Fit and Fabulous After 50

Whether you’re just approaching 50 or well into your "twilight years," now is as good a time as any to get fit and look fabulous.
Elderly swimmers

Whether you’re just approaching 50 or well into your "twilight years," now is as good a time as any to get fit and look fabulous. But if you’re like most Canadian adults, you’re likely carrying extra weight into your senior years. The Heart and Stroke Foundation claims that as many as 60 percent of us are overweight or obese.

But don’t find comfort in these numbers. While you may think that accepting those stubborn extra pounds is all a part of growing old gracefully, much like embracing your crow’s feet and even learning to love those seasoned laugh lines, you’re wrong. In fact, it’s now more important than ever to win the battle over obesity and sedentary lifestyles.

Better Late Than Never
If you've struggled with your weight throughout your life, you're probably thinking that it simply isn't worth the effort anymore. Nothing has worked for you in the past, why should now be any different? Your frustration is shared by many, but consider what's at stake. In your senior years, it's no longer just about fitting into your "skinny" jeans or sporting a new bikini. The health benefits of weight loss and an active lifestyle suddenly take centre stage. Obesity is a major risk factor for numerous diseases and health problems in older adults. The cliché "better late than never" has never been more true.

Find Your Motivation
They don't call them the "golden years" for nothing. It's your time to live and shine, unhindered by the demands of work and a young family. And whether you have aspirations to travel the globe or simply prefer to stay close to home and play with your grandchildren, you no doubt expect to enjoy good health, and at the very least, maintain your independence.

So here's some food for thought: According to the World Health Organization, inactivity is as bad for your health as smoking! Inactivity can lead to declines in bone and muscle strength, heart and lung fitness, and flexibility-all of which may detract from your ability to enjoy your senior years or even simply to care for yourself. An active lifestyle and healthy weight are critical to ensuring your golden years are just that.

Getting Golden
The rewards of an active lifestyle know no age limit. Being physically active gives you the power to slow (and even reverse) the effects of aging. Even if you're inactive now, small changes to your lifestyle can reap big rewards.

Being active can reduce your risk of:

  • Heart disease
  • Obesity
  • Falls and injuries
  • High blood pressure
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Osteoporosis
  • Stroke
  • Depression
  • Colon cancer
  • Premature death

How's that for motivation? But before you strap on the running shoes, be sure to visit your doctor. It's important to assess your overall health before beginning an exercise routine.

Where to Start
Now that we have you itching to get moving, start losing weight and feeling younger, where do you start? The Public Health Agency of Canada recommends four types of exercises for older adults and seniors who want to stay healthy and independent: strength, balance, stretch and endurance.

  • Strength exercises build older adult muscles, contribute to stronger bones, improve your posture and increase your metabolism, which helps to keep your weight and blood sugar in check (and they make you stronger of course!). Weight Watchers has a wealth of information about how to participate in strength-training activities. You can get started with Strength Training Demystified
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  • Balance exercises build leg and core stability muscles. Balance decreases as we age, and unfortunately, falling is a major problem as a result. Improving your balance helps to prevent falls. When selecting balance training exercises, keep it simple; activities that you perform daily can be modified to build better balance. For instance, try simply standing still with one foot raised slightly off the floor. Tai chi is excellent for building balance because it involves slow, coordinated movements that often require you to lift one leg. A Beginner's Guide to Tai Chi
  • Stretching exercises help you to maintain and improve flexibility. Flexibility gives you more freedom of movement, allowing you to be more active during your senior years. Since flexibility decreases as we age, it's important to keep your joints supple by regularly stretching. Stretching exercises force your muscles to take the joints through their full range of motion. Yoga is an excellent activity that promotes flexibility. If you prefer, simple stretches performed after endurance exercises are also effective.
  • Endurance exercises are activities-like walking, jogging, swimming, biking, even raking leaves-that increase your heart rate and breathing for an extended period of time. Endurance activities help your heart, lungs and circulatory system stay healthy and give you more energy. If you're new to exercise, start your endurance training with a simple walking program.

No Time Like the Present
So get strengthening, balancing, stretching and enduring! Make a visit to your local community or seniors' centre and find out what activities they offer for older adults. Ask about group exercise classes, safe walking paths and mall-walking programs in your area, and then make a plan. Your fit and fabulous years are waiting!