Whether you're 50, 65 or 80, there's virtually no downside to getting into shape through a good exercise regimen. In fact, the older you get, the more important it is for you to maintain your health through exercise, which benefits almost every area of your body, including your mental health.
For a healthier and happier life, getting the right amount of exercise is paramount, and there are some great ways to ease in if you're out of shape, so you can reap the best benefits. It's a good idea to check with your doctor before beginning any new exercise regimen.
Just Get Started
One of the hardest things about starting up an exercise regimen, especially if you haven't been active lately, is to figure out where to begin. There's no shortage of opinions and ideas about what type of exercise is "the best," but the truth is that any activity is better than none at all.
To begin, you should keep the following trifecta in mind:
The key to starting on these is to ease into it, especially as you get older, which means you should start with flexibility. Your joints have endured years of wear and tear, so you want to gently introduce them to an exercise routine. And while your joints may object at first, you're doing them a world of good, perhaps even halting the onset of osteoarthritis or slowing down existing arthritis.
One of the best ways to do this is to stretch, which works the soft connective tissue in your joints, as well as your muscles. Start with 10-15 minutes in the morning and then again in the evening, using some of the following examples:
Your muscles will let you know where they're tight, so find those areas and work them gradually. If you do this for a week, you'll be amazed at how much better your body will feel as the stiffness and achiness begin to abate.
Jump Right In
With your joints and muscles activated and limber, now it's time to figure out which exercise is good for you. The CDC recommends that you get at least 2½ hours a week of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise in order to get your heart rate up.
There are dozens of ways you can do this, from walking the dog to joining a spinning class. Enlist the help of some more active friends — for ideas as well as motivation. And remain open to trying new things, because you never know what new passion you might find in the second half of your life.
Swimming, cycling, elliptical machines, yoga and pilates are just a few ideas to get you started. Don't be intimidated about your neophyte status, as gyms, studios and friends are all great resources for entry-level classes and instruction.
The key to finding a good exercise regimen is to see what works best for both your body and your mind. Rather than simply slogging out 75 minutes of dreaded cardio work each week, you'll be more likely to stick with your exercise program if you find some enjoyment in it. This is why so many people pick up activities that have a social aspect to them, such as tennis or classes at the local gym.
Build Up Strength
After the age of 50, adults begin to lose about a quarter of a pound of muscle mass each year because of the natural aging process and a decline in hormones.
The best way to fight back against this muscle mass loss is to throw some resistance training in once or twice a week. Resistance training can be done at home with a few hand weights and squats. Or you can visit a local gym to use specially-designed equipment that provides highly-targeted resistance training.
Your muscles are going to feel sore when you start, but just know that discomfort is a sign that you've successfully engaged that muscle group.
Be Kind to Yourself
This last point is an important one. Resist the urge to push yourself too fast. Instead, take your time as you build your strength, flexibility and endurance. If you overdo it, you run the risk of burning out, or worse, injuring yourself.
Your body isn't as responsive as it used to be, and it may take a little time, but be patient and give it some help along the way. For example, take a hot shower before you exercise to warm up your soft tissues and ice your joints afterwards to prevent inflammation. Keep up your daily stretching exercises, even on your rest days, to keep your body fluid.
Above all, if you're in pain, take a break. The goal is a happier, healthier you, so listen to your body and know when to dial it back.
Before you know it, you're going to have a new spring in your step and smile on your face, as your body gets in shape both inside and out.
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