Mind and body classes like yoga or Pilates can help relieve the stress of menopause.
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It's never too late to start exercising, so as soon as you blow out the candles on your 50th birthday cake make a plan to get active. Exercising and conditioning is especially important for women over 50 to help protect against gaining unhealthy weight, bone and muscle loss, symptoms of menopause and the risk of chronic diseases like diabetes, osteoporosis and heart disease.
Get Your Heart Pumping
Cardiovascular exercise will not only keep your heart and lungs feeling young, it can also help you get rid of any excess weight that you might be carrying after menopause. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh studying midlife women, found that post-menopausal women gain an average of 12 pounds within the first eight years after menopause hits. Cardio exercise will help condition your body by burning calories, which can lead to weight loss when combined with a healthy, low-calorie diet. Aim for three to five sessions per week of moderate intensity cardio exercise, like walking, jogging, swimming, cycling or aerobics class.
Build Stronger Muscles
The phrase "use it or lose it" certainly applies to muscle strength. Every year after 50, you'll lose some muscle mass and strength, making it more difficult to perform daily tasks like lifting, moving and cleaning. To condition your body and protect your muscles from aging atrophy, schedule in two strength training sessions per week targeting all of the major muscle groups. Perform conditioning bodyweight exercises such as squats, lunges and planks, as well as strength training exercise with weights, like bicep curls, overhead press, triceps extensions, pec flyes and rows. A good rule of thumb when choosing weights is to find a sweet spot where you can perform at least eight repetitions, but no more than 12.
Flexibility Conditioning Exercises
As your body ages, your muscles will naturally lose some of their flexibility. This is especially true if you live a very sedentary life and have racked up years of sitting behind a desk. Ten to 20 minutes of flexibility training two to three times per week can help keep your muscles and joints feeling young and supple. Practice flexibility conditioning exercises on their own or combine them with cardio or strength training sessions. Hit all of the major muscles groups with stretches that target the legs, hips, abdominals, back, chest and arms. For example, the yoga pose Downward-Facing Dog stretches your entire body from toes to head. Other effective stretches include forward fold and wide-legged forward fold for your lower body, seated spinal twists for your back, the butterfly stretch for your inner thighs and hips and Upward-Facing Dog for your abs, arms and back. Hold each stretch for 15 to 30 seconds, transitioning in and out of the stretch smoothly. Avoid bouncing and breathe deeply throughout.
Fitness After 50
Marilyn Moffat, PhD, co-author of "Age-Defying Fitness," explains "We now know that a decline in strength and fitness isn't entirely a natural consequence of the aging process but is also due to lack of use." Moffat goes on further to stress the importance of staying active even after you've passed your 50th birthday, although you may need to alter the exercise routine slightly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention physical activity guidelines for adults over 50 are exactly the same for adults under 50, highlighting the importance of maintaining a regular conditioning program that includes at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio and two days of strength training.