Fitness in your 50’s

Everyone gets old and that is the fact of life. No one can do anything about that and if you think that there is such thing as the fountain of youth then good luck with that. Instead of wanting to grow younger, you should focus on finding ways to make you feel younger and by that it only means that you should take care of your body with exercises. At least, you would be able to maintain your physique in your old age. That is the problem of many since they don’t exercise.

Shannon Heaton, at 52 realized this and thus, he takes care of his body. At his age, he was able to get back to the gym and exercise regularly.

“I had three children in my life before I turned 30. There wasn’t much time to work out then, and then there wasn’t much time as they got older either,” Heaton said. “It’s easier, timewise, now — but I’m older than I was when I used to work out. So it is harder in other ways.”

Heaton said it takes his body longer to recover after a workout now that he is in his 50s and that occasionally he feels some self-doubt when he works out alongside younger people.

“There is a psychological hurdle to overcome, seeing all these youngsters who are ripped and you feel like that could’ve been you, if you’d made different choices,” Heaton said. “But I have to remember to just do what I can do now.”

His routine is pretty regimented. Heaton does strength training and cardiovascular exercise four or five days per week. He also bikes and puts in time on a rowing machine. He is finding that weight loss does not come as easy as it once did, but the time and effort are still worthwhile.

‘I’ve lost a lot of weight in the past, a couple of times, solely because I was doing it for someone else. It took a lot of years to get it into my hard head that I needed to be fit for myself,” Heaton said. “That’s something I can accept now that I’m older.”

Heaton is part of a growing number of Americans who are finding a new lease on fitness in their 50s — and research shows that the increased activity has a positive impact on longevity and health into the golden years.

A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that becoming fit in your late 40s and 50s can reshape how the body ages, even if the participants have never had a consistent exercise routine before.

Tyler Farwell, a medical wellness manager at Florida Hospital, advocates for people in their 50s to start doing something — anything — to become more active.

“The 50s are a critical time, especially for those people who aren’t active already,” Farwell said. “In both men and women, we see reduction in muscle mass, and the body chemistry is changing.”

Farwell cited several benefits, including reduced blood pressure, improved heart rate, an overall increase in energy, sharper cognitive function and a reduced risk of diabetes.

By the 50s, though, the body may not be as cooperative and immediately responsive to physical activity. The mental challenges also can feel overwhelming.

At Florida Hospital, the relationship between physical and mental health is addressed in the “New Day New Weigh” six-month program. It pairs participants with specialists, including mental health professionals.

“Being out of shape or dealing with the ailments that come with getting older can lead to things like depression. When I talk with patients about getting in shape, I talk about holistic wellness, and that includes mental well being,” Farwell said.

Arthritis and low back pain are common complaints that Farwell hears from patients in their 50s. In women, bone loss through osteoporosis is also a concern.

He recommends resistive exercises, such as running and low-level plyometrics, which can relieve symptoms and slow bone loss. Stretching before and after a workout is also crucial to avoid injury and keep the muscles pliable.

Working out does not mean having to join a gym or spend a lot of money, Farwell said.

“Use what you already have to get started. Take a walk. Do body weight exercises. Start small, and everything helps,” Farwell said. “Inches add up to feet, and feet add up to miles.”

Jean-Sebastien Fabre owns Darwin Fitness, which has locations in Winter Park and Altamonte Springs.

“I see really fantastic results with older individuals every day,” Fabre said. “Improvement in general well-being, mental health, cognitive abilities and motor control can be impressive when fitness is added to the mix.”

For people in their 50s, Fabre suggests three key areas of focus: warm-up and active stretching; hydration during exercise; and a cool-down period with static stretching afterward.

He recommends endurance exercises such as walking, jogging, biking and swimming. For strength training, consider resistance-band rows, wall push-ups and squats.

“Individual fitness levels within the 50-plus population are more diverse than any other. We are dealing with a wide variety of people, from physically dependent to athletic and elite levels,” Fabre said.

He recommends an in-depth fitness assessment by a certified professional before those 50 and older hit the gym or embark on a new workout routine.

“It is best to make sure you are doing the right activity based on your current health,” Fabre said. “But health shouldn’t keep you from doing what you can.”


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