Fit After 50: Staying Healthy As You Age
A funny thing happens as we age: our bodies don’t naturally respond in the ways we’ve become accustomed to. It may take us longer to get out of bed or off the couch. Our reaction times may slow down when we lose our balance and risk falling. And we may even be moving at a slower pace when we take a stroll around the neighborhood.
It’s not breaking news that a regular exercise routine can help alleviate many of the aches and pains that start to show up after turning 50. And it’s not shocking that the benefits of exercise can improve both your physical and mental health. In general, exercise is important for anyone of any age. But for boomers, it becomes even more important. “Exercise can help combat many medical conditions prevalent in individuals over the age of 50, including diabetes, hypertension, and hyperlipidemia,” says Namrita Gogia, MD, an internal medicine specialist at Mercy Medical Group in Roseville. “It can also improve sleep, boost your mood, and has been shown to improve memory and cognitive health. Additionally, weight-bearing exercises in particular can help maintain bone strength which is important for those at risk for osteopenia or osteoporosis.”
Regular exercise can also keep your weight in check. “As we age, our metabolism slows down,” says Wei Kuang, PA-C, a physician assistant at Mercy Medical Group Internal Medicine in Folsom. “Typically, you find yourself getting fatigued easily, and experience lower energy, too. For these reasons it may seem more difficult to commit to physical activity as you age—but it is so important. You can increase your energy, release positive endorphins for a better mood, and support so many different elements of your physical and cognitive health by exercising.”
So how active should you be? Lee K. Rea, AGNP, a nurse practioner at the Marshall Family/Internal Medicine Clinic in Placerville, says to aim for 30-60 minutes of physical activity five to six days per week. “This does not have to be all at once and it does not have to be the same activity,” she says. “For example, you could take a 20-minute brisk walk in the morning, climb stairs for five minutes at lunch, and do a 30-minute yoga session in the evening. It’s good for your body to experience different types of exercise.”
Whether you’ve been an avid exerciser your whole life or you are still trying to find the one workout you actually enjoy, we’ve got all the information you need to help you on your fitness journey.
Begin By Stretching and Warming Up
Before you start training for that marathon, we have to dive into the importance of stretching and warming up your body, joints, and muscles in order to prevent injury. “It’s so important to stretch before and after your workout,” says Gogia. “Stretching helps with joint lubrication, mobility, and flexibility. Before workouts, spend at least five to ten minutes doing some dynamic stretches; after workouts, static stretches are helpful.”
She also suggests starting slow. “Take your time and be patient when getting back into the swing of things. A lot of times when we take long breaks from exercise, we think we can go back to performing at a certain speed or duration, when in reality, our bodies may not be at that level just yet,” she says.
For cardio exercises, warming up is just as important as stretching. “Start your cardio routines at a lower intensity and then build from there,” advises Syama Varudu, MD, an internist at Mercy Medical Group Internal Medicine in Folsom. “Enthusiasm for exercise is awesome but you don’t want to overdo it either. Remember, it takes a while for soreness to set in, so even if you don’t feel tired, your muscles could be very achy the next day if you push yourself too hard.”
5 Best Workouts For Boomers
Gretta Smith, owner of Ohana Moon Yoga in Cameron Park, wants yoga to become a part of your everyday life. “Gentle Flow or Slow Flow classes can be great to build strength, move stagnant energy, and improve balance. Yin Yoga classes are great to increase range of motion and improve flexibility,” she says. “You will feel good after every session, and feel the most benefit when you create a regular practice of three classes a week.”
Yoga encourages a connection between the mind and the body. “Yoga is especially great for the boomer generation because it is a total mind-body workout that incorporates mindful movement, core strength, balance and stretching,” says Smith. As you practice, she recommends listening to what your body is trying to tell you. “The best way to stay healthy and prevent injuries as you workout is to move mindfully and listen to your body. If you feel sharp, shooting pain, stop immediately and adjust the pose or exercise,” she advises.
