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50-and-Up Fitness: What You Must Know

While the spirit may be willing, experts say, by the time you're 50 or older, your body needs a little extra attention if you are to benefit in both the short and the long run.

Some experts worry that not every gym or health club is up to the challenge.

"The shift towards getting fit after 50 is definitely taking place, but unfortunately, the staff and instructors at many gyms and fitness clubs are not really set up for this paradigm change," says Robert Catalini, an exercise physiologist and director of the Holy Redeemer Health and Fitness Center at Holy Redeemer Medical Center in Meadowbrook, Pa.

This is particularly important for those who have not exercised in the past or who have become sedentary in recent years, he says.

"The longer it has been since you set foot inside a gym, the more you are going to have to rely on your instructors to guide you to the right kinds of activities, so it's important that they really know what they are doing, " says Bryant.

Moreover, Catalini says, if you're already saddled with health issues -- like achy joints, bad knees, or back pain -- as well as risk factors for heart disease such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or obesity, you need to be doubly sure you're getting the right advice.

"There's no question you can do it, and should do it, but there are certain things you have to pay attention to, and certain guidelines you have to follow, and they can't be the same ones you followed in your 20s or 30s or even 40s," says Catalini.

7 Ways to Ensure Success

To help put you on the path to a fit and healthy future, Bryant and Catalini offer the following guidelines to help ensure your midlife workout plan is a success.

1. Ask questions, particularly if you have health concerns: Can you accommodate my bad back, do you have instructors with a background in cardio exercise, is your pool heated and to what temperature? Anything that affects your condition should be addressed well before you sign on the dotted line. Also make certain that the instructors have experience coaching regular folks (not athletes) over 50.

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Ensure you're exercising hard enough to get a good workout, but not strain your heart.

While you are exercising, you should count between...

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Beats
PER
Seconds