Exercising Over 50: Are You Too Old To Exercise?

By on April 5, 2013

If you’re concerned about how safe it is to exercise regularly after the age of 50, you’re not alone. According to a 2012 report published by the National Institutes of Health, only 30 percent of people aged 45-65 say that they follow a regular routine of physical exercise, with the percentages dropping down to 25 percent for those aged 65-74.

If you’re afraid that exercising will put you at a higher risk of injuring yourself or falling, then think again. Moderate strengthening exercise can improve your balance and actually reduce the risk of your falling. Exercise can also help prevent osteoporosis, arthritis and other muscle/joint conditions.

The Benefits of Exercise for Seniors

According to research conducted by the Mayo Clinic, seniors who exercised at a moderate level five times a week were found to have a 32 percent less risk of mild-level cognitive impairment, in comparison with seniors who followed a more sedentary lifestyle. These results indicate that exercise preserves the brain’s gray matter and can help prevent conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.

According to the American College of Rheumatology, regular moderate exercise can help improve cartilage health and strengthen muscles, which in turn can prevent the development of osteoarthritis, especially in heavy weight-bearing joints such as the knee.

By increasing your heart rate through healthy levels of exercise, you can also greatly improve your cardiovascular health and possibly extend your life span. The American Heart Association reports that seniors who exercise have a lower risk of conditions such as coronary heart disease and hypertension, as well as other conditions such as type-2 diabetes and certain kinds of cancer.

Types of Exercise

Exercise can be categorized into four different types: cardio endurance and aerobic, strength training, flexibility and balance.

Flexibility and balance exercises can include stretching exercises such as tai chi and yoga, both of which can help keep joints and muscles flexible and supple. Likewise, for a simple, easy-to-do strength training exercise, you can try carrying small, two-pound weights in each hand while walking.

Cardio endurance and aerobic exercises help to condition and strengthen the heart and lungs. The safest, most effective aerobic exercises include walking, dancing, swimming and aquatic exercises and cycling. A moderate workout on a treadmill or stationary bike can also be effective, but make sure you pace yourself and don’t go beyond your limits.

How Much Exercise is Safe?

Moderate exercise is typically defined as half an hour a day, five or six days a week. Your own physical health, however, should dictate the type of exercise you engage in.

If you haven’t exercised in a while, it’s a good idea to take things slowly and divide your exercise routine into 10-minute, twice-a-day sessions. As your fitness improves, you can prolong your routine and include more exercises.

If your exercise routine causes shortness of breath or pain, or leaves you feeling nauseous, dizzy, lightheaded or unwell, then discontinue it immediately and talk to your physician. Together, you and your doctor can find an exercise regimen that’s better suited to your needs.

Before you decide upon any exercise regimen, no matter how moderate it may seem, talk to your doctor first to find out if there may be risks. Even if you don’t have a preexisting condition and are in perfect health, there are some exercises that are better attuned — and even more effective — for those over 50.

1) National Institutes of Health: New Go4Life Campaign Focuses on Fitness for Older Adults
2) Mayo Clinic: Exercise Best Medicine to Prevent Alzheimer’s
3) American College of Rheumatology: Exercise and Arthritis
4) Helpguide: Senior Exercise and Fitness Tips
Photo Credit: Woodleywonderworks via Flickr

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