Stay Fit After 50 — Safely

After 50, your annual wellness check often becomes more like a reality check. And it’s certainly important to take your doctor’s advice about getting more exercise for heart health and bone density seriously. But it’s also important that you throw yourself into a new fitness plan without considering whether it’s “age appropriate.”

What to Avoid

Not all the fitness advice out there applies to people who are in their 50s, 60s, and older. In fact, some of it could actually pose health risks. Read on to find which workouts to avoid — and what you can replace them with.

High-Intensity Exercise

Going all-out, whether you’re sprinting or taking a dance class, can make you more prone to injury from the higher impact of your feet striking the ground. (The same holds true of the HIIT method of working out, in which athletes alternate high-intensity interval training with more moderate activity.) Older people also fatigue more easily, making nailing each move harder to achieve. That opens you up to a higher risk of falls, twisted knees, and turned ankles a real possibility.  

When it comes to cardio workouts, seek out classes that are marked as “moderate” or “low impact.” When you’re on your own, try brisk walking and moderate swimming.

Stair Jogging

Running up and down steps definitely gets your heart pumping and your lower body toned. And because weight-bearing exercise encourages bone density, stair climbing helps protect your bones from the brittleness that comes with aging. But at the same time, those stairs pose a definite hazard for falling. You also face the same high-intensity, high-impact issues associated with sprinting and fast-paced dance classes. Stair jogging is especially hard on older knees.

The solution? A stair-climbing machine. Stairmaster and similar equipment is common at fitness centers and physical therapy centers, or you may choose to invest in one. Stair-climbing machines have pedals that put your legs through the motions of stair-climbing, without the jarring consequences of bounding up actual stairs.

Hot Yoga

Bikram or “hot” yoga takes place in a studio which is heated up to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Advocates for hot yoga believe that it helps practitioners sweat out toxins and relax stiff muscles. But for pregnant women and older folks, the extreme heat — coupled with the exertion of the yoga itself — can lead to fainting or severe dehydration.

It probably won’t surprise you that regular, non-heated yoga classes for seniors are the closest alternative to hot yoga. You’ll get all the gains of improved muscle tone and flexibility, without the negative side effects. Alternatively, seek our physical therapy or chiropractic services to gain a greater range of motion and strength.

Crunches and Leg Presses

Doing ab crunches on the floor, as well as leg presses with a weight machine, can be a poor idea for aging backs. Both require moving the back in such a way as to curl the spine. Even when done properly, you’ll run the risk of straining back muscles and even damaging spinal discs.

Instead, turn to moves that deliver the same results, without hurting your back and neck. To target your ab muscles, substitute plank moves for the back-breaking ab crunches. And when it comes to building muscle strength in your legs, a stair-climbing machine or stationary bike will give you similar results without the back strain. And don’t forget to consult our orthopedics or physical therapy teams so they can check out your movements and troubleshoot and suggest any adjustment that will save you from spine-related pain.

Need some extra help? Make an appointment at BackFit today!

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