End of another lockdown, Covid pounds still hanging around your middle. If this is you and you're 50plus, well my friend, there has never been a better moment to take the first steps on your road back to fitness. Fitness at 50plus isn't just about looking better, it's about living better for longer. Times have changed, we're going to live longer than those that came before us. If we want to enjoy this extra time, then we have to take steps to ensure that we are in the right shape mentally and physically to make the most of it.
Note. Remember before you make any changes or begin any new exercise regime talk to your doctor first. Good advice before you start could avoid significant problems further on down the road.
Here are 10 simple steps that you can take right now to improve your fitness and help you live better for longer:
1. Ask yourself "why?"
Before you begin your journey of staying fit, be sure to ask yourself why you are doing it. Maybe it's to make sure you're around long enough to see your grandkids grow up, or maybe it's to be healthy enough to travel the world once you retire or maybe it's because you want to just look good and you're not ready to give up. Whatever the case may be, having a reason behind what you're doing will help you stick with that commitment and keep it a top priority in your life.
2. Join a group fitness class or get a gym buddy.
It can be hard to train on your own, to push yourself without somebody there to hold you accountable. Working out with a group, or training with a friend can make a real difference. Adding that social element to training can be a real bonus. Don't worry if you're only a beginner or a bit shy most classes are pretty welcoming and there are normally classes for all levels of fitness. Remember you don't have to go to a gym to join a class, check out YouTube or Zoom for classes you can do online.
3. Eat more plant-based meals.
Making good food choices will certainly help you on your road back to fitness. "Research over many years has linked plant-based diets to lower rates of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers, as compared with diets high in meat and other animal products," Robert H. Shmerling, MD, a rheumatologist in Boston, Massachusetts, told Harvard Health. One 2019 study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that sticking to a
a plant-based diet can decrease your risk of heart failure by more than 40%.
Now if you're anything like me, then you'll have eaten meat all your life and have no intention of giving it up. This doesn't mean that you can't benefit from eating more plant-based meals. I've upped my veggie's by juicing in the morning ( I know its not the best way to eat your fruit and veg, but it means I get my 5 a day before breakfast is done) and swapping out a meat-based meal, with a plant-based one at least once a week. Remember even the small steps count if they in the right direction.
4. Cut back on salt.
Too much salt in our diet can cause water retention, raised blood pressure, higher risk of a heart attack, kidney disease and stroke. Watch out for hidden salts, (these are sometimes called sodium on food labels).
"Consuming too much sodium may lead to high blood pressure and can also cause inflammation in the body," says Amy Gorin, a registered dietitian nutritionist in the New York City area who recommends aiming for no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium daily. If you have high blood pressure or pre-hypertension, limit your daily intake to 1,500 milligrams daily, she says.
5. Don't forget to warm up.
As we get older, warming up before exercising becomes more and more important. It helps us burn more energy during exercise by increasing our circulation and so delivering more oxygen to our muscles. It also helps us to avoid injury by increasing our body's core temperature, allowing our muscles and joints to slowly adapt to greater demands of exercise. Your warm-up can be as simple as walking on the treadmill, doing some jumping jacks, or going on a quick jog around the block.
6. Don't limit yourself to cardio.
Cardio is important but resistance training can help improve your balance, control blood sugar, build bone density, increase your metabolism, and even prevent sarcopenia, which is age-related muscle loss.
7. Drink enough water.
Think of water as your body's fuel or lubrication. If you're not getting enough, how is it supposed to run correctly?
The daily water requirement for a man is 3.7 litres!
For most of us, that seems like a lot of water, but it's not! It's what we should be drinking to stay healthy. You're going to need to drink even more water if you're going to start training! So make sure you are drinking plenty of water throughout the day.
According to the Mayo Clinic, getting enough fluids helps your body control temperature, protect sensitive tissues, lubricate and cushion your joints, and aids digestion—all things you might need extra help with as you enter our 50s and beyond.
8. Always focus on form.
At 50plus our joints and ligaments are a little less forgiving than they were in our youth. Because of this, if we want to avoid injury we have to make sure that we perform exercises correctly. So no more cheating those weights up. If we have to swap the heavy dumbbells for lighter ones so we can perform the movements correctly, then that's what we need to do. we'll build and tone our muscles and be safer in the process.
9. Everyday exercise.
Getting fit at 50plus can be challenging especially if your idea of exercise is a heart-pounding, high-energy workout from the 1980s or a lung-busting game of 5-aside football. If you haven't been to the gym in a while and you're just starting on the road back to fitness even small changes in your daily routine can improve your health. It's not rocket science, we just need to make better choices. Getting off the bus or tube stop early and walking to the office. Walking to the shops rather than driving. Taking yourself and the other half out to salsa classes once a week will give a cardio workout. Go for a brisk walk at lunchtime. Be creative, have some fun, make space in your life for everyday exercise and you will reap the benefits.
10. SLOWLY DOES IT
To avoid injury to the joints, it is important to start slowly. Build up your workload over time. Accept that it may take longer to achieve your goals now your 50plus. We can still do it, we just need to make sure that we don't overdo it.
“Don’t start by trying to run a marathon, begin by gently increasing your activity levels and progressively overload your muscles in tiny increments,” says Anya Lahiri, Barry’s Bootcamp master trainer and Nike Training Club elite trainer. “Take a light jog to the shops, do some gentle cycling or spend several minutes on a cross-trainer.”
Instead of hand weights, try the gym machines they're safer for beginners if you are shown how to use them.
So no excuses. It's time to get fit.