Mark Cavallaro, personal training director at Roseville Health & Wellness Center likes that yoga keeps us limber and supports core strength. “As we age, we lose elasticity in our tendons, ligaments, and muscles.” He says to “look for a class with an instructor that can work with not just the young folk but also us less-than-flexible individuals.”
Bobby Masocol, MD, a sports medicine and family medicine physician at Kaiser Permanente Elk Grove Promenade Medical Offices, adds that a regular yoga practice can also decrease your risk for other injuries that can come with aging. “Yoga allows us to be less frail, to decrease our risk of falls, and improve our bone density,” he says.
Dawn Alden, ND, a naturopathic doctor at Revolutions Naturopathic with locations in Folsom and Roseville, shares the breathing benefits that come with your yoga practice. “You learn to use your breath with movement, leading to greater oxygen intake…your body will benefit from the increased oxygen to reduce pain and speed healing,” she says.
A great year-round activity that can also get you outside for a few months of the year is cycling.
“Biking is low-impact, great for strengthening the knees, and working the heart and lungs, and it gets you out in nature!” says Donna Webb, a trainer at THE STUDIO Martial Arts & Fitness in Roseville. “Fresh air, sunshine, and nature have a very uplifting affect on the brain. There are also many biking groups of all ages that you can join, which creates a social outlet.”
And when the temperatures drop, you don’t have to worry about falling out of your routine. “During the cold season, there are fun indoor cycling classes that you can take,” says Webb. VillaSport Athletic Club and Spa Roseville General Manager, Scott Sharrow adds, “Biking— whether on your own using a stationary bike at the gym or in a cycling class—is another great low impact exercise that reduces strain on the joints and is beneficial to your cardiovascular health and circulation. When you bike at the gym or in a cycling class, it also reduces your risk of falling off a road bike.”
Water exercise and swimming are low-impact year-round activities that are good your joints while also providing a full-body workout, says Kaleb Wallen, co-owner and instructor at Wallen Swim School in Roseville and El Dorado Hills. “Swimming at least three times a week for 30 minutes can help improve strength and mental health,” he says. “Not only is [swimming] a life skill, but it is also a low-impact activity that strengthens the core as well as your arms, legs, and cardiovascular system.”
Sharrow says that the long-term health benefits from swimming can be seen when you commit to doing the activity at least three to four times a week at a moderate intensity. Fortunately, swimming is kind to your aging body. “When you get older, your joints are more prone to injury, but swimming can actually take the strain off your joints,” he states. “Water exercise also eliminates the concern about falling.”
4. WEIGHT TRAINING
Weight training may sound daunting but just remember that even the strongest people were once beginners. Strength training with weights will ensure that your activity level will not decline with age, according to Cavallaro. “These days, we would all like to be active in our 50s and older,” he says. “The most critical activity for this is weight training. Weight training increases metabolism, increases bone mass, and increases joint lubrication.”
In order to support your metabolism, weight training increases muscle mass, which helps burn more calories at rest. “In addition, an intense weight training session has been shown to increase metabolism for up to 24 hours post-workout even without eating,” says Cavallaro.
Also, weight training is the only way to increase bone density in the spine and extremities. “Strong bones are key to long-term health and to decrease the incidence of fractures,” he says. “Weight training has shown to help increase bone mass and helps fights off osteoporosis.” Cavallaro also says weight training helps keep joints strong. It lubricates the joints to help alleviate degeneration as we age.
5. TAI CHI
Like yoga, Tai Chi is another workout that comes with “zen” benefits. The ancient Chinese martial art is most commonly practiced for its incredible health benefits, says Michael Krick CSCS, owner and founder of KrickFit in El Dorado Hills. “The Harvard Medical School praises Tai Chi as ‘Medication in Motion’ and describes in detail the many benefits including an increase in muscle strength, flexibility, and aerobic conditioning,” Krick says. “The practice also greatly increases balance and some studies have actually shown its ability to reduce the instances of falling.”
