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Cardio, weight, resistance training grows in importance after 50
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Cardio, weight, resistance training grows in importance after 50

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Blowing out a few extra birthday candles should not snuff out one’s love of fitness.

Region coaches and exercise specialists stress the need to keep up with a balanced exercise routine after 50.

As fitness supervisor at the Franciscan Fitness Center in Schererville and a certified exercise physiologist, Brittany Price knows what aging clients are up against.

“As we age, our aerobic capacity is lower. We have muscle weakness and are deconditioned. Exercising is of the utmost importance in maintaining the quality of their movements,” Price said.

Price cites the American College of Sports Medicine in defining an older adult as one 50 to 64 with physical limitations affecting their movement patterns or anyone older than 65.

Muscle weakness is one of several physiological challenges as people age,  making varied exercise imperative.

“Body fat percent is higher in older adults. It does take older adults a longer time to recover from exercises. Their muscular strength is decreased, as well as flexibility and bone mass,” Price said.

But there are ways to counteract that.

Lift your limits

Eric White, a personal trainer at Anytime Fitness in Dyer, recommends resistance training for anyone 50 or older to maintain muscle mass and lower body fat percentage.

Emilie Meyers, another Anytime Fitness coach in Dyer specializing in training older adults, also recommends adding weight-bearing exercises.

She said older adults should start slowly — lower initial weights and repetitions. This could include one to three sets of eight to 10 exercises.

Meyers recommends eight to 20 reps, with resistance sessions ranging from 20 to 30 minutes.

Meyers said strengthening the hips and lower back is particularly important as one ages.

The squat, a common exercise that calls upon lower body strength, must be done with a proper range of repetitions and weight, Meyers said.

“I would also avoid heavy weight bearing exercises such as squats or shoulder presses. If doing these exercises, I would recommend keeping the weight lighter and performing more reps,” Meyers said.

Louise Boyd, group exercise instructor and senior fitness specialist at Community Hospital Fitness Pointe in Munster, said there are alternatives to lifting weights to maintain strength after turning 50.

Her busiest exercise class is a “chair yoga” class, which has 50 senior participants, she said.

Tai chi also can be an alternative to weight lifting, Boyd said.

Keeping the beat

To maintain cardiorespiratory health as we age, Boyd said recommends activities that slightly raise the heart rate such as dancing, brisk walking, swimming, jogging or a low-impact workout.

She recommends a minimum 20 minutes of moderate activity every day and strength training at least twice a week.

White of Anytime Fitness noted the ways cardiorespiratory health diminishes with age.

“Maximal oxygen uptake, maximal exercise heart rate and measures of pulmonary function will all decrease with increasing age,” White said.

He said initial exercise workloads should be gradually built up from three to five days per week.

“Older adults should aim to complete aerobic activity (walking, swimming, biking) at least five days out of the week, resistance training at least twice a week, and flexibility at least twice a week,” Price said.

Balancing act

Standing on one foot for 10 seconds while waiting for your morning cup of joe might seem odd, but Boyd said this simple practice can improve balance in those 65 or older.

Balance training is a notable addition to trainers' toolkits.

“I … highly recommend functional movement training, as this focuses on improving balance and agility which is important when completing activities of daily living,” Price said.

Price offers a chair-based class at Franciscan Health Fitness Center in Schererville that includes range of motion exercises and stretching, Price said.

For those who prefer to avoid testing their balance, White offers an alternative for those who also want to elevate their heart rate.

“Balance, gait and neuromuscular coordination may also be impaired (as we age). Exercising on a stationary or recumbent bike is recommended to safeguard against falls and foot problems,” White said.

Know your body

“Generally speaking, individuals should avoid any exercise that triggers pain while performing it, in which the pain gets worse throughout the movement,” Price said.

Price said it is important to have regular visits with a physician to ensure heart health. 

“If we are conscious about living a healthy lifestyle and taking care of our body, it will take care of us, no matter the age,” Price said.

“When it comes to fitness, it is not necessarily about the age, but more so about what one’s body is capable of doing,” Price said.

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