It is never too late to start an exercise plan. You will elicit benefits at any age and improve your health and quality of life. There are several factors to consider when planning a well-rounded fitness program, including resistance training, cardiovascular activity, stretching, core and balance training. It can sound daunting, but when structured properly, definitely feasible.
As you age, you slowly lose muscle mass, and after the age of 50 that loss is accelerated, according to the National Strength and Conditioning Association. It is imperative to incorporate resistance exercises into your weekly routine to prevent this muscle loss and keep your strength up. Incorporate exercises that utilize all the major muscle groups of your body, which include chest, back, shoulders, biceps, triceps, quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings and abs. Choose a weight that will fatigue your muscles in about 10 to 12 repetitions in two to three sets.
Cardiovascular exercise keeps your heart healthy by lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, helps prevent diabetes and weight gain, and improves your quality of life through increased stamina and endurance. Appropriate modes of exercise include treadmill, stationary cycle, elliptical, stair machine or any other activity that actively elevates your heart rate such as dancing, hiking, or heavy housework. Aim for an intensity that increases breathing and feels challenging, but you're still able to speak or have a short conversation, or about 65 to 75 percent of your maximum heart rate. If you are accustomed to exercise, challenge yourself with shorter bouts at 75 to 90 percent max heart rate.
Training your core will help maintain your posture and balance, as well as keep your midsection tight and toned. Target the deep abdominal muscles of the transverse abdominis and internal obliques with planks and side planks. ABC News recommends stability ball rollouts, where you kneel on the floor and place your elbows on a ball. Allow the ball to roll forward while opening your hips and shoulders. Then, contract your abs to pull the ball back towards you. Pelvic tilts, abdominal pulses and Yoga are also ideal activities for training your core.
Stretching is often an understated aspect of fitness but adequate flexibility allows you to have greater range of motion, freedom of movement and relaxed muscles -- stretching corrects imbalances, decreases soreness, reduces risk of injury and improves posture. Before engaging in static stretching, do about five minutes of movement to warm-up the muscles, which can include walking, cycling, or just large dynamic joint movements like arm circles and trunk rotations. The American Council on Exercise suggests stretching each major muscle group and holding each stretch for 15 to 30 seconds. Do not bounce, strain, or hold your breath.
Train each major muscle group at least twice per week on non-consecutive days. Do either two days of total body, or three days intermixing upper and lower body. After weight training, sit and stretch your muscles. Aim for 30 minutes of flexibility training three days per week; however, even five minutes will elicit benefits. On non-weight training days, work on your core, balance and posture. Engage in moderate amounts of cardiovascular exercise most days per week. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends a minimum 150 minutes per week of activity. If you are new to exercise, break this down into 10 to 15 increments one to three times per day.
- The American College of Sports Medicine: ACSM Issues New Recommendations on Quantity and Quality of Exercise
- American Council on Exercise: Flexible Benefits
- American College of Sports Medicine: Exercise and the Older Adult
- National Strength and Conditioning Association: Too Timid: The Reality of Training Older Adults
- ABC News: 5 Core Exercises That Every Woman Should Do