CNY Orthopedic Sports Medicine, PC: Article: General Health and Fitness: Ages 50+


General Health and Fitness: Ages 50+
Evan Herold
Copyright 2000

Athletic activity is key for longevity in older adults. Even moderate exercise, like walking, becomes increasingly beneficial as we age. Yet, older adults should not necessarily limit themselves to just moderate exercise; many individuals over 50 years of age can perform most athletic activity very capably. A reduction in strength and endurance is evident, yet many individuals will continue to have considerable athletic skills and good hand/eye coordination. Exercising remains important for overall health and fitness, but additional care needs to be taken in consideration of any health concerns, and the avoidance of over-training becomes increasingly important for this age group.

Most people will find that their aerobic abilities have measurably fallen-off, after peaking in their late twenties and early thirties. Yet for many older adults, aerobic activity can still mirror most of what can be expected for a thirty-year-old; the key difference is in the intensity of activity. With less endurance and greater health concerns, an older adult can effectively exercise by reducing the intensity of work and increasing the frequency. For instance, rather than a bi-weekly, two hour training session, older adults may find that a daily half-hour training session is more beneficial.

Aerobic or endurance activities like swimming, bike riding, or walking offer important benefits, helping to maintain muscle tone, joint flexibility, and cardiovascular fitness. Diet is also significant, which should begin to include additional calcium, or vitamin supplements to help maintain the musculoskeletal structure. Strength training helps keep bones strong, adds protective layers of muscle and can reduce the likelihood of strain injuries while lifting or moving heavier objects.

As with all age groups, participation with others helps increase the frequency and enjoyment of athletic activity. Non-contact sports, such as tennis or golf, can provide an athletically challenging environment, and these sports do not typically result in serious injury. For older adults, maintaining activity is very important for continued good health. Finding an enjoyable athletic pursuit can greatly enhance enjoyment of these years of life.


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