At 50, the expectation is to lay back, watch TV and take care of the grandkids.
Well, what if I told you that doesn’t have to be your life?
Getting fit after 50 can be part of your new normal and I believe it will add another dimension to your life. Continuing to work out after 50 has made me feel young, and that’s just the beginning.
Is It Too Late to Get Fit After 50?
It’s never too late to start getting fit after 50. It may be frustrating, challenging, and sometimes difficult to do, but getting in shape at 50 is definitely possible.
According to a Swedish study, exercising later in life is much better than not getting started at all.
This study had 2,205 male participants aged 49 to 51, whom the researchers evaluated five times. The evaluation process required them to submit a detailed report about their drinking, exercise and smoking habits.
The researchers would then measure their blood pressure, body weight, height, cholesterol and blood sugar levels. After years of observation, the researchers found that participants who were physically active at 50 had a 13% lower death rate than the less-active participants. They also experienced a significant boost in health.
How to Get Fit After 50
Looking good is a bonus to getting fit after 50 and we’ve covered that in our article on regaining muscle tone after 50. So, now I’ve given you the boost to show it is possible, how do you go start getting fit if 40 is a distant memory?
1. The Right Mindset
There’s nothing more important than having the right mindset when you start a fitness journey. Your attitude is the backbone of your consistency. It takes more than sacrifice to get out of bed every morning and go for that morning jog.
When sacrifice and dedication fail to motivate you, the right attitude towards exercise will help motivate you and get the compound effect going.
And talking of mindset don’t forget brain health which we cover in our article on improving brain fitness.
Here are a few tips you can use to get the right mindset towards getting in shape:
Set Realistic Expectations
Before you start working out, it’s crucial to set specific and realistic goals for yourself. For instance, what accomplishments do you expect by keeping fit? Is it weight loss, maintaining your shape or muscle toning?
Or do you just want to have tons more energy and feel great, be able to pick up the grandkids, swing a golf club, do a half marathon?
Once you decide on your specific goal, choose a timeframe and a workout routine. Also, stick to small physical goals, as this makes it easier to accomplish your overall goal. It also helps give you the right mindset about working out.
2. Have Fun Doing The Activities You Enjoy
Your mental state plays a crucial role in how you view exercise. The best way to see it as a way to feel good rather than torturing yourself is by having fun.
For instance, if you love taking walks in the afternoon, use that to exercise. Many think they have to go all out and complete high-intensity exercise, but that’s not the case.
If you love yoga, then do that. Not only are you working your body, but you’re also connecting with yourself and focusing the mind and breathing.
Try New Activities
At 50, there’s no perfect exercise or workout. Remember, your body is different, and how it used to respond to an activity you enjoyed once might not be the same today. Therefore, try various physical or exercise activities that you fancy like dancing, swimming, and cycling.
This will help you make exercise a habit and enjoy your workouts and you might also find something new that you love.
Just be mindful that whatever activity you do, do it purposefully, not half-assed. Get the blood flowing and the lungs tested.
3. Have an Exercise Routine
Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings are the times I keep free for the more intensive exercise regimes – the times, after which I feel drained physically although elated mentally.
Although I’ll have an early night before and prepare myself for the pain to come it’ll be a flexible arrangement I have with myself and if something comes up I’ll switch things around as long as I feel satisfied in my mind that by the end of the week I’m done.
I’ll always try to do at least one session of some activity every day and apart from the cardio stuff that I enjoy like hiking and cycling it’ll normally be a fat burning session, a HIIT workout, strength routine, yoga or Pilates or just stretching.
Or maybe a bit of each.
Everyone’s starting point for getting fit after 50 is different although it’s important not to rush into a fitness journey with too much enthusiasm – you might not have forgotten what you can do but your body may have.
Start off easy and increase the number of sessions or the intensity or both over time. Begin with low impact activities.
Mix the different workouts to cover all muscle groups for strength workouts and different types of cardio over the week.
Keep a Fitness Diary
Let’s be honest, getting in shape after 50 isn’t a walk in the park, especially if you have no plan.
Keeping a fitness diary helps maximize your chances of getting results from your workout routine.
A fitness diary can be a useful tool to help you stay focused and organized on your goals and objectives.
Getting fit after 50 or at any age and staying in shape is an individual commitment. A fitness journal helps keep you accountable to your goals and fitness dreams.
Motivation is one key factor in helping you stay focused. It’s also a constant reminder of why you should get out of bed every day to continue getting in shape.
It’s also a great way to document your daily progress—how do you know how well you’re doing if you can’t see it?
This then helps you maintain and create other goals.
