Going easy on your joints as you age doesn’t mean giving up certain forms of exercise. Rather, dedication to a well-rounded routine becomes even more important to maintain and enjoy a healthy lifestyle.
“Motion is lotion — you need to use your joints or they get stiff,” says Andrew Porter, DO, with Via Christi Sports Medicine. You have to remember that motion is helpful for joints and for joint health.”
While it is important to move, staying mindful of variety when selecting physical activity is vital. As you reach your 50s, it’s time to start thinking about modifying your exercise routine in order to gain the most benefits and to avoid additional stress on joints.
“It’s important to keep exercising, but you should be intentional about how you exercise,” Dr. Porter says.
There are four key components Porter likes to visit with patients about as he stresses the need to seek multiple ways to exercise.
1. Cardiovascular training
No matter if it’s biking, walking, running or swimming, as you age you should aim for 150 minutes of cardiovascular activity every week. Don’t worry about fitting it all in on a tight time frame, either, Porter says.
“Whether you choose to get that 150 minutes in over three days or stretch it out over five days, that should still be your goal each week,” he says, adding that opting for a workout on an elliptical machine, in the pool or on a bike are kinder to your joints because of the decreased impact. “It is still safe to jog and to run, but as you get older it’s best that it is not your only form of cardio. You want to cross train.”
If you do choose to ride a bike outdoors, Porter says to consider your ability to balance in order to avoid falls or injury. If it’s a concern, opt instead for a stationary bike.
2. Resistance training
Resistance training should be included in your routine two to three times a week. The goal should not be about gaining explosiveness or muscular growth, but rather a focus on strength and endurance. This can be achieved by working with lighter weights and increasing repetitions.
“When you were younger you might have gone with a heavier weight and only did five repetitions,” he says. “For resistance training as you age, it’s important to use lighter weights but go for 10 or 20 repetitions.”
Balancing exercises also play a role as they can prevent falls and provide functional strength for everyday activity and movements. Porter says yoga, core workouts or Tai Chi are all activities that can improve balance.
“Stretching is one of the best ways to help prevent injury,” says Porter. “But make sure your muscles are warm beforehand.”
A good rule of thumb is to stretch following a five-minute walk or an easy bike ride prior to starting your stretching routine. All major muscles groups should be stretched two to three times a week.
Aging doesn’t mean slowing down or halting an exercise routine. Rather, including different components of activity — and simply moving as much as you possibly can is what will define your aptitude for movement in later years.
“The most important thing you can do is to avoid sedentary activity,” Porter says. “If you exercise, but then sit all day long at work, it doesn’t cancel that out. If you sit at a desk for most of the day, be intentional about getting up out of your chair. Take a break to walk around the building or office. Park your car farther away to make a longer walk into work. You want to limit your sedentary activity as much as possible.”