Our bodies are always changing, but when it comes to fitness, many are told to slow down on the intensity as they age.
A recent article in Reader’s Digest titled “14 Exercises You Should Avoid If You’re Over 50” (whose online version changes the word “avoid” to “modify”), caught the attention of several fitness social media bloggers, including personal trainer Amanda Thebe of Fit & Chips.
Thebe, who wrote her own response to the piece on her blog, claimed the post itself was ageist, and instead of telling people to avoid certain exercises, it’s important to get sedentary populations to stay active.
“If you are over 50 and have never exercised before, then I am going to highly discourage you from making your starting point pull-ups, just as I will highly discourage you from taking up running or doing 300lb barbell dead lifts,” she wrote.
“It’s truly all about context and application. You must understand the fundamental movements before you can start to do any form of exercise to a higher level. We all start at the beginning with the basics, because the basics work, every time.”
Some of the exercises in the article included push-ups, spin classes, hot yoga or doing squats with weights. For squats, in particular, the post pointed out there was too much pressure on the knees for people over the age of 50.
Thebe disagreed, and added a squat was a basic human movement and if people who are 50+ are sitting all day, they should be doing more of them.
Another exercise mentioned was sprints — the article suggested running could cause strains or sprains in knees and other joints. Thebe said running/jogging uses different biomechanics and for sprints, in particular, there’s nothing wrong with working up towards one (unless you have been told otherwise by a health professional).
She added when people are told to avoid certain exercises (or anything else for that matter), it creates unwanted barriers.
Working out 50+
And while Thebe doesn’t suggest anyone over the age of 50 should run to the heaviest set of weights they can find, she does remind people of all ages to be cautious of how your body feels.
“If you are injured or have a health condition that prevents you from exercise, and you have been advised by a medical professional, then you should heed that advice,” she said. “Otherwise if it feels good, then do it.”
In 2015, fitness blogger George Guerin of NJ.com wrote lifting after 50 can “change your life,” adding that several studies of shown weight training later in life can increase bone mass and lower the risk of osteoporosis.
What to focus on
Introducing exercise that strengthens your muscles is a great place to start.
“Aging puts us at an increased risk for osteoporosis, so doing exercise that supports our skeletal system is really important. In addition to this, daily walking or other moderate cardio activities can help us prevent some chronic diseases as well as helping us have good mental health,” Thebe said.
“We should never stop moving and exercising. Adapting to your own unique needs and abilities obviously comes into play, but if you want a long and healthy life, then exercise is an essential part of the puzzle.”