Stay active and fit at fifty plus and your body will thank you for it. Remaining active as you get older is vital to good health and weight control, but there’s plenty to consider before diving into a new exercise regime. It doesn’t mean it can’t be done but you do need a plan and some expert advice says 12WBT exercise trainer Kelly Piper.
If it has been awhile since you were last active, it can be an intimidating proposition to head to a gym after a long hiatus. But it is more important than ever to keep active in your fifties, sixties and onwards.
“Keeping fit and active can help older people recover more quickly from illness and reduce the risk of disease,” says 12WBT trainer Kelly Piper. “There are medical benefits such as reductions in blood pressure and heart disease, greater muscle mass, strength and endurance levels and higher cardiovascular and respiratory function.”
“Regular resistance training also helps increase bone strength. In terms of wellbeing, being able to do everyday activities easily gives older people more control over their lives and improves self-esteem. Exercising with friends is a great way to keep social,” says Kelly.
Where to Start?
Keeping in mind the structure and function of our body gradually declines as we age, it’s best to take a slow and steady approach. “As with anyone starting a new physical fitness routine, a check up with your GP is advised,” Kelly says. “Start off slowly and aim for small improvements along the way. Keep well hydrated and check your heart rate to make sure you aren’t over doing it. If you are doing something unfamiliar make sure you take your time. Direction changes or getting up or down off the ground may take a little longer!”
Variation is Vital
Variety of exercise is the key, says Piper. “The four types that are really important for the older population are endurance, strength, balance and flexibility (or stretching).
Examples of endurance training Piper recommends include walking, jogging, tennis and dancing. Strength training includes lifting/pushing weights, using bands and bodyweight.
Balance focused exercise can be broken down into leg strength exercises as well as stability work. Stability practise can be done daily and is as simple as balancing on one leg like a stork. Stretching and flexibility work such as yoga, pilates or stretch routines can also be done on a daily basis alongside the other types of training.
Mix it up!
It’s important to make exercise in your later years as fun and appealing as possible. “Find an activity that you enjoy doing and you’re more likely to keep it going,” says Piper. “Some older people may find non-impact exercises more comfortable so aqua – aerobics or swimming – is a great option.”
Looking around your local community will also open the door to lots of different options to move your body. There is a strong community of women in their fifties doing the 12 Week Body Transformation. The group have banded together as the ‘Fifty and Fabulous’ 12WBT crew. With more than 200 members, the group’s members are located all around Australia and support each other virtually and at real life workouts and social events.
“There are more and more walking groups being formed these days,” says Piper. “This is a great way to keep active and social at the same time. Many gyms have specifically designed classes such as ‘Active over 50s’ and ‘Heart Moves,’ although many over fifties still enjoy all ages classes as well. Try mixing it up: walking, swimming, tai chi, some strength work, stretching, dancing, tennis. Keep your body guessing.”
Sticking to a weekly exercise plan – like those provided by the 12 Week Body Transformation – helps too. “Ideally sessions of 30 to 60 minutes, four to six days per week is best,” says Piper. 12WBT’s Fit for Fifty program includes five workouts per week, plus one optional active rest day. This structure provides the flexibility to work around busy schedules and allow members to incorporate activities such as walking, gardening or swimming into their routine.
“The important thing is you’re being active, which has a positive knock on effect into other areas like nutrition, health, sleep and weight loss.”
Case Study: Keeping in the Swim Over Sixty
Sue is a medal-winning open water swimmer who only began swimming again two years ago.
Suel, 68, was a keen walker, until arthritis in her hip sidelined her. Two years ago she turned to swimming instead and she hasn’t looked back. She’s now a keen open water swimmer and last year snagged bronze in the World Surf Lifesaving Championships in the 65-69 years Surf Race. In her mid-50s she also got her bronze medallion and did seven years on patrol.
“I was a competitive swimmer as a teenager and I decided to start swimming training again because I thought the movement would help my hip. I was right – it’s been fabulous to keep my joints moving with low impact. I swim every single day all year round.”
“I do five days out in the ocean (1km minimum) and then twice in the pool as part of an adult swim squad. We do an hour of intense training of around 2.5km. It’s hard work and I’m the oldest person in the squad but I feel fantastic afterwards. I train with men and women aged mainly in their twenties and forties and I really enjoy their company because they’re all fit, healthy and positive and we share the same goal.”
“I like to stay fit because it makes me feel invigorated, keeps me so healthy and makes weight control a lot easier. I also find that I sleep better. My advice to older people is keep moving! Just a small amount of exercise a day will soon make you feel a lot more energetic. Your body will love you for it.”
12WBT Fit for Fifty provides a mix of cardio, strength, flexibility and balance that’s perfect for those in or approaching middle age. Learn more about the Fit for Fifty Program.