Fitness in the 50s and beyond

For women over 50 years old, regular physical activity may help tame some of the symptoms of menopause -- hot flashes, joint pain, anxiety, depression, and sleep problems. Exercise also reduces heart disease risk, osteoporosis and diabetes risk, and helps control weight.

Exercise is great for managing your weight, boosting your energy level, and managing stress. It also is excellent for your heart. American Heart Association experts recommend 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity each week.

We’ve compiled tips on the various types of exercise and how they can help you.

Aerobic exercise: Walking, jogging, and dance-exercise are good forms of aerobic exercise. They work the large muscles in your body, which benefits your cardiovascular system -- and your weight. Work up to getting 20-45 minutes per session, three or four days a week. Exercise at a pace that lets you carry on a conversation -- what's known as the "talk test." Two good exercise options are:

  • • Zumba Gold is basic Latin dance that is fun and can add cardio and core work.
  • • Water aerobics is safe on the joints and refreshing.


Strength training: Lifting hand weights improves your strength and posture, reduces the risk of lower back injury, and also helps you tone muscles. Start with a hand weight that you can comfortably handle for 10 repetitions. You need to feel your muscles are getting tired, but no pain. Ask a trainer to help you with a weight bearing workout plan to prevent osteoporosis

Stretching: These exercises help maintain flexibility and range of motion in joints. They also reduce the risk of injury and muscle soreness. Yoga and Pilates are good forms of stretching exercise; they build core body strength and increase stability and good posture.

Balance: We tend to lose our good sense of balance with age. It takes consistent practice, but is worth the work. Pilates and yoga are great ways to stay strong and flexible beyond 50 because both can be easily modified. Bands can help you stretch and 10 minutes of stretching after a workout is wise.

Tip- Remember to “use it or lose it”!

Stay active and workout with a group of friends to stay motivated.

Please consult your physician before beginning an exercise program.

Exercise Myths

It can be hard to decipher fact from fiction when it comes to exercising and losing weight. Texas Health Resources’ trainers have worked to dispel common myths below. Have a question about something you’ve heard or read, ask the trainer.

Crunches will get rid of your belly fat

 You have to have a balance in diet, strength training, and cardiovascular training to achieve weight loss. Keep in mind that you cannot choose what body part where you want to lose weight. Fat is lost gradually from all over the body. Although sit-ups won't melt fat specifically from your tummy, they will help strengthen and tighten the muscle under the fat, which makes it worthwhile.

Restricting calories is the best way to lose weight

Lowering calories to lose weight probably means that you are underfeeding yourself. Although you may lose weight the first few weeks, over a period of time your metabolism will drop making your bodies process of burning fat slower.

If you're not working up a sweat, you're not working hard enough

Sweating is not necessarily an indicator of exertion. Sweating is your body’s way of cooling itself. It's possible to burn a significant number of calories without breaking a sweat: Try taking a walk or doing some light weight training.

When it comes to working out, you've got to feel some pain if you're going to gain any benefits

Of all the fitness rumors ever to have surfaced, experts agree that the "no pain-no gain" holds the most potential for harm.

While you should expect to have some degree of soreness a day or two after working out, that's very different from feeling pain while you are working out.

A fitness activity should not hurt while you are doing it, and if it does, then either you are doing it wrong, or you already have an injury.

As for "working through the pain," experts don't advise it. They say that if it hurts, stop, rest, and see if the pain goes away. If it doesn't go away, or if it begins again or increases after you start to work out, see a doctor. To find a doctor, click here.

Muscle turns to fat when you stop exercising

Muscle and fat are completely different tissues that are not interchangeable. Instead, there are two key reasons why people perceive that muscle turns to fat when they stop exercising.

You have to exercise for 20 minutes in order to burn fat

Wrong! Each one of us has a different point where our bodies start burning fat. This is partly determined by genetics but mostly by fitness level, time and intensity of the workout. What matters at the end of the day is that exercising allows you to burn calories and if you burn more calories than you take in you will lose weight. Any physical activity has an impact on burning calories so every time you move, it's worth it.

Resistance (weight) training impedes weight loss

Weight training is a great add-on to cardiovascular exercise because it helps maintain or even increase muscle mass, boost metabolism and reduce fat. After age 45, the average person loses about 10% of their muscle mass each decade. This is primarily due to people becoming more sedentary with age and therefore using their muscles less leading to loss of muscle mass.

In addition, we lose both fat and muscle during weight loss, particularly when relying solely on dieting. So relying on an eating plan without upping exercise levels will mean greater muscle loss. Weight training can help you keep the muscle while you lose the fat, particularly on the upper body, which isn't loaded much by walking, jogging or cycling. Weight training can also help you achieve your fitness goals. If gyms aren't your thing, keep in mind that as far as your muscles are concerned, lifting garden gnomes, bricks or even bags of laundry can have the same benefits as lifting weights.

If you exercise before breakfast you burn more fat

There is a little evidence to support this theory. According to the updated physical activity guidelines from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), healthy adults under age 65 need 30 minutes of moderate intensity activity five days a week or 20 minutes of vigorous intensity activity three days a week to stay healthy and reduce risk of chronic disease, regardless of the time of day that you exercise.

Exercising after meals is better than before

There isn't a right or wrong answer here. Exercising before or after meals is OK; the main thing to consider is that you do not skip meals and that you leave enough time for digestion before your workout. For a large meal this could mean about 3-4 hours, and for a small meal about 2-3 hours. However, some people can snack right before a workout as well, so it really depends on the individual.

People who are very overweight should avoid exercise

Wrong! Just start out easy. First, concentrate on increasing daily activity. Rearrange your house or office environment so that it makes movement mandatory.

Use a pedometer to measure your average daily step count and increase from there. Record the daily steps you take for seven consecutive days then calculate the average. Use the average as a baseline and gradually increase your daily step goals of around 5 to 10 percent per week.

For example, if 3,000 steps is your current daily step average, the goal for next week will be 3,300 steps per day, and 3,630 per day the following week.




Know your Numbers

Knowing the numbers that impact your heart is an important step toward healthy living. Get a quick overview of the numbers you need to know and your goals using the chart below. Be sure to talk to your doctor to see how your current numbers measure up.