Fitness for a Lifetime
How much exercise - and what kind - do you need for lifelong fitness?
If you were an avid exerciser in your 20s, 30s, and 40s, by age 50 you may
begin to experience the cumulative effect of wear and tear on joints and bones.
So you might not be able to participate in the kind of fitness activities you
But if you haven't worked out much, experts say you're likely to begin
feeling an entirely different set of aches and pains -- those that result from
years of inactivity. And this can curtail your daily activities.
The good news is that no matter where you find yourself on the fitness
scale, there's a safe and healthy workout for you. But where do you begin?
"By age 50, women start to experience some serious loss in muscle tone
and bone density, so these are two of the areas your fitness routines should
focus on," says Carmichael.
After menopause, Calabrese says, a woman's rate of muscle loss doubles --
going from about 7 pounds per decade to 14 pounds per decade.
To get the most from your workouts, incorporate weight-bearing exercises
along with resistance training. Resistance training includes weight lifting and
any exercise that forces your muscles to overcome, resist, or bear force. Among
the most effective resistance workouts, says Calabrese, are those done with
exercise bands -- strong, flexible cords made of rubber tubing.
"You place the tubing around a pole or any stationary object and do
pulling or rowing-type motions," says Calabrese. You can also place the
bands under your feet, much as you would a jump rope, hold the ends in your
hands, and pull up.
Alternately, she says, you can sit in a chair with a gallon of water in each
hand, and use only your legs to boost you out of your seat.
"Any movement that gives your muscles resistance will do the trick, and
the more resistance you can tolerate, the stronger your muscles will be,"
A bonus: These same movements will help you combat middle-age spread.
"For every pound of muscle, your body burns 35 calories while every
pound of fat only burns 2 calories," Calabrese says. "So the more
muscle you have, the more calories your body will burn at rest, and the easier
it will be to control your weight."
Also important: Continuing your cardio workouts. If you're limited by
injuries or other health concerns, experts, say riding a stationary bike is an
excellent cardio exercise.
"If your knees or hip joints or lower back are bothering you, try the
bike," says Litman. "It's great for the heart and you're not likely to
If you haven't worked out regularly in earlier years, you can start now.
But, the experts say, be sure to take it slow.
"You want to start with lower-impact activities, like swimming or
walking, and you should do some cross-training, meaning you vary your workout
activities so you don't do any one repetitive motion over and over," says
She advises avoiding running, jogging, or any sport with quick, cutting
motions (like tennis) until your body is conditioned.