The Benefits of Physical Activity in Those 50 and Older
“Better late than never”. This saying is perfectly in line with the idea of doing physical activity.
We often hear that, if you are 50 or older, it is too late to start a fitness program, or to simply playing sports more often. However, this mindset may hinder you from enjoying the many benefits of physical activity.
This is why the Genacol team wanted to address the benefits of sport not only for physical health, but also for mental health, especially in those 50 years and older.
What does it mean to “regularly” do physical activity?
The Heart and Stroke Foundation recommends that you do 150 minutes of high-intensity physical activity every week. This is equivalent to, for example, five weekly sessions of 30 minutes.
It is important to note that the number of minutes can be broken down into smaller segments of, for example, 15 10-minute segments spread throughout the week. In other words, you are not required to do physical activity for long periods to feel the benefits of doing sports regularly. Indeed, you must first find activities that you like and that motivate you to practise them. Moreover, there are important factors to take into account, such as your schedule, resources (monetary or equipment), as well as your health condition.
I am over 50 years old. Should I consult my doctor before starting physical activity?
This belief persists because of recommendations made in the past. However, it is no longer relevant today. In fact, the American College of Sports Medicine has reviewed its recommendations for practising sports for people 50 and up to encourage as many people as possible to incorporate this good habit into their lives.
Nowadays, people who are in good health do not need to obtain medical clearance from a doctor to start a fitness program or play a new sport. However, if you have cardiovascular disease, lung disease, or metabolic disease, you should see a doctor to make sure it is safe for you to exercise on a regular basis. We should also mention that, if you want to get started in a sport that you have never tried before, it might be a good idea to take a course or to turn to a qualified trainer for guidance.
The physical activity goals of those 50 and up
We could easily devote pages and pages on the benefits of regular physical activity. Instead, we have chosen to look at the benefits in conjunction with the three main goals for people 50 years or older, which clearly show the importance of being physically active.
- Improving muscle condition: Starting at the age of 30, we lose 8 to 10% of our muscle mass each decade if we do not do exercises that maintain muscle condition. However, it is around the age of 50–60 years that the effects of this muscle “wasting” are most likely to be felt. Indeed, this can result in difficulties in terms of mobility or locomotion. Thus, practising physical activity regularly as you get older can slow muscle loss. It really helps prevent mobility difficulties as we get older, and even maintain independence when we are at a later age.
- Maintaining balance: Just like muscular strength, balance is a determining factor in a person’s physical condition. So, like with muscle functions, you can improve your balance through different types of exercises. Better balance as we age greatly reduces the risk of falling. Falls can cause serious injuries in seniors, including hip fractures, hence the importance of minimizing the risks.
- Maintaining cognitive functions: Physical activity is not only beneficial for physical health. Indeed, it has been proven that regular physical activity helps slow down cognitive decline in aging people. It might even help prevent cognitive disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Are you looking to maintain your health and autonomy as long as possible as you age? Then don’t underestimate the importance of performing physical activity on a regular basis. Many aspects related to your physical and mental health will thank you!