EXPERT COLUMN: WOMEN OVER 50

A Magic Bullet to Counter Aging: Exercise Less with Better Results

Cheryl Slomkowski, PhD @cherylslomphd
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May 30, 2017  | Last Updated: May 30, 2017

 

You’ve been talked to death about the proven health benefits of regular exercise for women over 50. You know it’s essential for the optimal bloom of heart, lung, bone, muscle, and pretty much every other bodily function … as well as mental health. And you are well aware that the importance increases with age. Yet you continue to find reasons to not exercise.

There are, of course, legitimate practical factors that get in the way of developing a sustainable workout routine. It can be difficult to carve out the physical and psychological space with all the competing demands on you. Exercising sporadically can be more demoralizing than not exercising at all; you might begin to think that it’s not worth the effort. And perhaps you’ve felt that, at this age, you work and work without seeing much in the way of benefits.

All that said, there’s accumulating research that you can actually spend less time working out and yet get better results. It may be the closest thing to a fountain of youth or a magic bullet to counter aging. You’ll still be responsible for motivating yourself to establish and stick to a routine, but knowing that you don’t have to devote excessive time – in fact, less is more – should pique your interest enough to give it a try. There are two essential principles to understand and follow.

 

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First, the latest research indicates that there is actually equal, if not greater, advantage to exercising at high intensity for a shorter duration. High intensity interval training (HIIT) is almost too good to be true. A short workout – properly designed and executed – can yield significant health benefits and help you look and feel your best. While the results involve short bursts of intense activity, this doesn’t mean that you have to risk injury or put your heart in danger. For example, you can achieve results by following a HIIT variation doing nothing more than walking, which has been researched particularly for people in middle age and older. This work has shown that going for HIIT walks can involve nothing more than sets of 6-minute walks, totaling 30 minutes a day, for a few days a week. While it always makes sense to consult your physician before embarking on any fitness routine, short bursts of faster and slower walking should work well for many women over 50.

In addition to HIIT, weight or resistance training is essential for bone health and muscle maintenance or building in women over 50. Here you would be literally investing time and effort to slow the aging process, particularly with respect to maintaining bone density, a key concern for every woman over 50. The weight work doesn’t have to involve extensive sessions or effort, and there are many ways to get in the proper training at home or at a gym. Again, it’s best to also run this by your physician. But workout routines that carry critical health benefits can be designed for the vast majority of women.
By engaging in these two forms of exercise regularly, you will achieve the well-documented health benefits for your heart, lungs, bones, and muscle tone – and your wardrobe choices will be expanded, skin tone will tighten, mental health will improve, and metabolism will be boosted so that you can eat more. Not quite a magic bullet, but discovering that “less is more” when it comes to exercise is a revelation.

 

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