Adapting Your Diet and Exercise Routines as You Turn 50
It's never too late to start exercising, reports a recent study published in the journal JAMA Cardiology. While a lifelong love of eating healthy and exercising regularly has long been thought to be the most important factor for long-term health and reduced disease risks, the researchers found that ramping up your physical activity in your 40s and 50s had "comparable benefits" to those who started younger.
Yet aging brings about certain undisputable changes in your muscles, tendons, and metabolism.
Whether you're a first-time gym-goer or someone who has been working out and dieting since your 20s or 30s, here's what you'll need to adapt, change, or reconsider when you blow out those 50 candles on your birthday cake.
Strong at 50: Embrace These 4 Diet and Exercise Changes As You Get Older
1. Place a Greater Focus on Warming Up and Stretching
As you transition from your mid-40s to your early-50s, your muscles and tendons start to tighten and shrink. This is why you see a greater increase in injuries, strains, and sprains when you try movements that you might have done easily at a younger age, such as sprints and box jumps.
It's more important than ever to ensure your body is primed for your next training session.
Before you exercise, spend at least 10 to 15 minutes warming up by putting your body through full ranges of motion doing various movement patterns (bodyweight squats and lunges for ex.). Also perform activation exercises to make sure your muscles are firing before your main compound movements. These exercises could include work with resistance bands or doing bodyweight movements such as situps and pushups.
Then, after you exercise, add in mobility programming, such as stretching or yoga. Not only does this assist your cooldown, but it also keeps your muscles and tendons loose and limber, thereby minimizing your injury risks.
2. Increase Your Cardio (But Don't Forget Your Strength Training, Too)
Your risk of cardiovascular disease rises significantly as you enter your mid-50s, with the most dramatic increase seen in women as they move from their 40s to their 50s. This may be related to a few factors:
- An increased likelihood of being more sedentary in your 50s
- Changes in your hormones, and especially the drop in estrogen that occurs in women during menopause
- A more stressful life with many life changes occurring during this stage
As you move into your 50s, increase your cardio workouts to help balance these heart disease risks. But that doesn't mean you should neglect strength training, either.
You begin to lose approximately five percent of your muscle mass every decade starting in your 30s. While this was long believed to be an aging-related problem, more recent research has found that it was mostly due to inactivity. In adults ages 40 to 81 who strength trained at least four times a week, one study found no muscle mass loss and insignificant changes in overall strength.
Your revised workout routine in your 50s should include:
- Four to six cardio sessions a week, ideally 30 minutes or longer per session
- Three to four strength 60-minute training sessions a week
You may also want to consider:
- Adding machines into your routine: Exercise machines reduce your risk of injury and keep your form locked into a range of motion which allows you to increase your exercise volume without the potential injury.
- Listen to your body more: The old adage "no pain, no gain" only works for so long. In your 50s, pay even more attention to how your body feels. If you have any aches or pains that last longer than a week, reevaluate your workout. Your body doesn't bounce back like it used to.
- Reduce impact: High-impact movements and high-intensity sports are some of the biggest causes of injuries in those in their late 40s and early 50s.
3. Eat to Support Healthier Hormone Levels and a Slower Metabolism
As you enter your 50s, your hormones change dramatically, and this often affects your metabolism. For example, a man's testosterone and a woman's estrogen levels drop, and you also see changes in the hunger hormone leptin.
Your nutrition can help support your weight maintenance, body composition, hormone health, and overall fitness in your 50s:
- Increase your protein intake: Aim for approximately 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. This helps combat aging-related muscle loss, revs up your metabolism, and also supports hormone balance.
- Break up your three main meals: Divide your daily food intake into five or six smaller meals to maintain a healthy metabolism.
- Eat for hormone health: If you're a woman, consider eating more foods that contain phytoestrogens, such as oats, lentils, flax, or tempeh. If you're a man, incorporate foods that boost testosterone.
- Try anti-inflammatory, joint health-enhancing foods: Omega-3s are a powerful anti-aging food and help to lubricate your joints (studies show it's a proven way to manage or prevent arthritis as you enter your 50s and 60s). Other foods to consider include turmeric, ginger, fresh fruits, and leafy greens.
4. Rethink Your Supplements
Entering your 50s means switching up what you keep stashed away in your supplements cupboard. For instance, if you're a woman who's gone through menopause, you no longer need as much iron as you used to.
Consider the following changes as you wrap up your 40s and celebrate your 50s:
- Take collagen: It supports healthy joints and keeps you feeling limber and flexible as you age.
- Incorporate metabolism boosters: They counter the slowing metabolism rates identified in your 50s. Examples include EGCGs and caffeine.
- Boost your CoQ10 levels: Your body needs increasing amounts of this antioxidant in your 50s and 50s, and it also helps improve your mental and physical performance.
By adapting your nutrition, training, and your supplement routine, you can look and feel your best in your 50s and beyond.
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