The meditative practice also lowers stress, anxiety, and blood pressure, and has even been shown to reduce age-related memory loss. Incorporate Tai Chi into your daily routine, advises Krick. “There are many classes out there, but the Internet is a great resource for videos geared towards beginners wishing to practice at home.”
Alden likes that Tai Chi (and yoga) are multicomponent exercises that combine aerobic, muscle-strengthening, balance training, and flexibility in one exercise. “Maintaining balance and flexibility is important for the boomer generation because it prevents injuries, such as sprains and strains, falls, and fractures,” she says. “As we age, not only do we lose muscle mass but we can become less flexible. Decreases in flexibility also increase your risk of falls. For example, with decreased flexibility in your hips, you take shorter and slower steps. The wider your stride, the more balance you actually have, decreasing your risk of tripping and falling.”
END WITH A POST-WORKOUT ROUTINE
Yes, the cool down is just as important as the warm up. “Make sure to set aside some time for relaxation after your workout, such as getting a massage or sweating in a sauna,” recommends Sharrow. “Consistent sauna sessions can lower blood pressure, soothe chronic conditions, relax your arteries, and protect your lungs. Follow your time in a sauna with a massage to fully relax, rejuvenate, and restore your body,” he adds.
By Kourtney Jason
PRE-WORKOUT SNACKS (consume 30-60 minutes before workout):
Apple with 1 tbsp. nut butter
String cheese and 1 oz. nuts or seeds
Celery with 1 tbsp. nut butter and 1 tbsp. raisins
Small energy bar (150 calories or less)
Small banana (or half of a large banana)
POST-WORKOUT SNACKS (consume within 30 minutes of workout):
Greek yogurt 4-6 oz. (can add fruit and sprinkle with granola)
Protein smoothie (plant-based protein is more easily digested)
Sprouted whole grain toast topped with avocado and tomato
Sprouted whole grain toast topped with 1 tbsp. nut butter and 1/2 a banana
Veggies with 1/2 cup wild or brown rice
Keep your post-workout snack packed with protein, healthy carbohydrates, and under 200 calories. If you plan to eat your regular meal (lunch, dinner, etc.) right after a workout then you can skip the post-workout snack. Just be sure you eat it within 30-60 minutes after your workout and, again, get plenty of protein.
-Joy Arnold, Personal Trainer, Health & Nutrition Coach, and Reiki Master, joyarnold.com
10 Tips To Exercise Well
Both Bobby Masocol, MD and Dawn Alden, ND don’t want you to make any rookie mistakes when it comes to your workout routine. “As we get older, we need to be smarter about exercise,” says Masocol. “Tendons, muscles, joints, and reaction times change. Plus, we don’t bounce back from injury as quickly.”
Masocol's Top Tips:
1. “Ease into exercise. You literally need to warm your muscles up. If you want to start running, ease up on your mileage, strengthen your leg muscles and core before you go out and run a marathon.”
2. “Squatting is important because it’s the single best exercise to prevent injury and maintain leg and lower back strength.”
3. “Strengthen your core by focusing on the muscles in your abdomen and your back. This will help your body stand up straighter and fight the curve.”
4. “Don’t ignore aches and pains. Many of us continue to work out through soreness and pain. If something hurts, back off from training and see a doctor. After age 40, muscles contain fewer satellite cells, the specialized stem cells that help tissues repair themselves. With fewer satellite cells, minor muscle tears can turn into major injuries.”
5. “Stretch your muscles strategically before and after exercising.”
Alden's Top Tips:
1. “Stay hydrated, warm up before a workout, and stretch afterwards.”
2. “Keep your blood sugar steady. Eat a small protein-rich snack with some complex carbohydrates and some healthy fat before a workout.”
3. “Work with a licensed personal trainer if you don’t know where to start.”
