What are the best exercises for women over 50?

What are the best exercises for women over 50?  The short answer is - any and all of them! 

Exercise is now thought to be the ‘secret ingredient’ to health and longevity!  And it’s free (in many circumstances) so why not? Your propensity to become ill or suffer an injury increases as you age, but the fitter you are, the better you withstand these knock-backs and the more your resilience improves, preventing you from getting ill in the first place.

There are no exercises you should or shouldn’t do if you are over 50, but the two key considerations are:

  • Choosing exercises you like, enjoy and can do whatever your limitations (you are more likely to keep at it)

  • Variety (your body gets used to doing the same things and the benefit becomes less)

Having said that there are three key groups of exercises you should make part of your weekly schedule as you become older. These are:

Cardio

Exercises that make you short of breath.  They exercises are good for your heart.  When you first start this might be after only a few minutes but you will see improvement very quickly and this can help motivate you to do more.  Cardio exercises build stamina and endurance and because of this you are likely to see an improvement in your over-all energy rates.  In addition, this kind of exercise means you will be physically tired at the end of the day so there may be an improvement in your sleep patterns too. 

Types of exercise that build heart-health include fast walking and running. Also swimming and cycling. Any kind of aerobic or spin class would be good for your heart-health.

Strength

Bone mass and muscle both diminish as we age. Strength exercises help reduce these losses.  Weight training has a poor image and I tend to avoid the end of the gym with the grunty, sweaty, ‘Popeye muscled’ type men.  I didn't train with weights for many years believing that I have weak arms.  Of course strength training is much more about your ‘core’ (deep muscles within your middle section) than it is about your arms. Interestingly building strength also helps with balance and can therefore be important in terms of avoiding falls.

Types of exercise that build strength include any exercise that uses your own body weight for example Pilates, or exercises that involve you lifting weights such as dumbbells.  Resistance exercises are also good for example on a rowing machine or with a stretch band.

Flexibility

Being able to move well is vital as we age.  It is central to feeling well but also enables us to do day-to-day activities and get out and about.  Sitting for too long on a regular basis is now thought to be very harmful to long-term health.  (Apps and ‘wearables’ that tell you to stand every hour are useful). Exercises that encourage movement and flexibility are great to do on a daily basis, even if it’s just 10 minutes a day.

Types of exercise that build flexibility and balance include Yoga, Pilates, Ti Chi and standing exercises that involve shifting your weight eg. standing on one leg or dancing.

So the message is, exercising as we become older gets more important the older we become.  It should be rewarding and it should be fun! It is good for your mental health and can help prevent illness or injury as we age.