“Live your life and forget your age.” - Jean Paul (German writer)

Believe it or not: Fouja Singh ran his first marathon at the age of 89, and retired from active running at the spritely of 101. Incredible! While everyone might not be up to achieving in the same way, it is very possible to exercise after the age of 50.

Exercise holds numerous benefits. For starters, it can slow down the effects of ageing and help you stay in shape. It can counter hypertension, osteoporosis and arthritis and does wonders for your cardiovascular health. It doesn’t matter whether you’re starting to exercise in your 50s for the first time or have been athletic since you were young, both are brilliant ideas.

This article examines how over 50s can remain fit and sets out some great activities, workouts and classes for them to pursue.

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How to Choose Great Activities for Seniors

Muscle mass decreases in your 50s and joints become less flexible and stiffer as the amount of lubricating fluid in your joints diminishes. It is, therefore, very important that the physical exercise you engage in, is suited to your current physical condition. Strength training in your 50s is vital!

Which sports can over-50s do?
There are a lot of activities to choose from, just make sure to choose a type of exercise that works for you. (Source: 5598375)

What are ideal exercises for middle age? Over 50s should ideally focus on low-intensity activities which go on for longer. High-intensity activities should be avoided, as far as possible! While seniors are capable of performing quite a wide range of exercises, however, intensity is key! Start and progress slowly!

If, while exercising, you start to experience heart palpitations or sudden pain (specifically in the chest area), stop exercising immediately and seek medical attention!

Since you’re older, beyond 30, your body will be quite a bit stiffer, making you more susceptible to injury. For that reason, it is important that you take some time to warm up gradually. If, for example, you’re about to start a run, walk for 50 to 100 metres before you start your run.

Don’t forget: hydration is important! As we age, we don’t experience the need to drink as much water as we need. It is vital that you take in water as you exercise, even if you don’t feel very thirsty.

30 minutes of exercise per day is recommended, even if it’s just walking. You can start travelling by bike or on foot, if you are not at ease with participating in sporting activities. Try to extend your exercise to about 45 minutes at least thrice a week. If you’ve never been a physically active person before, ease yourself into your new routine and build up gradually.

As we age, our bodies stiffen and we gain weight. Thus, exercises for middle age should focus on flexibility and endurance. When considering endurance, swimming, walking and cycling are great low-impact activities. For flexibility, yoga, aqua-gym and Tai Chi are recommended.

Exercising in a group is attractive option as it will help to keep you motivated. Participating in sports and exercise are also a great way make new friends. Another great reason to exercise with others, is the aspect of security and pure common sense. In the event of injury while mountain-biking or on a hike, you won’t be alone!

Your number one priority in workouts is to consider your health. Consult your doctor before embarking on a new exercise regime and, once cleared to start, know that being active every day holds many health benefits and exposes you far less to injury than would infrequent, intense training.

Let Experience be Your Guide

When choosing activities, you will have to consider your previous experience with exercise and your level of fitness. If you were an active individual, who exercised on a regular basis, you would readily be able to participate in an exercise regime and sporting activities.

You must, however, realise that some activities which you loved and participated in when you were younger, may be a bridge too far in your 50s, and virtually impossible to attempt in your 70s.

How can you exercise in later life?
Ideally, you'll want to look for low-impact exercises. (Source: 5598375)

Nonetheless, here are some words of caution about the kinds of exercise to steer clear:

  • Combat sports which require speed, balance and strength. That won’t apply, of course, if you’ve continued to do karate since a tender age. However, do pay attention to the signs that your body is sending you, and consult your doctor if you become concerned for any reason.
  • Sporting activities, like skiing, where there’s a risk of falling. Broken legs don’t heal that easily when you are 65.
  • Sports where there are intricate technical manoeuvres. As we age, it becomes more difficult to perform certain techniques. Learning to play the piano may not be all that much of a problem, but a wrong movement in certain sports could result in injury.
  • Team sports like rugby, football and basketball, especially once you’ve entered your 70s. In recent years, walking soccer has taken off in South Africa, which may be a good option to consider. Rather this brand of soccer than a rugby scrum!
  • Water-sports like surfing and wind-surfing.
  • Scuba diving

There are, however, variations of popular group sports (as mentioned above) that have been adapted to the needs of older players, like the non-contact versions of rugby and five-a-side soccer. Another example is basketball, which can include lighter balls and larger baskets.

