Fitness Over Fifty: Getting in Shape – Part One

Monday Author: Susanne Skinner

The most important investment you will ever make is in yourself   ~ Warren Buffet

Fit After 50, Susanne Skinner, Fitness, Strength, CardioTwo months ago, I made up my mind to embrace physical fitness. And by fitness, I mean a full program involving mindful eating, daily exercise and weight training. This is not something you enter lightly. It involves purpose; researching and creating a plan to improve overall health.

Since I am on the north side of fifty sixty, I have new-found respect for what it means to have a healthy body. Some of my inspiration derives from a bout with Covid-19 and the lingering side effects of the illness and the rest comes from—how shall I put this—vanity.

Now I know I’m late to this party but I’m still outpacing everybody sitting on the couch.  I’m also a realist. One does not simply get in shape. It’s a journey requiring a serious investment of time, some weights, and the determination to see it through.

Fitness Over Fifty is a key component to aging well.

A Long Journey Begins with a Single Step

The human body has over 600 muscles, and the ones in my body were suffering through a slow recovery from Coronavirus. I had a classic case requiring no medical intervention, but it was a full six months before the debilitating fatigue left and my sense of smell and taste returned. Physical and mental exhaustion are common side effects and slow to heal, but I wanted my strength back.

Prior to the illness my exercise began and ended with power walking, and a goal of 12,000 steps per day. After Covid, I was out of shape and unable to recover my stamina. Even walking was difficult. When you exercise regularly and suddenly stop, the climb back to the top is a challenging one.

Regular workouts help your body adapt to the daily stresses you place on it. When you stop exercising (no matter how long you’ve done it) it takes approximately three weeks to lose the adaptations of physical conditioning and muscle tone.

I began where I left off—walking a three-mile loop in my neighborhood. Before the end of the first mile, I was discouraged and done in.

Fitness is More than Exercise

My getting-in-shape program incorporates weekly plans for meals, snacks, and vitamin supplements recommended by my doctor. I have chronic insomnia from a brain that doesn’t know how to turn itself off. My commitment to good health now includes exercise and diet modifications targeting more restful sleep.

Get Fit, Fitness, Health, Strength, BalancePhysical activity is one of the most important things you can do for healthy aging because aging well means living well. Regular exercise prevents disease, lowers the risk of falls, improves mental health and well-being, strengthens social ties, and improves cognitive function.

Before getting started I did some research to align my goals with realistic expectations for my age and body shape. My weekly program focuses on strength, cardio and balance, incorporating 150 minutes of a moderately intense activity like walking, two days of muscle strengthening, and exercises that improve balance. 

Cardio and Strength Training

Cardiovascular exercises increase the work of the heart and lungs. Cardio helps manage weight and keeps the heart and lungs healthy. A regular cardio workout is one of the best ways to improve physical fitness and overall well-being

Strength training uses resistance exercises that contract your muscles to strengthen and build muscle. These exercises help maintain strength and bone density.  Bone is living tissue and responds to exercise by becoming stronger. One of my goals is offsetting the risk of osteoporosis—weakened bone strength is susceptible to hip, waist and spine fractures.

For most women, bone mass peaks during the third decade of life. After that we begin to lose bone density. As we age, weight-bearing exercise is most effective for maintaining strong bones,

I do these routines on separate days to focus on specific types of training

Balance and Bone Strength

Never overlook the importance of balance. Balance is the ability to move without falling and distribute your weight to hold a stable stationary position. Like anything else, the more you practice, the better it functions. Walking is wonderful cardio exercise and I love it, but it limits overall body conditioning. When you are over fifty it is vitally important to maintain bone strength and balance with additional exercise.

A Matter of Balance, Fitness, Strength, TrainingAs we age our eyesight and muscles weaken and our ability to balance becomes more challenging. Regular exercise and balance routines build better reaction timing. That means improving your ability to catch yourself before you fall.

Muscle toning and balance routines creates better balance and more cushioning for your bones in case of a fall. It also develops better reaction should you over or under balance, giving you better reaction time if you do fall.

Bone-strengthening exercises, particularly resistance training that incorporates bands and weights, builds stronger bones and reduces the risk of breaks. A side benefit is improved neuroplasticity and better posture.

On-Line Fitness Resources

As we age our bodies begin to change. A comprehensive exercise program improves cognitive and physical health and maintains mobility. It is not easy and you should always challenge yourself! Results take time. I admit I do not always feel up to the daily challenge but I still practice some form of movement, even if it’s a simple stretching exercise.

The internet offers a wealth of no-cost exercise options.  Below are links to my favorites:

  • Fabulous Over Fifty: Schellea Fowler’s videos are exactly what I was looking for.  She offers low-impact options along with encouragement and inspiration.
  • Silver Sneakers: AARP underwrites these, so they are geared to fifty and older women.
  • Svelte Training: Meredith Shirk’s wellness program incorporating exercise, meditation, healthy eating and fitness. Pick and choose what works for you.
  • Annie Taylor Efremskie: I love Annie’s arm exercises. Five minutes of Annie’s routines and you feel the burn!

Next Week:  Part 2:  The Mind-Body Connection