Top 5 Fitness Mistakes I’ve Seen Over 50’s Making From My 20+ Years In Fitness
1. Avoiding strength Training – For many over 50’s, weight training when they were younger was something only bodybuilders and athletes took part in. Because of this strength training is a skill or habit that a large percentage of people over 50 have never really formed.
The gym can also seem like an environment that they don’t feel they belong in. Although mainstream media are now reporting on the needs and benefits of strength training for over 50’s many don’t know where to start. I was in a trendy hotel gym recently and even though I have been in gyms for over 20 years I still felt a bit out of place amongst all the youngsters posing for selfies in their designer gear and immaculate hair. So I can only imagine how challenging it can be for someone who hasn’t been brought up in that environment.
Another reason we found when we did a survey a few years back for people over 50 not going to the gym, was fear of getting injured. This was put down to a lack of knowing what to do and a worry that they may exacerbate any current/past injuries that they have.
So there is no judgment from us that so few over 50’s are using the gym however we do believe it is a real shame that more people aren’t doing strength training as it’s really like a magic trick to make you stronger, keep your hormones in better balance (better experience with menopause / reduce reduction in testosterone in men), keep you looking younger and improve the overall quality of your life.
Who over 50 wouldn’t love a piece of that?
2. Training with the wrong intensity – For the overwhelming majority of people, by the time we get to over 50 our bodies will not be the same as they were in our 20’ and 30’s. Therefore it doesn’t make sense to train it in the same way as we did 20-30 years ago.
Understandably in a desperate attempt to defeat father time some over 50’s throw themselves into a hardcore metabolic / ploymetrics classes or workouts that would make Rocky Balboa himself weep! Chances are a few weeks or months into the program they will find themselves on the sidelines due to either not being able to stick it, or be out with an injury.
Injury for an over 50 can be even worse than younger counterpart as recovery is much longer.
In my opinion for the vast majority of over 50’s the risk to reward balance of these hardcore types of classes is way out of whack. Leave the killer workouts to the pro athletes. The average person’s body is not conditioned for these exercises. Chances are the pro athletes won’t still be doing these types of sessions when they are over 50, either. They will tailor their session to suit their changing bodies.
On the other end of the scale on the ‘intensity spectrum’ you see a lot of over 50’s not challenging the body enough. Lifting small pink dumbbells and doing pilates and yoga will not overload the muscles enough to promote muscle growth / maintenance.
Starting at the right intensity for you is key, then applying the correct progressive overload will keep you continually moving forward and will help you avoid the dreaded outcome of not seeing results or being on the sidelines with an injury.
Over 50’s are doing some amazing sessions in the gym. You just need to know it will take time to get there and it’s much better to get there at an appropriate speed for you.
3. Doing the same program for too long – I think the older we get the more we become creatures of habit. When I used to work in bigger gyms I would see the same members come in and do the same workouts day after day, week after week, year after year (same routine, same order, same weights). You could set your watch by them.
Being a creature of habit is not a good thing though when it comes to exercise. After 4-8 weeks of the same exercises the body has adapted to the stimulus so the benefits are continually decreasing for every week you stay on that program after it has reached its peak for you.
And doing the same workout for too long may be even worse for over 50’s as this may end up with them actually losing muscle as it’s part of the aging process.
Only progressive overload will offset the muscle mass.
So lifting the same weights will not offset the natural decline. You don’t want your muscles getting comfortable with the workload.
You need to make sure you give the body a reason to hang onto that muscle you have, and the only way to do this is by continually challenging them.
4. Neglecting mobility/flexibility – As we age the joints and muscle can become tight and have a lower range of motion. This can lead to a reduction in our movement capabilities and may lead to an increased risk for injuries. A small daily mobility routine can really offset the stiffness and loss of function that can occur as we get older. The aim is to target the joints through mobilisers and the muscles through stretching. A combination of both has been shown to improve overall function.
5. Not paying enough attention to the small stuff we need to do outside of our workouts – As we get older the need to focus on the small details away from the gym become even more important:
- Recovery should become a priority. We need more of it and should look at aiding it with a well designed program that allows for adequate recovery time.
- Eating protein should be a number one priority when it comes to nutrition for over 50’s. Protein is the building blocks required to build and preserve our muscle mass.
- Good hydration. As we get older the hydration levels in our cells can decrease as does our bodies ability to regulate your body temperature. These can have a negative impact on our health, causing fatigue, muscle cramps, stiffness and increased risk of cardiovascular problems.
- Sleep. For lot over over 50’s sleep becomes more difficult, however it shouldn’t be an excuse to neglect it. Aim to do everything you can to aid good sleep. Have a read at some of our earlier blogs on tips for better sleep here.
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