If You’re 50-Plus, Don’t Believe These 13 Fitness Myths

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So you have hit or passed the big half century mark and you figure, “Well, there’s not much I can do to improve my health at this point,” how wrong you are! Don’t believe the many falsehoods and misconceptions that exist about what a man should or should not do after reaching a “certain age.” In fact, get up off the couch and take action against the fitness myths you should not believe after 50.

You’re too old to start exercising. Really? That excuse is a cop-out. According to many experts, including Dr. I-Min Lee, a Harvard Medical School professor, “It’s never too late to become physically active! We have research studies showing that changing from being inactive to active—whether occurring your 40s, 50s, 60s, or even 70s—is beneficial for health.” Haven’t exercised in a long time? Start slow: short walks five days a week, some time in a pool, a daily short spin on an exercise bike. If you have a serious health condition, talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program.

Stop running. People who have been running for some time don’t need to stop just because they have crossed the mid-century mark. Little evidence exists linking running with osteoarthritis or joint damage. If this describes you, it is possible you may want to cut back on your running in terms of distance and intensity. This is highly individual.  If, however, you decide to take up running after a lifetime of inactivity, there is a significant risk of injury, so talk to a trusted professional before you put on those running shoes!

Walking is enough. Experts all agree that walking is a great exercise. However, if you want to boost your cardiovascular system, then you need to shake it up a little. Keep on walking but add some short bursts of jogging or fast walking. Incorporate 20 seconds of running followed by 60 seconds of walking into your routine. Repeat 5 to 10 times during your walk. You may even want to hold low-weight hand weights (2 to 3 pounds is sufficient) and swing them with your arms as you walk.

Lifting weights will hurt my joints. We’re not suggesting you pick up huge barbells. In fact, low-weight hand weights can be the perfect place to start a strengthening program. The crucial elements are using the right amount of weight for your needs and state of health and lifting with good form. If you need some professional help with this, do it. Once you learn the basics, you can do it on your own.

Poor balance can’t be fixed. Balance challenges can be corrected it you work at it. Talk to a therapist or other health professional about the exercises you can do in the comfort of your own home to improve your balance. Maintaining good balance is critical for independence, safety, and overall health.

Inflexibility comes with age. Not! Although it’s true everyone has the same degree of flexibility and that genetics has a role, you can improve your range of motion and flexibility with a little practice. Try some yoga or flexibility exercises on a daily basis and you will soon notice a difference.

Talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program. This one statement can be enough to stop some people from taking the first step. If you are healthy, you probably don’t need to talk to your physician. Simply start slow or gradually increase your current exercise program.

However, if you have a cardiovascular, renal, or metabolic condition, a conversation with your doctor is recommended.

Steer clear of HIIT. High-intensity interval training is all the rage, and one reason is that it can be adopted by people of many fitness levels. If you have heart disease, diabetes, or another chronic condition, you should talk to your physician first, but HIIT can benefit a wide range of folks.

I have arthritis so I can’t exercise. On the contrary, exercise is good for those who have arthritis. At the same time, if you are carrying extra weight, it’s a good idea to drop those extra pounds, as weight loss can make your workouts easier and less uncomfortable. Talk to a physical therapist or other health professional who can help you select the best exercises or physical activity for your specific condition.

I’m too old to get stronger. This is so not true! What is true is that it may take a little longer to get stronger, but your muscles will adapt to your strength-building efforts if you are consistent. It also helps to maintain a healthy diet at the same time.

I can’t exercise because I’m injured. Although you may be nursing an injury, it’s still important to help enhance your circulation, which can accelerate healing, as well as avoid atrophy. Don’t assume just because you’ve been injured or are recovering from a procedure or surgery that you can’t or shouldn’t exercise. In fact, physical activity is often the best therapy. Talk to your doctor or a physical therapist about the best exercise for you in such situations.

I might fall if I exercise. It’s true that challenges with balance and falling can increase as people get older. However, equally true is the existence of exercises you can do to improve your balance and also significantly reduce your risk of falling. Talk to a physical therapist about the best balance exercises you can do at home.

I should avoid pain as I get older. When it comes to physical exercise, there’s good pain and bad pain. If you want to increase your strength and endurance, you can expect some muscle aches and soreness as you overload your muscles. That’s normal. However, if you experience chest pain, for example, that’s not a good pain. Stop physical activity if you experience unusual pain or discomfort, but also realize there is some truth to the saying “no pain, no gain.”

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