If you’ve set your mind on playing a sport that may not be recommended for you, ensure that you consult your doctor first. Depending on your fitness level, you might still be able to participate in it. Ensure, beforehand, that whatever sport you may have in mind, is appropriate for your age, your current level of fitness and overall condition of health.

In advanced years, there is a greater risk of sustaining injuries, such as tendonitis. Flexibility exercises will play a leading role in countering this type of injury. Additionally, the intensity and duration of an activity may impact on you physically far more than the actual choice of activity!

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Identify Your Needs and Wants Before Choosing an Activity

Failing to exercise can be bad for your health. Performing physical exercise regularly can help you lose weight, keep you flexible and reduce the chance of cardio-vascular disease.

Which are the best exercises for seniors?
It's also important to choose a type of exercise that you can do regularly. (Source: pasja1000)

Selecting Activities for Your Weight and Fitness

Once you’ve passed the magical half century mark, you may find it difficult to lose weight. While it’s important to eat healthily, exercise can help you burn more calories. Exercise will also lower your chances of contracting diabetes and will lead to a healthier heart. Below are some great weight-loss exercises:

  • Most of us do this every day.
  • This would be more intensive than regular walking. If you’ve had any problems with your knees, we recommend starting with an easier hike which has minimal elevation change.
  • Nordic walking. This can be compared to power walking with the assistance of walking poles.
  • Longe- Essentially hiking, but in water. Originating in the north of France, this involves hiking in ocean water that is hip-deep.
  • This is a wonderful option, if you’ve never run or cycled before. It’s a much better option for your joints.
  • An even better option for your joints than cycling.
  • Start with a gentle 10- to 15-minute run, say, twice a week. If any sudden pain strikes, especially in your chest, stop immediately!
  • Aqua-bike or aqua-gym. Both of these activities are good substitutes for cycling and are beneficial in terms of your cardio-vascular health. The resistance that the water offers make them low-impact activities and minimises the possibility of certain injuries.

It is also important to note that strength training in your 50s can sometimes not lead to weight loss, because muscle mass may increase. Note then, that you may end up well-toned, although you haven’t actually shed weight.

Exercises for Working on Your Flexibility and Balance

In later life, balance and flexibility exercises are very important. Activities that can contribute to these are:

  • Tai Chi
  • Golf
  • Sessions are structured with seniors needs in mind.
  • Pilates helps to strengthen muscles.
  • Work with a personal trainer and do light aerobic exercises. They will ensure that you avoid jumping and, so, minimise the chance of impacts and falls.

Dancing, particularly ballroom dancing, holds many benefits for your joints, memory and heart.

What kinds of exercises can seniors do?
Gentle forms of exercise like hiking, aquabike, and yoga are all great for older people. (Source: Hermann)

It is always a good idea to participate in physical exercise, but always remember to choose exercises that are appropriate for you and to consult your doctor, if you have any concerns. The ideal set of exercises will target your joints, flexibility and heart.

If you struggle with sticking to your exercise programme, think of engaging the services of a personal trainer or private fitness instructor. Check out the Superprof website for some superb professional coaches. Choose the type of training you want to participate in by considering your fitness level, budget, lifestyle and time constraints.

Face-to-face coaching is a great option since you will be guided in terms of the types of exercises you should attempt and how they fit into your overall fitness plan. You coach will also be on hand to ensure that your limit how much or how intensely you exercise, thereby limiting the risk of over-training and injury. While it is regarded as the most expensive type of coaching, one-on-one coaching is very cost-effective, since no time or resources are wasted to achieve your desired end result and the risk of injury is almost entirely removed.

For anyone on a tight budget, group sessions are ideal. Others, in the group, will help to keep your motivation levels high – a wonderful way to socialise and get fit at the same time!

Just a reminder: many Superprof coaches offer the first session at no charge to you! Why not try out a couple until you settle on the one who is the right fit for you?

Let’s get started! And one, two, …

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Trevor

Career teacher turned writer. Passionate about family, running, and the great outdoors.