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Exercise tips for women over 50

If you were physically active regularly before hitting 50, you're at an advantage: You probably already follow these exercise tips. However, if you didn't exercise regularly, it's not too late to start.

For women over 50, regular physical activity may help tame some of the symptoms of the  menopause -- hot flushes, joint   pain, anxiety, depression, and sleep problems. Exercise also reduces heart disease risk, osteoporosis and diabetes risk, helps control weight -- and even helps tummy fat disappear.

That's why, if exercise could be bottled, everyone would take it! So says Cedric Bryant, chief science officer for the American Council on Exercise. He adds that the effects of exercise are so potent they influence every physiological system in the body for the better.

Many difficulties of ageing are linked to an inactive lifestyle, Bryant says. While your chronological age may be 55, your biological age can be 35 -- if you follow a consistent programme.

Ready to start? First, check with your doctor. If you're over the age of 60, or have risk factors for heart disease ( smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, or family history), it's especially important that you seek medical advice first.

Basic exercise tips

A complete fitness programme must include aerobic exercise, muscle strength conditioning, and stretching for flexibility, Bryant advises.

  1. Aerobic exercise: Walking, jogging, and dance-exercise are good forms of aerobic exercise. They work the large muscles in your body, which benefits your cardiovascular system -- and your weight. Work up to getting 20 or more minutes per session, at least five days a week. Exercise at a pace that lets you carry on a conversation -- what's known as the "talk test."
  2. Strength training: Lifting hand weights improves your strength and posture, reduces the risk of lower back injury, and also helps you tone. Start with a hand weight that you can comfortably handle for 8 repetitions. Gradually add more until you can complete 12 reps.
  3. Stretching: Stretching exercises help maintain flexibility and range of motion in joints. They also reduce the risk of injury and muscle soreness. Yoga and Pilates are good forms of stretching exercise; they build core body strength and increase stability.

Find reasons to exercise

Another exercise tip: Every little bit of movement counts, so move, if even a little. If you're too busy for a regular workout, just look for opportunities to be in motion. Research shows that a significant number of health benefits come from all those extra steps you take during the day, Bryant says.

A few more fitness tips and "moving" ideas:

  • Adopt a dog and take it for walks every day.
  • Take the stairs instead of the lift. At home, don't shout up the stairs -- go up!
  • Get up and talk to colleagues, rather than sending emails. Have a meeting with one or two workmates; go outside and make it a walking meeting.
  • Walk briskly whenever you can.
  • Find a sport, game, or activity you enjoy. Take tennis lessons, for example.

If you're travelling, take your walking shoes with you. With comfortable shoes, your feet can be your main mode of transport.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on May 21, 2012

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