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Fitness After 50: The Gym Goes Gray

Baby boomers are flocking to fitness centers in record numbers

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.

2. Make sure your trainer, club manager, or fitness instructor takes a medical history as well as a family history before planning your workout program. This should include a Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire or PAR-Q test to determine your physical age, which may not be the same as your chronological one. Workouts should be based on your physical age.

3. Tell your fitness instructors about any health conditions (for example, asthma or heart disease) or risk factors (if you smoke, if you get easily winded, if your have joint problems), and let them know about all medications you're taking. Some can cause fatigue, muscles aches, or other issues that could be confused with workout issues.

4. Be clear about your fitness goals and convey them to your instructor or health club manager. Do you want to lose weight, get more energy, relieve pain, strengthen joints? Tell them -- and make sure gym has the ability to help you meet that goal.

5. Don't try to compete with younger members, or with the memory of your former self. Experts say the worst thing you can do is to focus on your years as a high school quarterback and try to match what you could do decades earlier. Set new, age-adjusted goals and compete with yourself only in the here and now.

6. Get a check-up before joining any gym or starting an exercise program, no matter how great you feel. Inform your doctor of your fitness plans and discuss any concerns or limitations together. Check in with your doctor anytime you experience significant discomfort while working out, including shortness of breath, chest pains, headaches, dizziness, or muscle aches that don't subside after a day or two of rest.

7. Listen to your body, not your trainer. While it's OK to push hard and long you're young, consistency is a better goal after 50. If your body is saying take it slower, then take it slower. Period.

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Edited by Louise Chang, MD

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