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If Jennifer Lopez can do it at 50, so can you. When asked how she maintains her toned body, she said, "I eat right and exercise. I put in the work like everyone else." Everyone's favorite Fly Girl turned 50 this year, and if you've seen her sculpted abs or iconic butt lately, you were probably inspired. We all know that celebs have trainers, chefs, and a staff that helps them work out and eat right. But when it's time to work out, J.Lo has to sweat just like the rest of us.
Working out is good for us physically and emotionally; and while we might not look like J.Lo when we get to her age, we will at least have the wisdom of a 50-plus-year-old. Self-acceptance and a positive body image at any age and size are paramount, but exercise and healthy eating are both vitally important, too.
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According to the National Institute of Health, physical activity offers a myriad of benefits. It helps everyone maintain a healthy weight, reduces the risk of depression, and helps maintain cognitive function (thinking, learning, and judgment) as we age. But as you get older, you'll probably have jobs, maybe crazy teenage kids, and possibly spouses demanding your time and vying for your attention and energy. What's a 50-plus-year-old woman to do to make sure her exercise routine works?
Associate Professor of Kinesiology and Health Education at the University of Texas at Austin Dixie Stanforth, PhD, has explored, researched, and published several papers about physical activity in adults over 50. She also has personal experience to share: "Age is just a number. Having turned the big 6-0 this summer, I am having to live this! You still want to remain functional for everything you want to do—and that means training smart."
So what are the top five workouts for women over 50? Stanforth encourages women to focus on functional training, moves where your muscles perform everyday tasks. "I'm also very big on primal/functional movement patterns, so I always recommend being able to perform basic moves that fall into simple categories of push, pull, rotation, double-leg, and single-leg. If you are training all these patterns in all three planes, you are going to move well and have a strong core," Stanforth explains.
As with any physical activity, make sure you're medically cleared to take on an exercise program and start slowly. Take a look at her recommendations:
Try good old-fashioned push-ups and planks. They fulfill the "push" category of moves.
This is the "pull" movement Stanforth mentioned. If that dreaded chin-up bar has been your nemesis since gym class, try rowing—either on a machine, with free weights, or in an actual kayak or canoe.
Any kind of squat does the trick; they're classified as a double-leg movement. Squat, jump-squat, or put a free weight (start lightly) on your shoulder for shoulder squats.
This is a single-leg movement: Do lunges, walking lunges, lunges holding a medicine ball, or lunges wearing an exercise band.
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This is the number one exercise for women over 50. Find something you love and incorporate the moves above into it. It might be dance, yoga, swimming, walking, running, or hiking. If you enjoy it and you switch it up occasionally, you'll stick with it, and that's the goal.
And now that you know what to do, beware of this big exercise mistake women over 50 make, according to Stanforth: "Trying to train like your body is 20! Most of our bodies have more wear and tear on them, and we need to realize that joints at 50+ have had a lot more mileage on them. Be kind to yourself by listening to your body. Back off or alter your training regiment when you experience pain; consult with a fitness professional to learn how to modify movements; strengthen what is weak; and stretch what is tight."