Midlife fitness is often deemed dangerous, with excuses like ‘I am too old to exercise properly, so what’s the point of doing it?’ being voiced by most middle-aged people. However, it can be extremely beneficial to health, even if you have chronic diseases. There are many myths about fitness after 50, and it is time to bust them!
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According to a 2016 study, most Americans aged 50 or older do not get enough exercise. Since physical inactivity is associated with an increased risk of obesity and other health problems, it is clear that a decent level of activity should be maintained regardless of age. But many older people are under the misapprehension that sports are only for the young. On the contrary, staying active and keeping fit can help you reduce your risk of developing a wide range of diseases and falling.
Here is what myths are often cultivated in society.
Myth #1. I have never gone in for sports, so it is too late for me to try it
Wrong! Your body can benefit from being physically active regardless of your sports record, and even those who are at an advanced age, say, 70 or older, can reap the benefits by sticking to an exercising regimen tailored to their needs. It is usually difficult to start doing something you have never done before, but it’s well worth a try. Besides, you are not supposed to become a champion overnight: do the exercises that fit your health condition. Midlife fitness is associated with a lower risk of dementia – isn’t it a good enough reason to start moving?
Myth #2. Running is for the young only
While running is not the only kind of sports existing in the world, it is an option to consider. There are many reasons for it: it is effective, enjoyable if the weather is fine, and affordable (no equipment required, except for good running shoes). Some seniors are of the opinion that running produces a detrimental effect on the joints. In fact, it depends on how you run (your technique matters) and what shoes you use for running. Provided both are appropriate, jogging and running can be continued as long as you have the endurance it takes. Even if marathons have become a problem, you can adjust your running session intensity and keep on exercising this way to benefit your health!
Myth #3. 30 Minutes of walking is all I need
It goes without saying that walking is a staple of exercising and can benefit health in a number of ways. But it is recommended to go the extra mile and enrich your training routine with strength training, stretching and other ways to challenge your body. The reason for it is that walking provides you basic physical activity engagement and helps you to halt the progression of age-related diseases, like arthritis. But to overload your muscles (which is beneficial – with healthy cramps afterwards!), you should opt for a more diverse training program to feel better and further reduce the risk of frailty, falling and various diseases to which seniors are prone. Even weightlifting is an option – it can help fight off depression and build strength, which is often lacked at an advanced age.
Myth #4. It is too late to become flexible
As far as fitness is concerned, there is no ‘too late’, be it HIIT, stretching or something else. Of course, it will take more time to make your body not as tight as it is now than if you were twenty, but you can – and should – stretch, as it is not only beneficial in terms of improved balance and flexibility (and thus fewer falls in the future), but it also can make you feel lighter and better!
There are yoga programs for seniors, which are designed in such a way that they take into account typical problems that may arise in the course of training (like being too stiff at the beginning, etc.).
The takeaway is that exercising is definitely beneficial even if you are older than 50, and you can be strong and flexible even if you have chronic diseases. If you have a health condition that could interfere with physical activity, consult a doctor first. If there are no known problems of this kind, you can start exercising right now to reap the benefits of being fit, of which there are many!
Midlife fitness linked to less dementia later in life – health.harvard.edu
Why interval training may be the workout at any age – mayoclinic.org/