Protecting your heart is important at any age, but it becomes crucial as you grow older.
In fact, those over 50 are likely to gain the most from starting a new heart-friendly exercise program. Cardiovascular exercise keeps your heart and lungs strong. But, it also helps manage the aging process by giving you more energy, managing your weight, relieving symptoms of anxiety, and helping you feel younger.
Yet, as you get older, deciding how much cardio you should do and what kind of exercises are best for your body becomes more complicated. By the time you reach 50, you and your body have been through a lot. It is important to be kind and considerate to your body.
If you are over 50, moderately fit, and do not have any chronic health conditions, the American College of Sports Medicine and the Center for Disease Control recommendation cardiovascular exercise for half an hour a day, five days a week. Alternatively, you can participate in intense cardio for 20 minutes at a time three days a week.
To get started, choose an activity: it could be low-, moderate-, or high-intensity exercise, or your own unique combination of exercises.
Use your body as a guide, and check out these five types of exercises.
- Low-Intensity Exercise
Low-intensity exercise includes exercise that you can do five days a week, or even every day depending on your preferences and health. They are perfect for this age group because they encourage you to get up and get moving, but do not require huge amounts of time or energy.
Examples of low-intensity exercises include:
- Recreational swimming
These will help keep you moving and increase your mobility. They also give your heart the care it needs to keep beating with ease. They are a great place to start for anyone who has recently been ill, injured, or who has let their physical fitness lapse.
- Moderate-Intensity Exercise
Moderate exercise is for those who want to get a little sweaty. Done three to five days per week, moderate exercise might include actions like:
- Power walking
- Higher-intensity yoga
- Ballroom dancing
- Shoveling snow
- Playing with children
Moderate-intensity exercise is a great middle ground between everyday activities and the most intense forms of exercise and is good for anyone in an intermediate stage of fitness.
- High-Intensity Exercise
If you have been active your whole life, or are healthy enough to choose to get active now, high-intensity exercise can help keep you moving at a fast pace for years.
Jogging and running are common exercises that are perfect for maximizing heart and lung health. These training techniques are known to lower blood pressure and reduce the need for at-home monitoring for those with cardiovascular problems.
Those who want the workout without the impact on their joints can turn to elliptical machine workouts, rowing, or cross-country skiing for workouts.
High-intensity interval training is a popular tool to use once or twice a week. Choose an exercise and alternate between comfortable or moderate levels and short bursts of all-out intensity.
- Muscle-Building Exercises
Not only does strength training promote heart and lung health, but it also prevents your muscles from deteriorating. Additionally, gaining more strength makes cardio exercise easier on your body and helps you rebound from more grueling workouts.
Unless you are a gym bunny, start out with body weight exercises, like squats, to help keep major muscle groups thriving.
Squat in front of a chair, keep your arms in front of you, and hold that position before standing up again. Do two sets of 10 repetitions for the best results.
If you find body weight exercises too challenging, modify them. Use pillows or a chair for support to keep you upright. Remember, form is key. Do not over-extend yourself to the point where you are performing the exercise incorrectly.
- Flexibility Exercises
Flexibility exercises, like stretching, are also important for people as they age. Although most flexibility exercises are not likely to get your heart rate up, they do prepare you for cardiovascular exercise, and help you cool down after.
Be sure to incorporate some stretching exercises into your workouts, or even create a day where you focus on flexibility on its own.
Once you have selected your activities, choose your duration. The recommendations listed above from the ACSM are a guideline, but if you have not exercised in a while, work your way up to that half an hour to build endurance. Start with 10-15 minutes, or even five minutes, of exercise, and go from there.
Finally, choose how regularly you want to exercise. Start by working out a few days per week to see how your body fares. Be sure to give yourself plenty of rest. Listen to your body; it will tell you whether you can train five days per week or if it is happier with only two or three days.
Follow these easy steps, and listen to your body and your doctor, and the next phase of your life could be your healthiest.
Featured photo credit: Ed Gregoru via stokpic.com