by Michelle Sutton-Kerchner
By the fifth decade, many start to notice more pronounced changes in their body. Aches and pains may be more frequent or severe. What once could be shrugged off now is attached to a heating pad. Good news—It’s not too late to get in shape …
If fitness wasn’t part of the first half of your life, you may be dealing with a special set of challenges in the second half. Inactivity tends to catch up with one, causing the need for activity of another kind—doctor visits, diagnostic tests, and healthcare issues.
Perhaps your earlier decades were filled with energy and activity. You rushed from one event, to the next meeting, followed by a round of errands. There was no time for formal exercise. You kidded yourself into thinking such a busy, fast-paced life was enough of a cardio workout.
Now, as a baby boomer coming of age, you wonder where the benefits of that activity flurry are. You recognize years of raising kids and holding a roof over your head do not necessarily attribute to lifelong health. There may be some pounds to shed, some joints to soothe, and a few health issues to resolve.
Take advantage of Group Fitness instructors and personal trainers. Their expertise can act as your GPS in the fitness environment. As you progress into your 60s and beyond, focus exercise programs on functionality. Workouts should mimic movements needed to perform everyday tasks. Your fitness goals should include enhancing mobility and minimizing injury.
Some days, you may feel sore or especially tired. However, experts emphasize the importance of regular movement. Unless you’re suffering from an injury, these little aches will benefit from stretching and activity. Giving in to (what some consider typical) age-related stiffness decreases flexibility and the likelihood of waking up pain-free.
Focus on increasing your heart rate a few days a week. Do some stretching and light exercise on the other days. Spend time on the Exercise Floor cycling or using the elliptical. You can adjust the equipment’s challenge level based on how you feel on any given day. Don’t forget to spend time working with weights. Traditionally thought as a means to a bodybuilding end, the use of weights in an exercise program is beneficial to all.
According to a study published in The American Journal of Medicine, adults over age 50 gained an average of 2.42 pounds of muscle and increased their strength by 25 to 30 percent during an 18- to 20-week period of lifting weights. This proves age does not limit the ability to build strength and muscle.
Added bonus: Lift weights in a standing position to build muscle as well as bone strength.
Why Muscle Is Important
By age 50, muscle tone and bone density diminish at a serious rate, particularly for women. Fitness should focus on weights to build muscle and strengthen bones. Post-menopause, a woman’s rate of muscle loss doubles from 7 pounds per decade to 14 pounds per decade.
For every pound of muscle, your body burns approximately 35 calories. For every pound of fat, you only burn 2 calories. That equation should motivate serious iron pumping. More muscles mean more calorie-burning, even at rest. And who doesn’t want to burn calories while resting.
You don’t need to look like a ripped teen to get the benefits of a strong body. Resistance training and weight-bearing exercises create toned definition that does the job at any age. Consider using resistance bands, which are flexible rubber cords. Use these to resist or overcome force. Try some quick exercises before or after your cardio routine:
- Wrap a band around a pole or stationary object on the Exercise Floor. Move in pulling- or rowing-type motions.
- Hold one end of band in each hand. Stand on the length of the band, positioned as if jumping rope. Pull up on each side.
Late Bloomers: Beginning Exercise Later in Life
At 65 years old, fitness is more a part of member Barbara Fraley’s life than ever before. As a teenager, she suffered from a devastating disease that rendered muscular weakness throughout her body. She couldn’t perform any physical activity and was on a respirator to breath. Her disease was caught early enough to go into remission. Gradually, she recovered and her body began to rehabilitate.
As a result, Barbara says, “I became a person again. I could enjoy all the activities that people tend to take for granted.” Barbara’s zest for movement is non-stoppable. Her routine includes two daily trips to the Center, to start and end her days. She confides, over the past several years, she prefers not to exercise as much outdoors. She replaced her usual walk to and from the Center with a drive.
“The Center provides a safe environment. I don’t need to worry about falls, becoming ill, or roaming in the dark,” admits Barbara about concerns she’s developed with age. Once at the Center, this diva of fitness tackles classes, along with a variety of equipment on the Exercise Floor. She enjoys following her favorite instructors by returning in the evening for their night classes. Cycling, Group Power, aquatics, elliptical, and treadmill—she does it all.
With her son grown, the Center is an ideal solution for Barbara’s evenings. After a day of running her own adoption agency, she returns to the Center to burn off stress of the day. “I can watch TV at the Center or sit at home and watch it. I might as well be exercising while I’m entertained,” she laughs.
Typical boomer style, Barbara takes advantage of the Center’s Childcare facility for her grandson. He has spent many fun visits at the Center’s Childcare Room over the past six years. On weekends, Barbara and her grandkids often enjoy outings to the Family Swim at the Center’s pool. It’s a refreshing change from a game of Chutes and Ladders, followed by stories of yesteryear’s up-hill-both-ways walk to school.
“I exercise because I’m able to do it. It’s a great thrill to be able to move. I adjust exercises to meet my needs and preferences,” informs Barbara. A knee replacement in 2005 was met as a challenge rather than a setback. The often inevitable post-surgery weight gain was conquered through determination. Barbara lost 60 pounds shortly after the knee surgery.
Barbara can be found enjoying morning coffee with her workout buddies every day during a break from her fitness routine. She works the social scene as well as the Exercise Floor. “I have become great friends with so many members. This is my community. It’s my social outlet. For many seniors, it’s one of the few opportunities for connecting and sharing. It’s somewhere to go. Somewhere healthy,” she shares.
As a business owner, Barbara maintains her workflow during her workout. With the Center’s on-site complimentary Wi-Fi access and desk area, she integrates business with fitness pleasure. This allows Barbara to enjoy time at the Center without worrying about what’s transpiring at her office. She “sets up shop” and checks in throughout her stay.
Barbara admits, “There are days my body hurts, but I go to the Center anyway. I may opt for a water workout that day. The water soothes my aches. I get there, and that’s what is important. It makes me feel good, happy, and energetic.”
- You aren’t a high school wrestling champ anymore. Be who you are today during your work outs. Your routines should be age-appropriate. Leave pushing hard and long to the younger set. Instead, aim for consistency. You’ve earned it.
- Note health concerns in your nurse evaluation and with personal trainers and fitness instructors. Include medications. Base your workouts on these conditions and your physical age, which is not necessarily the same as your chronological age.
- Follow up with your physician if you experience shortness of breath, chest pains, headaches, dizziness, or muscle aches during your workout that don’t subside after a day or two of rest.
Happy 65th birthday to the first round of baby boomers. You are inspiring the younger generations to follow in your sneakered footsteps!
“Fit Fact: You Can Gain Muscle as You Age,” by Paige Waehner at www.about.com.
“Fitness after 50: The Gym Goes Gray,” at www.webmd.com.
“Fitness for a Lifetime,” at www.webmd.com.
“How Much Exercise—and What Kind—Do You Need for Lifelong Fitness?” at www.webmd.com.
Resistance band: www.flickr.com/photos/familymwr/5032496501/