For some people, staying in shape at a younger age is relatively easy. Getting fit is easy because metabolisms are faster, and muscles are more flexible.
As we age, however, exercise sometimes takes a backseat to life. I can’t tell you how many women I've talked to with the same story. They were in great shape in their 20s, took their 30s and 40s to raise and support a family, (sacrificing focusing on their own health), and are out of shape at 50.
It’s an extremely common progression. What frustrates the over-50 crowd is that when they can finally focus on themselves again, they find that what worked in their 20s doesn’t even come close to being doable in their 50s.
But that’s okay, because getting fit after 50 is still possible. All it takes are some mental adjustments and making changes in the proper order.
It goes without saying (but I’m going to say it anyway) that you should consult with your doctor before undergoing any major lifestyle changes whether physical or nutritional.
Check your motivation
When you’re younger, you’re more likely to want to be in shape to be attractive. I don’t mean that is the sole reason, but the truth is that many young people don’t give a second thought to their health and pay even less attention to any potential long-term health issues.
But when you’re over 50, you do have to consider those latter problems. You might be facing pre-diabetic symptoms, you’re in a job that is mostly sedentary, there may be early warning signs of heart disease…things that are generally not a focus in earlier years.
So, the first thing you need to do is clearly identify exactly why you want to get fit. Once you have those motivations in place, you will have an easier time figuring out what steps you need to take to reach your goals.
When you were younger, you might have engaged in a particular exercise on a regular basis. Doesn’t matter what it is, it was part of your lifestyle. Maybe you played tennis with friends, enjoyed morning runs, took dance classes…being active was just a part of your schedule.
One of the biggest frustrations I see in people who are trying to get fit again is that they think they can pick up former exercise habits and expect to see results. It’s a mindset that is destined to fail. Your body has undergone many changes over the years, and you’re not going to be able to just jump into an old routine.
Take stock of your limitations – because you will have some. But they do NOT have to stop your efforts. You just need to be realistic about what you will be able to handle long-term so that you can truly improve your health.
Create a plan.
Here is where we get to the part where it is important to look at some details. All of these are related to each other, and you should be able to make the connections.
Lose the weight
You’re not going to be able to exercise at length if you’re carrying extra pounds. But you need to exercise to lose weight, right? So, it seems like this is a circular trap that is difficult to escape.
It isn’t. But the order in which you do this is important.
Change your eating habits.
You may have spent many years cooking meals for your family, or eating on the run while chauffeuring the kids to practices, rehearsals, school functions, etc. But now is your opportunity to change those eating habits and make healthier food choices.
You want this to be a long-term effort with lasting results. If you do too much too soon, you run the risk of injury which will immediately derail any other plans. The whole point is to get moving. Take a walk, go for a swim, just get outside and enjoy some fresh air.
Build up the lengths of time that you exercise. If you have exacerbating health issues, you may only be able to do 10 minutes. Do it. Then do 10 minutes the next day, and the next. You’ll be able to work up to 15 then 20 minutes. Soon you’ll be able to move into other forms of exercise. But it will take time and patience.
Think of the tortoise and the hare – slow and steady wins the race.
You may be used to always creating schedules for your family and now that the kids are older, you feel like you can do what you want when you want. That’s a double-edged sword.
Take the time to schedule your exercise. You don’t want to be derailed by running out of time or skipping because you don’t feel like it. When you look at your week ahead, make sure you have some time carved out to dedicate to your health. It’s important.
The biggest driver behind all of this is going to be your attitude. You will have frustrating days where it seems like you’ve made no progress, or you may find that eating healthier is more difficult than you thought it would be.
Regardless, you should have a positive attitude about it, reminding yourself that this is your health that you’re improving. Getting fit after 50 can be challenging, but with the right mindset, motivation and planning (and all that go with those things) can result in big rewards.
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