Tweaking an exercise routine to stay strong after 50

Mon Feb 10, 2014 4:08am EST
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By Dorene Internicola

NEW YORK (Reuters) - People turning 50 may want to consider tweaking their exercise routines because as they age stiffer joints, slower recovery from injury and the loss of lean body mass are among the perils facing the youngest baby boomers, fitness experts say.

Studies have shown that even a 90-year-old can build muscle, so the half-century mark is a good time to retire joint-stressing high jumps and to start lifting dumbbells to build strength.

Dr. Wayne Westcott, co-author of the book "Strength Training Past 50," said maintaining lean body mass becomes harder with ageing.

"The average man in good shape is about 85 percent lean weight, organs, blood, bones, muscles and skin, to 15 percent fat. The average healthy woman has a 75/25 ratio," said Westcott, fitness research director at the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, Massachusetts.

"It's more challenging with age but if you do strength training you can maintain your lean muscle to about age 70," he said, adding that an older woman who doesn't resistance train will lose up to 10 pounds of lean mass per decade.

Westcott places equal value on cardiovascular training.

"We recommend approximately 20 to 30 minutes of resistance exercises two to three times a week. Then try to have an equal amount of aerobic activity four to five days a week," he explained.

Westcott added that older adults, who are hitting the gym in increasing numbers, might want to avoid explosive, high velocity activities, such as high jumps.   Continued...

Retirees participate in a yoga class in Sun City, Arizona, January 7, 2013. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson