover from losing your balance. Core and agility training as you age will prevent potentially disastrous falls associated with those over 50. By adding and maintaining lean muscle, you force your body to work harder to feed and support that muscle – the more muscle you have the higher your metabolism. Once you become proficient in your weight training, consider increasing your intensity. Intense training through programs like HIIT, High Intensity Interval Training and “heavy” training with heavier resistance have been found to promote the natural production and release of testosterone and HGH, human growth hormone!
Flexibility. Flexibility as a component of fitness is extremely undervalued and underused, but becomes increasingly important as you age. Flexibility training, including stretching, foam rolling and myofascial release, yoga, pilates and even deep tissue massage all aid in maintaining or increasing your range of motion. Flexibility training reduces your risk of injury as it helps to maintain your joints, including your ligaments and tendons and improves your posture. Flexibility training as you age will help you improve your range of motion, the complete range of movement of your joints, allowing you to be fully functional, self-sufficient and perform your activities of daily living well into your advanced years.
Seasoned athletes and trainees. If you already follow a fitness program that has worked well through your 30s, 40s, and into your 50s, consider mixing it up as you reach 50. If you focus more on cardio, add in one or two weight training sessions and a yoga or pilates class. If you focus more on weights and strength training, add some low impact cardio or try the occasional plyometrics workout, both will boost your metabolism and make it easier to burn fat and add lean muscle.
A word about supplements. There are a few basic supplements that may improve your fitness and training, but don’t believe most of the hype, there are no magic miracle pills. Stay away from the diet pills and if you are considering medically supervised hormone replacement treatment, do your research as there are risks involved in testosterone or HGH treatments. You may find that a sensible diet and intense exercise can provide the results you are looking for. If you believe that dietary supplements will help, start with the vitamins and minerals that your body needs as you age, especially iron, calcium, potassium and magnesium. Next, consider a basic, simple whey protein to feed and maintain muscle tissue, avoid those with fillers, sugars and soy.
Drink more water. Your body needs water to maintain cell health, blood volume and to flush toxins from your liver and kidneys, this becomes even more important as we age. Stay hydrated throughout the day and drink a full glass with each meal and snack. You will feel full sooner and eat fewer calories as a result. Replace the colas, sodas, bottled juices and frappuccinos with water and you’ll eliminate hundreds of empty calories each day. The added water will also prevent headaches and constipation which are caused by dehydration.
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