Gym or not Gym
You can get fit from home as easy as trekking to a gym. I like to go but I must admit there is a social element for me. For some it can be a motivating factor for workout with like-minded people, for others it’s a pain in the glutes and can be expensive.
A personal trainer will benefit, especially early on, by working out a fitness program as well as showing the mechanics of movements. They will also act as a great motivator although at a price.
What’s as nice is to run, hike, cycle and workout outside with your buddies.
One way I stay motivated is to reward myself which normally means a late but huge (but healthy) breakfast after a morning session. For my Friday workout, I look forward to that extra glass of wine I feel I deserve in the evening. Getting fit after 50 – yep it can be good.
4. Facelift Your Diet
Your diet plays a vital role in helping you get in shape and will almost certainly mean losing weight (don’t forget the increased weight of muscle mass). However, for your diet to work, you have to implement several changes:
Increase Your Vitamin D Intake
Vitamin D is essential for healthy bones, as it assists the body in absorbing calcium, which is vital for bone strength and health.
It also helps fight infection, regulates cell growth, helps the muscles move and carries messages through your nervous system.
Vitamin D deficiency plays a role in the loss of muscle, but by increasing your intake, you can reverse the deficiency and, ultimately, regain your muscle mass.
A study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism proved that this is possible.
The research subjects were older women with limited mobility and low vitamin D levels. The treatment group got 4,000 IU of vitamin D every day for four months. By the end of the study, the treatment group had a 10.6% muscle fiber increase. The control group had a 7.4% decrease in muscle fiber size.
Check Your Calorie Intake
To increase your vitamin D intake, go for foods like milk, cheese, egg yolk and fatty fish, but you need to keep your calories in check, too.
As your body ages, it requires fewer calories because you become less active. We may dispute this. I hear many people saying something like “since I stopped ‘working’ I’ve never been so busy”.
It may feel like that, what with demands of family life – grandparenting – and the new social and hobby calendar you’ve just committed to. And what about those 4 extra vacations you’ve penciled yourself in for – busy?
Your basal metabolic rate begins to drop as early as 25 and this causes loss of muscle mass gradually and insidiously year upon year.
The basal metabolic rate can be understood as the amount of converted energy needed to sustain you as a moving, breathing organism.
For you to maintain a level of fitness after 50, you need to keep an eye on the number of calories taken.
According to the National Institute on Aging, women and men over 50 should consume calories depending on their activity level.
Calorie Intake for Women Above 50
|Activity Level||Average Daily Calorie Intake|
|Active||2,000 to 2,200|
Calorie Intake for Men Above 50
|Activity Level||Average Daily Calorie Intake|
|None||2,000 to 2,200|
|Moderate||2,200 to 2,400|
|Active||2,400 to 2,800|
Factoring in Fiber
You’ve probably heard of how important eating fiber is, especially for people above 50. So, what makes it an essential addition to your diet?
According to an article published in the Journal of Gerontology, there’s a direct relationship between aging healthily and your fiber intake.
According to the study, 15.5% of the research participants aged successfully. They also were 80% more likely to live healthier and longer lives.
Also, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine recommends that men above 50 should consume at least 30g of fiber every day. Women above 50 consume at least 21 grams per day.
So, if you aren’t eating enough fiber daily, here’s a choice of foods you should consume:
- Wholegrain products.
- Beans, chickpeas and other legumes.
- Seeds and nuts.
The process of processing processed food normally involves the addition of foodstuff that has been frozen which means that the fiber has been removed. For this reason and many more try to…
…Avoid Processed Foods
Other reasons to eat whole foods is the ridiculous quantities of salt, additives, emulsifiers and especially sugar that goes in to ‘convenience’ foods. Convenient they may be but good for you they aren’t.
Although foods made with added HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup) provide energy, they have no nutritional value, and besides, if the body needs fuel for energy it has evolved perfectly well to build its own turning glycogen into glucose from carbohydrates.
Increase Your Vitamin D and Calcium Intake
As you age, your bones become weak. This eventually causes a decrease in mineral loss and mobility. By increasing your calcium and vitamin D intake, you can protect and strengthen your bones.
To meet your body’s need for Vitamin D, aim for at least three servings of dairy products daily avoiding yogurts or anything that has added sugar.
Recipe Interlude: Natural yogurt is sour – it’s sour milk but made with nice bacteria. A favorite breakfast of mine is fruit like banana, kiwi, mango with chopped dates all mixed with a dollop of natural yogurt finished with a trickle of runny honey.
Other vitamin D sources include fortified foods, salmon, fortified foods and eggs.
