As we get a little longer in the tooth, our dreams of looking like a fitness magazine cover model slowly fade as our waistline expands. Let’s be honest, that dream had about as much of a chance as becoming a billionaire and flying into space on the company rocket.
So, what does fit look like for a man over 50? Marketers want us to believe that having a ripped physique and unleashing our inner Sly Stallone or Arnold Schwarzenegger is the way to go. Reality tells us that looking like a puffy Matt Damon between movie roles is more likely than a stint as Jason Bourne. A regular guy eats a helluva lot more cheeseburgers than kale smoothies.
Here’s the dirty little secret about being ripped. Muscle is heavy, and research shows that extra weight of any kind equals a shorter life span; Not to mention the injuries associated with intense physical workouts that lead to pain and loss of mobility later in life. You don’t see a lot of former professional athletes jumping out of bed in their 60s.
The keys to fitness over 50 are flexibility, strength, and a lean body. The good news is that you don’t need to hire a personal trainer or run a marathon. All you need is 30-minutes of moderate physical activity per day. Taking a brisk walk, doing yard work, or playing a round of golf (without a cart) will do the trick on most days.
Apply these tips on strength and recovery to get fit after 50.
***Always check with your doctor to ensure it’s safe before beginning any new fitness or diet regimen.
Test your fitness level
Can you hold one ear and stand on one leg? How long can you sit against a wall with your back straight and knees bent at a 90-degree angle? Can you do 10-15 pushups and sit-ups? (Most men over 50 think they can until they try) Are you able to touch your toes and hold the position for a count of five? How many stairs can you climb before you’re out of breath? Use these exercises as a baseline for your fitness and test yourself regularly to gauge improvement.
Find your resting heart rate
Place your index and middle fingers on your neck at the side of your windpipe to find your pulse. Count the number of beats in 15 seconds and multiply by four to get your heart rate. Do this in the morning after a good night’s sleep and before your first cup of coffee. A standard resting heart rate is between 60 and 100.
Focus on a target
What is moderate physical activity? Well, it’s different for everyone depending on your resting heart rate and age. Use this chart to find your target and maximum heart rates. The target heart rate for moderate-intensity exercise is 50-85% of your maximum.
|AGE||TARGET ZONE||AVERAGE MAX RATE|
|50||85-145 bpm||170 bpm|
|55||83-140 bpm||165 bpm|
|60||80-136 bpm||160 bpm|
|65||78-132 bpm||155 bpm|
|70||75-128 bpm||150 bpm|
According to the American Heart Association bpm = beats per minute
Warm-up and stretch
Warming up before a workout increases circulation, raises the heart rate, increases body temperature, prepares muscles for activity, and increases range of motion. You may not like stretching and getting loose, but the older you get, the more critical it is to keep your body supple. If you don’t like feeling stiff after a workout, stretch to warm up and cool down.
Using resistance is one of the most effective ways to maintain muscle mass as we age. You don’t need to join a gym or buy expensive weights. Bodyweight exercises like squats, pushups, and sit-ups get the job done. If you want to add extra resistance, get a set of dumbbells or a kettlebell that’s not too heavy to protect yourself from injury. Experts recommend 2-3 sessions of resistance training per week.
Don’t ignore your core
There’s a six-pack hiding in there somewhere. Strong core muscles support the spine and are vital to maintaining balance and preventing injury. Regularly engaging your core muscles provides the added benefits of better sexual health and preventing incontinence. You may never see those washboard abs again but know that they’re working continuously to keep you upright. Keep your core muscles strong with some of these exercises.
Play a game
The best forms of physical activity are the ones that don’t feel like a workout. Sure, you’re not up for blocking and tackling anymore but going for a swim, hitting a tennis volley, and swinging a golf club are sports that many men continue to enjoy well into their 80s. Did you know that playing golf may extend your life by up to five years? Golfers maintain better balance, flexibility, and concentration abilities compared to non-golfers.
Keep it social
A reason why sports make exercise easier is that they’re usually social activities. Exercising with a buddy or in a group also keeps you accountable. Social activity is vital to your mind, body, and spirit.
Take time to recover
Your body doesn’t bounce back the way it did a decade ago. Take it easy and allow yourself time to recover. That’s not permission to lay on the sofa binge-watching the Sopranos, again. However, taking a nap is a good idea.
Is there anything better than an ice-cold beer after a good sweat? Actually, yes! Alcohol only serves to dehydrate your body further. If you enjoy a post-competition cocktail with the fellas, start with water and have another glass between each round. But, be careful because even slight dehydration increases the effects of alcohol.
Lower the intensity of your workouts on alternating days. Physical activity builds strength and endurance by stressing your system, and rest allows your body to adapt and improve. Follow up moderate exercise with lower impact activities like a walk or stretching the next day. If your muscles are sore or you feel fatigued, don’t push yourself. Take the day off and recover.
The first steps
Like most men, you probably believe that you’re in much better shape than you really are. Maybe avoiding exercise is your subconscious protecting you from the realities of aging. Everyone gets old, and it sure beats the alternative.
Take the first steps; get up, get moving, and get your blood pumping. It may not feel great initially and might be a bit painful, but it’s only temporary. The sooner you get started, the better you’ll feel.
Take care, even down there.
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