Last Updated on August 19, 2019 by Cathy Jo Johnson
Now that you’re past 50, have you found it a little more challenging to stay fit? Many people do, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
There are three crucial steps to staying fit after 50. Once you know exactly what they are you can master them and live a healthy life.
Those three crucial steps are
You’re probably saying “CJ that’s not rocket science. Everyone knows it’s nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle.”
On the one hand, you’re right; it’s not rocket science. Yes, our bodies change with age but they’ve been evolving since the day we were born. On the other hand, the bad habits we’ve built over the years compound themselves at this time in our lives. Lasting change comes when we understand our errors and replace them with something that serves us better.
Crucial Step #1-Nutrition
First, we’re going to talk about our nutrition problem. It may surprise you to learn it’s not necessarily our food choices that are the issue. Hmmmm…if it’s not what we eat what is it?
Look at these two pictures. On the top, you’ve got the burgers and the fries on the bottom the fresh fish, nuts, and avocados. Over time, we’ve probably modified our diets so that it looks like more the bottom picture, but that doesn’t tell the whole story.
While our food choices may be healthier, it’s likely that with age and additional financial means we’ve found some new indulgences. Perhaps a glass of fine wine, some imported cheese or piece of dark chocolate.
Additionally, many of us have a habit, often subconscious, of rewarding ourselves with food, “It was a very stressful day. I deserve a (fill in the blank)”
That leads to the real question we need to ask ourselves, has the total number of calories you consume daily changed anytime within the last two to three years? If your answer is no, you’re probably putting on weight, and for most of us, that’s a significant problem.
Starting around 50 your metabolism slows, and your body requires around 200’ish fewer calories a day. That number continues to decrease every 5 or so years. It may not sound like a lot, but that adds up to a couple of pounds a year. Over a five to ten year period, those couple of pounds add up to a 10 to 20-pound weight gain. The health complications caused by being overweight or obese can significantly lessen our quality of life and even shorten our lifespan.
The best way to understand what you’re eating is to count your calories for a typical day and see what you’re really consuming. Once you know, you can make adjustments for your bodies needs.
Crucial Step #2-Exercise
For people over 50, exercise can be a triple whammy. Let’s examine what happens to our bodies.
After age 40 our muscle mass decrease approximately 1% yearly.
Your joints and tendons become stiffer and tighter
People over 50 tend to get the least amount of exercise of any age group.
Essentially our bodies are changing, and then we retire to the couch!
You’ve seen people your age who are committed to regular exercise. They look different and indulge in activities others are not willing to try. Intellectually we understand that people who remain committed to fitness are likely to live longer, healthier lives but what are they doing and how do they do it without getting hurt?
Number one is cardio, or cardiovascular endurance.
For most of us, that’s what comes to mind first when we think of fitness. Simply defined cardio endurance is the bodies ability to deliver oxygen to the muscles while working.
Current guidelines are for people to engage in some type of cardio (think huffing and puffing) 2 to 3 times weekly.
Number 2 and 3 are muscle strength and muscle endurance.
I mentioned them together because it’s pretty hard to have a conversation about one without the other.
Here’s a simple way to think about it. Muscle strength is your ability to lift something, so let’s say your muscle strength is your ability to lift a 10-pound grocery bag.
Muscle endurance is your ability to lift that 10# grocery bag and then walk across the parking lot to your car.
We need to work on both muscle strength and endurance using either weights or our body weight to build muscle strength and endurance
Number 4 is flexibility/mobility.
Flexibility is the muscle’s ability to lengthen and is a component of mobility.
Mobility is the ability of a joint to move freely.
The aging process limits both flexibility and mobility which can lead to potentially serious injury.
It’s easy to spend five minutes while you’re watching TV in the evening stretching or rolling on a ball or foam roller to maintain a healthy range of motion in muscles and joints.
Number 5 is balance/stability.
If you’re over 50 and you’re not working on your balance, it’s getting worse by the day.
Balance is your ability to control your body movement against gravity.
Stability is your ability to control your body movement while in motion.
Balance is standing on one foot. Stability is standing on one foot and maintaining balance as you bend forward to pick something off the floor.
Focusing on the five key areas of fitness doesn’t mean you need to spend hours in the gym. All you need to do is incorporate all of them into your workout and fitness routines.
Crucial Habit #3-Lifestyle
All right, so we’ve talked about nutrition, we’ve talked about fitness, let’s finish it up by talking about lifestyle. Man, we have some lifestyle habit issues.
Do your lifestyle habits serve you?
Let’s start by looking at your habits in five key areas.
- Sleep-How many hours are you getting a night? What type of quality? Do you awake feeling rested?
- Water Consumption-How much are you drinking?
- Healthy Meals-Are you able to plan and cook healthy meals?
- Priority-Is healthy and wellness a priority? Are you making it fit in your busy life?
- Thinking-Do our thoughts result in actions that yield results?
There is a lot to unpack here, and I’ve written several posts on each one of these items so in the interest of time let’s look at #5 since it’s our thinking that helps or hurts us the most and can impact all of the rest.
If I’m not making time to sleep, drinking enough water, leaving meal planning or exercise to the last minute, I need to do some detective work to understand what I’m feeling and thinking that’s creating the action.
Our actions are a direct result of our feelings. Our thoughts create those feelings. If we’re not taking the action that we want, we need to dig deep enough to get to the thought. If we can change what we’re thinking, we will change what we’re feeling and that changes our actions and ultimately our results.
If you just start writing it down, you may be surprised at what you find.
Now it’s time to take action.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, we all know that the way to live healthy independent lives well into our golden years is to focus on nutrition, exercise, and healthy lifestyle habits. Instead of just reading this blog, it’s time to commit to one thing and complete it before the end of the day.
Choose the one that resonated with you the most. Record what you eat, do one of the five key areas of fitness or pick a lifestyle challenge and journal about your actions or lack thereof.
Now, if you want a little bit more information on, some things that you can do to help yourself get healthy and fit, these are the five most dangerous mistakes destroying your healthy aging and what you can do instead. It’s a free download. It will help you further explore some of the things we talked about today and begin making those habit changes you know you need.
Remember this… Aging is not optional. Growing old is. You do not have to grow old. You have control.