For those of us who are 50+, our fitness levels are as different as snowflakes. Some of us are strong and healthy, while others have mobility challenges and joint problems. As you read this post, please remember to take precious care of yourselves and see a doctor before beginning any new activities.
When we pass age 40, and even more at age 50, our bodies start to lose muscle mass. This makes weight loss more challenging as our metabolism slows. Any exercise program at our age must include a certain amount of strength training to rebuild muscle mass and thus increase our metabolism.
Also, after suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome from 1996-2001 (with occasional flare-ups for a few years after that), I have learned something interesting about my body. It is essential that when doing cardio, I don’t allow my heart rate to go above that magical 80% of maximum. If I do so, even after all these years of feeling great, I have a flare-up. If I stay within my guidelines and use a heart monitor, no problem. This may be useful advice for you, too, even if you are healthy!
My current physical condition is good, as evidenced by my ability to hike for up to eight hours a day up Swiss mountainsides. The good news is that I’m strong. The question is, then, what do I need in my daily routine in order to lose weight?
My favorite forms of exercise are walking and yoga, both of which have a strong mind-body component to them. I will keep them both around because of the mental health benefits, even though both are great as physical activities. If you’re new to exercise, start with walking, which doesn’t cost any money and is unlikely to cause injury. If you want to try yoga but are 50+ and inflexible, start with a gentle class. I was chatting with a technician recently at the medical clinic who told me she was doing the video Yoga For The Rest of Us. She does her poses in a chair because she can’t yet get on the floor. I think that’s a fantastic place to begin, especially if you have mobility issues.
For me, though, to lose weight I have to do a little more. First, I started to intensify my aerobic activity. My favorite aerobic videos are by Ellen Barrett, who combines pilates, yoga, and calesthenics with aerobic dance to create a fun mind-body workout that feels easier than it actually is. Although Ellen isn’t 50+ and doesn’t market specifically to the 50+ crowd, I would recommend them highly as a safe workout if you’re in good health. I own (almost) every video she’s done since. She’s an absolute treasure!
By the way, if you have an iPad, you can download the FitnessClass app and watch Ellen’s videos there. I take her with me when we travel. At home, we have Apple TV, so I can open the video in the iPad and then send the video to our TV. We’re geeky in our household, what can I say?
To improve strength, try out Eight Weeks to a Younger Body by Joan Pagano. In this book, you create a customized workout of cardio, stretch, and strength. My only caution here is to check with your doctor, especially if you have knee problems, before combining a stepper with weights. You will need some equipment for these workouts, but do the tests before buying anything.
How often to work out? Currently I do cardio 5-6 times per week at about 45 minutes per session. I exercise in the morning after my breakfast digests. Some recommend exercising before breakfast, but that doesn’t work for me — so find what’s right for you. When I had a corporate job, I exercised on my lunch hour or in the evening.
My strength training combines cardio with it, so that’s included in the cardio frequency. I do strength training 2-3 times per week. I do yoga in the afternoons after I’m done with my work, and it allows me to transition from the workday.
Your workouts may vary. If you’re not exercising, I encourage you to begin. The dividends will pay off in better sleep, improved mood, and weight loss.
Okay, so I’ve given you my eating and exercise plan. The only thing left to do is talk about…sabotage. More about that tomorrow!