Ask the Expert: Staying Fit Over 50

By June 29, 2015Advice, Ask the Expert

by Amy Natt, MS, CMC, CSA

Q: I am 72 years old and am in the best shape of my life. At age 68, I suffered a minor heart attack and starting eating better and exercising. My brother, who is 76, is more sedentary and seems to be having more health problems. How can I encourage him to become more active?

A: Good for you! Being fit over 50 is a fabulous and growing trend. There are many studies that show active older adults have fewer physical, mental and medical issues as they age. Many health care providers are starting to promote exercise as medicine and developing programs that support this as a part of the ongoing treatment plan.

According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, adults between 18 and 65 should get at least two and a half hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week. At least twice a week, adults should partake in muscle-strengthening activities. Currently, only about 20 percent of adults are meeting the overall physical activity recommendations, with the 65 plus age group being the least likely to measure up. However, those results are based on compliance with all the recommendations. Overall, those 65 and over are hitting nature and hitting the gym in record numbers.

The National Institute on Aging has physical exercise as a top priority. The information may encourage your brother. Staying active can help you:

  • Keep and improve your strength so you can stay independent
  • Have more energy to do the things you want to do
  • Improve your balance
  • Prevent or delay some diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis
  • Perk up your mood and reduce depression. The lack of physical activity is a huge risk factor to mobility, independence and overall health. Many forms of exercise are free, they increase social interaction and each person can work with their physician to create and safe, individualized plan.

Most of us want the key to aging well, exercise is a big part of that. As we age, muscle mass decreases, endurance and metabolism slow down, exercise helps to boost all of these. Getting started may be a challenge for many people, but it is never too late! Here are some ideas to help your brother:

  • Get medical clearance to start an exercise program, especially if he has been sedentary.
  • Start small and build up, even if it is 10 minutes a day.
  • Work with a trainer or work out buddy for motivation.
  • Try simple movement like walking, gardening, stationary bike, swimming, playing with grandchildren.
  • Join a class like yoga, stretching, weight training, martial arts, tennis and ballroom dancing.
  • Go on an outing, like a nature hike, explore gardens and bowling.
  • Try a new sport like shuffle board, pickle ball, corn hole or bocce ball.
  • Check out gyms and programs that your health provider recommends.

Bottom line, even though we know exercise is good for us, we have to find a program that fits our lifestyle and stick to it. When exercise is fun it doesn’t seem like so much work! Keep encouraging him and providing a positive example.