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Get-Fit Advice for Women Over 50

If you were physically active before 50, that’s great. But if you didn't exercise regularly, it's not too late to start.

Physical activity may help tame some of the symptoms of menopause -- hot flashes, joint pain, and sleep problems. Exercise also lowers your risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis. Plus, it helps control weight and melts belly fat. The effects of exercise are so potent that it influences every physiological system in the body for the better.

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Staying Fit as You Age

Many difficulties of aging are linked to an inactive lifestyle. And while your chronological age may be 55, your biological age can be 35 -- if you follow a consistent exercise program. Before you start, check with your doctor, especially if you have any of the risk factors for heart disease (smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, or family history). Then, get moving.

A complete fitness program must include the following:

  • Aerobic exercise. Walking, jogging, and dance exercise are good ones to try. Aerobic exercise works the large muscles in your body, benefitting your cardiovascular system -- and your weight. Work up to getting 20 or more minutes per session, 3 or 4 days a week. Make sure you can pass the “talk test,” which means exercising at a pace that lets you carry on a conversation.
  • Strength training. Lifting hand weights improves your strength and posture, reduces the risk of lower back injury, and also helps you tone. Start with a hand weight that you can comfortably handle for eight repetitions. Gradually add more reps until you can complete 12.
  • Stretching. Stretching exercises help maintain flexibility and range of motion in joints. They also reduce the risk of injury and muscle soreness. Yoga and Pilates are good forms of stretching exercise; they build core body strength and increase stability.

Make Exercise a Part of Your Daily Routine

Every bit of movement counts. If you're too busy for a regular workout, look for other ways to be in motion. Research shows that all those extra steps you take during the day add up to big health benefits. Here are some ideas to get you on your feet:

  • Adopt a dog and take it for walks every day.
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator. At home, don't shout at your family members from the stairs -- go on up.
  • Get up and talk with co-workers, rather than sending emails. Have a meeting with one or two colleagues? Take it outside and make it a walking meeting.
  • Walk briskly whenever you can. Always wear comfortable shoes, or bring them with you, so that your feet can be your main mode of transportation.

Find a sport, game, or activity you like. You’ll stay committed to exercising if you’re doing something that you enjoy.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Varnada Karriem-Norwood, MD on February 21, 2013
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