Fitness over fifty is a whole different ballgame than fitness before fifty! Even if we were in pretty good shape before hitting the mid-century mark, our risk for injury, especially when not properly warmed up, increases dramatically. As empty nesters, those kids we used as excuses (“I’m just too busy!”) have moved out of the house, and if you’re like me, you’ve realized it’s time to take health and fitness seriously. That means more time for warm-ups, followed by stretching, then the actual workout, which should conclude with a cool down. Not really a fan of exercise, I’ve always preferred cardio to strength training overall. It just seems more like you actually accomplish something – right? Unfortunately, the experts say just the opposite: the older we get, the more important strength training becomes. Strength training rebuilds muscle, recharges metabolism, and reduces fat and resting blood pressure, among other benefits. Today, I’m sharing the basics of my strength training routine. I do these five simple body weight exercises about three times a week. (After warming up and stretching, of course!)
In the pushup position, rest your forearms on the ground. Squeeze abs and glutes (but keep breathing!). Hold that position. Gradually increase your time. (I try to do a minute.)
2. Dead Bug
I learned this exercise when I had to have physical therapy for a strain in my lower back. I honestly think it’s the best core exercise out there because it protects your lower back – something not necessarily true of other ab exercises. (Even the Arthritis Foundation recommends it!) Start by lying on your back with your hands toward the ceiling and your feet knees and hips at a 90-degree angle. Press your lower back down into the floor with all your might (this will make you tighten your glutes and rotate your pelvis upwards). Extend one leg, straightening the knee and hip and extending your leg just above the ground while moving the opposite arm towards your head (second photo). Focus on pressing your lower back into the floor the entire time. I do it for five minutes straight, but I had to work up to that! For a demonstration of this exercise, click here.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, and your feet pointed either straight ahead or slightly turned out. With a straight back, squat down as far as you can without losing your balance, sticking your bottom out. (Think sitting in a chair.) Pause for a second at the bottom of the squat, then tighten your glutes, abs, and thighs and lift until back in a standing position. I do about twenty.
With your chin up, shoulders back, and a straight back, engage your abs. Step forward with one leg, lowering your body until your knees are both bent at a 90-degree angle, and your front knee is over your shoe. Your back knee will be pointing down, and you will be on your back toe. Push back up to the starting position. Alternate legs and work your way up to about ten reps per leg. Variations include the reverse lunge (the same except you step backward), and the walking lunge (walk forward as you lunge). I do ten on each leg.
This lower back and glute strengthening exercise is one of my favorites. Lie face down with your arms and legs extended. Engage your core muscles and lift your arms and legs straight up simultaneously. Hold for up to five seconds and lower back down. Try to work up to ten reps. I’ve named a variation on this exercise the “swimmy.” (!) Start in the lifted position and alternate opposite arms and legs up and down. Work up to doing this for one minute.
Be sure to check with your doctor before starting any exercise program. I am not an exercise pro! I’m just a midlifer like you who’s working toward fitness over fifty. I want to be healthy and strong enough to do everything I want to do, from carrying groceries to paddle boarding when we’re on vacation.
I’ve linked my outfit from the top of this post below. My Zella “Hatha” High Waist crop leggings are just the best. They have a unique, ultra lightweight, fabric that makes them ideal for a hot place like Dallas. The Zella tee (linking the long-sleeve version) I’m wearing is my absolute fave! It’s available in the gray I’m wearing, a pretty plum, and in black. I love the fact that it’s reversible (!!!) and the softest workout tee I have ever owned. I also wear it for errands and have even worn it to bed because it is just that comfy. It’s exclusively at Nordstrom, so that means free shipping and returns. (Unfortunately, my tennis shoes are no longer available.)
What are your go-to strength training exercises? I’d love to know! Please leave me a comment below, and maybe I’ll add them to my routine!
Photos by Megan Weaver.
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