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Updated 10 April 2017

How much exercise can you safely do when you are over 50?

Exercising when you’re over 50 can greatly improve your quality of life. Here’s how to exercise safely and effectively.

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Regular exercise can help increase energy levels, reduce the risk of disease, boost emotional health, reduce stress, improve sleep and reduce the symptoms of many chronic conditions in the over 50s.  

But how much exercise is enough, and is it possible to overdo it?  

The answer depends very much on the individual. If someone has been exercising for most of their life, they will have a high level of fitness and will be able to do more. That however doesn’t mean that it is too late for middle-aged people who have never exercised. Fact is that it is never too late to start.  

What the experts recommend 

For women, the 50s involve menopause, which can cause weight gain; a loss of muscle mass and bone strength; and lower energy levels.  
Regular exercise can alleviate these symptoms, and experts recommend that postmenopausal women should include a combination of strength, aerobic and balance exercises for at least two and a half hours a week.  
The CDC recommends the same guidelines for people who are 65 or older, who are generally fit and have no limiting health conditions. 

Where to start 

The intensity of the exercise will depend on the individual and any existing health conditions they have. For example, someone with high blood pressure may struggle with some yoga poses and the associated inverted positions. Someone with osteoporosis may battle with brisk walking or high-impact exercises and should rather opt for stationary bike riding or the elliptical machine.  

Before starting any exercise programme one should get the all clear from one’s doctor and follow any guidelines they provide. If at any time you experience dizziness, nausea or sharp pain, stop exercising immediately and seek medical help.  

The safest exercises for most people to do include:

  • Brisk walking on a level surface at a pace which still allows talking, but not long conversations
  • Lifting weights or using resistance bands to build strength and strong bones
  • Bodyweight exercises like squats and push-ups  
  • Yoga, Tai Chi or Pilates   

This article is provided through a sponsorship from Pfizer in the interests of continuous medical education. Notwithstanding Pfizer's sponsorship of this publication, neither Pfizer nor its subsidiary or affiliated companies shall be liable for any damages, claims, liabilities, costs or obligations arising from the misuse of the information provided in this publication.

Readers are advised to consult their health care practitioner for specific information on personal health matters as this is not the intention or purpose of the publication. Specific medical advice or recommendations on the clinical management of patients will not be provided by Pfizer. In this regard Pfizer does not support the use of products for off label indications, nor dosing which falls outside the approved label recommendations and readers must refer to the Package Insert of any product for full prescribing guidelines.

 
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