4. “Intensity of physical activity should be relative to your level of fitness. Don’t push yourself too hard when you start to incorporate more physical activity. Slow and steady will prevent injuries.”
5. “Those with chronic conditions should understand how their conditions affect their ability to exercise regularly. If they cannot do 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week because of their condition, they should be as physically active as their abilities and conditions allow.”
Expert Tips To Get (and stay) Motivated:
“Go to a class or training session with an instructor who will guide and support you. Start with smaller, realistic goals like doing a class once a week for a month and then add a second class in after a few weeks. Put your workouts onto your calendar and make them just as important as a doctor appointment. Get a workout/yoga buddy—hold each other accountable!”
–Gretta Smith, owner of Ohana Moon Yoga in Cameron Park
“The biggest source of motivation when it comes to physical health comes from within. Remind your friends or family members why exercise is important and help keep each other motivated. Having a family member tell you, ‘I want you to exercise because I love you and I care about you,’ can be very motivating.”
–Namrita Gogia, MD, internal medicine specialist at Mercy Medical Group in Roseville
“If you’re looking for motivation, one of the best things you can do is join a gym. Join group exercises or community classes. Remember to pay attention to your body and notice the positive changes that occur when you work out, such as increased endurance, a better attitude, better sleep, weight loss, etc. Positive reinforcement keeps you going.”
–Wei Kuang, PA-C, physician assistant at Mercy Medical Group Internal Medicine in Folsom
“Add a workout or fitness class to your calendar and treat it like it’s an important meeting to ensure you show up. Change up your moves so your workout doesn’t become a routine.”
-Scott Sharrow, general manager at VillaSport Athletic Club and Spa in Roseville
“A one-hour workout is only four percent of your day. I remind myself of that and it helps me keep it all into perspective. And if you can’t do it for yourself do it for your loved ones.”
–Donna Webb, trainer at THE STUDIO Martial Arts & Fitness in Roseville
“The best thing is to grab someone else and do something that you are interested in, whether it’s basketball, tennis, walking or swimming. Find someone to share this with because they can keep you accountable. We can sometimes be our own worst enemy and not want to do something.”
-Bobby Masocol, MD, sports medicine and family medicine physician at Kaiser Permanente Elk Grove Promenade Medical Offices
Active At Any Age
Rick Graffis, 64, has been working out at THE STUDIO Martial Arts & Fitness in Roseville for four years. He has been an active person his whole life, beginning in high school. His current favorite workouts are cardio kickboxing and weight training, both of which he does at THE STUDIO. We asked Graffis a few fitness questions to get to know how and why he’s managed to stay active later in life.
Boomer: How often do you work out?
Rick: Five to six times per week.
Boomer: What do you enjoy about working out?
Rick: In addition to the physical benefits of working out, I enjoy the camaraderie of exercising with a group.
Boomer: Have you ever taken a break from exercising regularly? If so, why? And what inspired you to come back to it?
Rick: I have taken a couple of breaks from regular exercise due to injuries. I really missed the consistent activity and challenge of exercise so I was anxious to return as soon as I was physically able.
Boomer: Do you prefer working out alone or with a group?
Rick: I prefer working out in a group class setting. I get a much more intense workout with someone else teaching or coaching me than I would [if I was] alone.
Boomer: How do you keep up with your workout routine when you’re traveling?
Rick: Working out while traveling can be challenging, but [I] usually [find] alternative facilities.
Boomer: What are your preferred pre- and post-workout snacks?
Rick: “I usually have a banana pre-workout, and a salad or whole-grain cereal following [my workout].”
Boomer: What’s your favorite indulgent meal or treat?
Rick: Steak or a really good hamburger.
Boomer: Do you prefer working out indoors or outdoors?
Rick: I do go for an occasional bike ride, but otherwise I prefer working out indoors.
Boomer: Do you have any fitness tips?
Rick: The only fitness tip I have is to try to be consistent. Even a shorter-than-normal workout is better than doing nothing.