The Best Exercise Program for Women Over 50

Senior woman using cycling machine in gym, smiling, portrait
Exercising after 50. (Image: Barry Austin/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Beautiful age is possible. The exercise program that is just right for women age 50 and older should provide physical activities that reduce the effects of aging. Menopause is changing your body, but menopause and well-being can go together. Your exercise program should have cardiovascular exercise, flexibility and range-of-motion movements, weight-bearing exercises for muscular strength and endurance, deep breathing and body awareness exercises.

Cardiovascular Exercise

Cardiovascular exercise prevents disease, increases metabolism, controls or maintains healthy body weight, oxygenates blood, increases circulation, and improves body awareness and mental acuity. The best cardiovascular exercise for you depends on what you enjoy and what you are able to do. Your joint health is important, so choose something low impact like Zumba, step aerobics, water aerobics, walking, hiking, cross-country skiing, indoor cycling, aerobics, belly dancing or Jazzercise. Observe a class before you attend, to make sure it is right for you. Some Zumba classes are not low-impact, but some are. The same goes for step aerobics. If you are short on time, look for a class like 20/20/20, which does 20 minutes of cardiovascular exercise, 20 minutes of dumbbells, and 20 minutes of toning and stretching. It may not have this exact title, so read class descriptions.

Weight Bearing

Weight-bearing exercises are done with dumbbells, weight machines or some other weighted apparatus. You need this type of exercise to fend off muscle fiber loss and bone loss. The Aerobics and Fitness Association of America states that muscle fiber loss in sedentary aging can be as high as 30 percent between the ages of 30 and 80. Bone loss for women between the ages of 40 and menopause is 3/4 to 1 percent rate of breakdown per year. Therefore the best workout program for you must include weight-bearing exercise targeted at muscle strength and endurance.

Flexibility and Range of Motion

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons notes that joint motion becomes restricted and flexibility decreases with age because of changes in tendons and ligaments. Therefore, as you move through your 50s, you must be cognizant of moving your joints and muscles through full range of motion. Try a Pilates class. Pilates expert Brooke Siler says the Pilates method of body conditioning is a unique system of stretching and strengthening exercises developed over 90 years ago by Joseph H. Pilates. You can expect to improve muscle tone, posture, flexibility, balance, your figure and your body awareness. Consider driving with a friend to a class, parking 15 minutes away, walking briskly to the class, enjoying Pilates and walking briskly back to your car.

Respiration and Relaxation

Around the age of 40, your lung capacity begins to decrease due to an aging process of constriction, shrinkage, rigidity and weakening of your bronchioles as well as your alveoli air sacs, lungs, diaphragm and intercostal muscles. Maintain a healthy respiratory system by participating in aerobic exercise or a Pilates class. Learn the deep lung breathing taught in Pilates and apply it to moments of relaxation. You will calm your nerves and improve your lung health all at the same time.

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