For calcium, include:
- Fortified cereals.
- Dark green vegetables.
- Canned fish with soft bones.
Improve Your Vitamin B12 Intake
One common body change most 50-year-olds experience is a decrease in energy levels.
It may be a regular occurrence, but a vitamin B12 deficiency does have something to do with your low energy levels. To get in shape in middle-age, it’s good practice to make sure your vitamin B12 intake is adequate for sustained energy during exercise.
Some foods rich in B12 are:
- Liver and kidneys.
- Fish—especially wild rainbow trout and salmon – not farmed.
- Nutritional yeast – good choice for vegans.
You can also talk to your doctor about including B12 supplements.
5. Regain Muscle Mass
Muscle loss is part of the natural aging process. This is why you need to get fit even after 50, as being metabolically active can help build muscle mass.
One of the best ways to regain muscle mass is through weightlifting. According to the National Strength and Conditioning Association, adults should do resistance training (which includes weightlifting) twice a week, especially for mental fitness.
6. Work on One Area at a Time
Getting fit at 50, especially if you haven’t been exercising early in life, can be hard at first. By working on one area at a time, you also get to make exercising a habit. Remember, start slowly, as starting too fast can make working out look like a chore.
Start by making a list of goals before working out. If your goal is to lose a few pounds, you can start walking for 30 minutes every day. Once that becomes a habit, you can slowly build up your fitness routine to a long walk duration.
If your fitness goal is improving your body strength, you can start working out from home. Once you accomplish that, join a gym to sustain the improvement and bounce off others for motivation.
7. Wear a Heart Rate Monitor
Getting fit at 50 comes with several challenges. One of those includes an increase in your heart rate. The best way to ensure you don’t go beyond your average heart rate is by wearing a heart rate monitor. This ensures you don’t get your heart rate too high, as this makes people burn out and quit exercising.
With a heart rate monitor, you know when you should slow down, and they’re relatively affordable, too!
8. Challenge Yourself
Once you make exercise a habit, your body starts adapting to the workouts you perform. This is often a sign that your body is requesting you to increase your intensity, and by increasing your workout intensity, you get to challenge your body.
A study found that 60 to 70-year-olds who undergo intense workouts have better benefits than those who don’t.
9. Exercise With Friends for Encouragement
We all need people who push us to be the best. Having friends with you as you exercise can help encourage you to stick to the pace.
It also makes any physical activity a social occasion, taking your friends with you through the fitness journey. After all, two is better than one.
Different studies have proved that having strong social networks can improve a person’s mood, manage stress, acquire better health and live longer.
You can participate in different community activities, sports clubs, get a pet and meet with friends and family a couple of times a week.
Discover what you like doing and do it with like-minded people.
10. Be Kind to Yourself
We can sometimes get carried away trying to compare ourselves to others. The best way not to fall into this trap is by loving yourself.
You might not be there yet, but learn to celebrate your victories, no matter how small. Learn from your fitness failures and use them as a prop to help you get to where you want to go.
11. Manage Stress
Stress can affect almost every physical process in your body, including the loss of muscle tone.
Developing a relaxing lifestyle and managing stress should be a priority for anyone, let alone those above 50.
Failure to manage stress can have devastating effects, including:
- Weight gain.
- Memory problems.
Some excellent ways to manage stress are through finding an appropriate community and meditation.
To reduce stress through meditation, use positive affirmations. Focus on what’s good and stimulate that reality with a positive, powerful thought that can be helpful in support especially when times seem tough.
A research study conducted by the University of California found that using positive self-affirmations can help create a powerful buffer against emotional and environmental stress.
12. Cut Down on Alcohol
Getting in shape at 50 can be challenging enough without involving alcohol.
It affects your body differently compared to when you’re younger. One of the most noticeable effects of alcohol on your body is weight gain and muscle deterioration.
A good deal of research studies has proved that the consumption of alcohol leads to weight gain.
The University of Navarra conducted one such review whereby the researchers investigated major studies to establish the relationship between body weight and alcohol consumption.
Out of the 31 studies, they found 16 that showed the relationship between weight gain and alcohol consumption.
Alcohol also affects your nutrition, sleep and physical performance. With these three factors impaired, maintaining fitness after 50 can be difficult.
Cutting back on alcohol can help you have more energy, lose weight and feel better.
Getting fit after 50 sounds like an uphill struggle, but if you take it step by step and use the above tips, you’ll be surprised at how much better you’ll look and feel.
Feeling like a 20-year-old again doesn’t have to be a dream. So, get off the couch and start getting the strength and body you want.