So you just celebrated the fabulous 5-0 — or maybe you’re already in your mid-fifties. You no doubt have plenty of relationships to negotiate in your life, with your children, your spouse, your colleagues, your friends. But what’s your relationship like when it comes to yourself? Specifically, concerning your wellness and fitness routines? Perhaps you’ve spent your entire adult life making friends with the treadmill and the elliptical machine. Or the opposite — let’s just say no one’s ever referred to you as a “gym bunny.” Either way, there’s no time like the present to create — or refine — an exercise routine that best suits your needs. There are plenty of reasons why you should cultivate a relationship with fitness in your fifties, and there are plenty of ways to do it, too. Here are four ways to get fit (in ways that will surprise you!).
Think you might have a hard time getting motivated? So did Charlene Casey, a California mother who decided, once her daughter was grown, to begin a dedicated fitness routine for the first time in her life. Casey told the Chicago Tribune how she decided to forgo a personal trainer. “I didn’t want to have to pay for what was essentially a cheerleader,” she told the Tribune. “So I told my husband, who is 64 and retired, that he had to help me be motivated and we just started walking together.” Casey also set up a home gym (more on that later). The result? Casey lost over fifty pounds; her husband dropped over thirty.
Casey’s approach was beneficial on multiple levels: brisk walking is a great way to ease into an exercise routine, and by enlisting her husband, she not only helped him work on his own wellness, but it gave the two of them time together. Moreover, as the Tribune noted, “brisk walking for 45 minutes three times a week offers tremendous brain-boosting benefits and prevents mental deterioration, studies show.”
Also Read: Best Classic Exercises for Toned Triceps
Another way exercise benefits the fifty-plus woman is that it helps deal with the symptoms of menopause (which is defined by the Journal of Mid-Life Health as going twelve months without a menstrual period; it happens at an average age of 51). Symptoms can include physical pain, like aching joints — and it’s probably no surprise that this ailment is addressed by exercise, which makes bones stronger and helps women lose weight (or maintain a healthy weight). And a fitness routine can help with the moodiness and depression that often accompanies menopause, because physical activity can improve your psychological health at any stage of life, reports the Mayo Clinic.
But did you know that yoga can help with sexual function, too? Many menopausal women report discomfort during intercourse, often because of vaginal dryness (and certainly, the emotional issues relating to menopause can have a hand in a decrease of sexual function). The North American Menopause Society reported on a 2009 Journal of Sexual Medicine study about sexually active women between the ages of 22 and 55 who completed a three-month course of yoga, which involved an hour of yoga every day, then relaxation exercise. By the end of the course, “their sexual function scores improved… across all six of the areas studied—desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasm, satisfaction, and pain.” The kicker? “The biggest improvements were in women ages 45 or older.”
A good cardio workout is essential for women in their fifties, not just in reducing weight gain and strengthening bones, but as a preventative measure for one of the scarier risk factors for older women. As NPR reported just last month, a comprehensive study by researchers in France revealed that “the more active a woman is, the better her odds of avoiding breast cancer. Women who were most active, with more than an hour a day of vigorous activity, got the most benefits, lowering their cancer risk by 12 percent.”
While the risk of breast cancer isn’t directly associated with menopause, per se, it is a factor associated with simply getting older. And while many women may feel daunted by introducing a cardio routine into their lives, swimming is a great way to get your heart pumping with no impact shock to sensitive joints and muscles, according to Livestrong.com, which offers a step-by-step guide to starting a swimming-based fitness routine.
Also Read: The Mental & Emotional Benefits of Dancing
Slow down the loss of bone density, and look and feel great while you’re doing it, too. That’s what strength training can accomplish, as Charlene Casey (the woman interviewed by the Chicago Tribune, who lost over 50 pounds after initiating an exercise routine later in life) found out. Casey walked with her husband, and also purchased “inexpensive dumbbells, exercise bands, medicine balls and an inflatable fitness ball, and set up a simple home gym,” writes James Fell, a certified strength and conditioning specialist. “For instruction, she got everything from videos she found on YouTube.” While it’s important to consult with your doctor about beginning a new fitness routine (as well as a diet that provides the nutrients you need in your fifties), once you get the go-ahead, using weights is a great way to stay fit.
You can set up a home gym, the way Casey did, or make outings to the gym part of your lifestyle. Enlist a friend; load up your iPod with your favorite tunes; invest in some simple workout gear that makes you feel good on every level. However you choose to approach it, it’s never too late to get fit — and it’s best gift you can give to yourself as a reward for being fifty and fabulous!