Getting in Shape After the Age of 50

Over the past few years, research has shown that endurance is not as important as strength to improve functional capacity in aging adults. One problem that plagues many elders (particularly females) is osteoporosis. You hear stories of seniors falling and breaking bones; they can’t even get up to call for help. Well, the sad reality is that their bones break first, and then they fall! Weight-bearing exercise is crucial during this period of life.

“There is evidence that resistance training brings about functional and metabolic adaptations that aid in the prevention of sarcopenia, osteoporosis, and obesity, and increases the functional capacity of elderly individuals.” (Barbosa et al., 2002)

If you decide to lift weights to get strong, then use moderately-heavy loads for low reps (4-6) with plenty of rest between sets (3-5 minutes). If your goal is to reduce body fat, stick to lighter weights for more repetitions (15-20) but with shorter rest intervals (30-60 seconds). But if you truly wish to get in shape after the age of 50, then you need to build muscle! Sarcopenia, a condition where the muscles atrophy or waste away at a rate of 6 pounds or more per decade after the age of 30, is a reality for all of us as we age, but you can turn back the biological clock with weight training. The following program will help you do that.

A) Back Squat
B) Close-Grip Bench Press
C) Bent-Over Row
D) Standing Dumbbell Press
E) Standing Arm Curl
F) Lying Triceps Extension
G) One-Leg Calf Raise
H) Abdominal Crunch

Do 2-3 sets of 10-12 repetitions with 90 seconds of rest between sets. Make sure to keep the movements slow and controlled. Perform the routine 3 times a week on non-consecutive days.

Adequate rest and recovery is important. Go to sleep before midnight every night (in fact, be in bed no later than 10:00 p.m. if possible), and wake up at the same time every day. A short nap or two during the day is beneficial. Restoration in the form of massage, contrast (hot/cold) showers, salt baths, some mild aerobic exercise (such as walking), and stretching can also be useful.

Lifestyle plays a crucial role. It goes without saying that recreational drugs, smoking, and alcohol will play havoc on your body no matter what age you are. Avoid them!

What about nutrition? To start, most people need to clean up their diet by removing the processed and refined junk that fills their cabinets and fridge. That means no more cereal and juice for breakfast, or cold-cut sandwiches and soda for lunch, or pasta and wine for dinner. That also means sticking to the perimeter of the supermarket when shopping for groceries – forget the middle aisles!

Eat 4 or 5 small meals spread throughout the day, and make sure you drink plenty of water. Dehydration is part of the process of aging. In the cradle, as much as 85% of the body is made up of H20; in the coffin, it’s more like 50%! When water stores are dropping, it indicates that something is wrong. Usually it reflects a breakdown of muscle tissue. So be sure to stay well hydrated by consuming .5 ounces of water per pound of body weight.

Here’s a sample diet:

Meal 1 – Spinach omelet
Meal 2 – Chicken salad with a lemon vinaigrette dressing
Meal 3 – Salmon with green vegetables
Meal 4 – Cottage cheese with mixed berries

You may have a cup of coffee (preferably organic) in the morning, but favor green tea in the afternoon and chamomile tea at night. Feel free to snack on raw nuts (in moderation, of course) and an occasional fruit if you like.

As far as supplementation is concerned, the only two that I deem absolutely necessary are fish oil and a multivitamin. A high-quality protein powder, probiotic (or friendly bacteria), and fiber supplement are worthy of consideration, particularly following your workout – this would be your fifth meal if you follow the sample diet outlined above. There are certain nutraceuticals, such as coenzyme Q10, carnitine, resveratrol, and tumeric, that exhibit anti-aging effects, but unless you can get them all in one pill, don’t bother.

Don’t let Mother Nature take a toll on you without a fight. Getting in shape doesn’t have to be complicated. By following this simple plan, you should be able to reap the benefits of improved health at any age. Tomorrow I’ll show you the exact regimen I use with my eldest client, who happens to be 87 years young.

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