6 Fitness Mistakes to Avoid When You’re 50 and Older
You may be older, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re wiser when it comes to working out.
Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.
So much changes as we age, but too often we’re so focused on the mere physical aspects over the way our appearance shifts, we neglect to realize just how much our insides are changing, as well.
A big change we do notice as we age, besides those wrinkles, are aches and pains in our bodies.
“As we age, muscles may lose strength, endurance and flexibility, and we tend to get a bit shorter as we lose bone density, particularly in our vertebrae,” explains Roger E. Adams, Ph.D., CISSN, doctor of nutrition and owner of eatrightfitness. “These changes in structure can increase our susceptibility to fractures and falls, and [they] can make it a challenge just to keep our balance.”
Flexibility and balance also tend to become burgeoning issues once we hit 50 and beyond, which is why it’s so important for lifestyle and exercise routines to shift to address these issues.
“Our recovery rates, muscle rebuilding and even inflammatory markers are better when we’re younger,” he says. “So instead of doing the same cardio routine, Spin class or weightlifting workout, we now need to incorporate exercises that help improve our physical stability and maintain or improve our flexibility.”
What you don’t want is to put in the effort and energy for a hard-earned workout only to have it leave you out of commission and in miserable pain for the rest of the week. To help prevent injury and setbacks, here are the biggest fitness mistakes that are most common for the 50-and-older crowd and what to do instead.
1. Working Out for Too Long and Too Often
You don’t have to spend two hours in the gym to reap all the benefits that exercise can provide. In fact, doing so can be a big fitness mistake. Research, including one study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology, has found that breaking up exercise throughout the day and engaging in shorter “micro-workouts” can be as effective as longer workouts.
“Breaking them up will also provide the stimulus required to see results without the potential negative issues that then come from longer sessions, especially cardiovascular workouts,” says Tom Holland, CSN, exercise physiologist, certified sports nutritionist and fitness expert. “Five minutes of core exercises in the morning, a 20-minute walk at lunch and a 10-minute bodyweight circuit in the evening all add up to one great workout.”
2. Mimicking Something You Saw on TikTok That Isn’t Your Usual Training Style
TikTok videos are all over social media these days, and many of them are exercise-related. In fact, the search term #gymtok has 41 billion views alone. Even though it’s fun to try to replicate the movements you see in these videos, Allen Conrad, DC, CSCS, Montgomery County Chiropractic Center in North Wales, Pennsylvania, recommends getting a consultation by your doctor beforehand.
“TikTok tendonitis is a real concern for older adults trying to replicate specific jumping and lateral movements that they see online because your tendons become less elastic and more prone to acute tendonitis as you age,” he says. “Tendon injuries can linger since the collagen decreases with age, so these types of injuries are more common these days with older adults who are starting a workout program on TikTok after not exercising regularly for a while.”
3. Skipping Your Warm-Up
There’s a reason some of the world’s top fitness athletes spend a significant portion of their training time warming up. Not only does it warm up your body and prepare it for the activity ahead, but it also reduces your risk of injury, which you are more prone to as you age, Conrad notes. He recommends warming up for at least five minutes, but ideally 10, before exercising to get your muscles properly prepared.
3. Not Drinking Enough Water Before, During and After Working Out
Proper hydration is essential for exercising, especially for those older than 50 or who take medications. “It’s good to sweat, but you need to replenish fluids,” Conrad says. “Certain medications dehydrate you, so if you are exercising and sweating a lot, you need the extra fluids even more than normal.”
He recommends aiming for eight glasses of water a day, plus 8 ounces before and after your workout, to avoid dehydration and cramping of muscles from exertion.
4. Clocking Too Many Miles Outside
Many people enjoy running, but as you age and suffer from degenerative arthritis, you need to make some adjustments to help prevent injuries, Conrad warns. “Degenerative arthritis is a wear-and-tear type of condition that leads to less space and cushioning between your joints and can make exercising very painful and stiff as a result,” he says.
To prevent this, he recommends limiting the amount of miles you run outdoors to something reasonable, like 5 to 10 through the week, and opting to do the rest in a pool versus outside on concrete surfaces. “Water therapy is an excellent way to exercise without the additional pressure and wear and tear on your knees, hips and ankles,” he says. “When submerged in water, it reduces the shearing effect on your arthritis, which will help minimize injuries and also provide a great workout.”
5. Thinking You Can Pick Back Up Where You Left Off Decades Earlier
If you’re looking to get back into certain fitness activities you did when you were in your 20s in your 50s without having practiced them throughout the decades, this could be a recipe for injury, according to Robert Dodds, CPT, personal trainer, fitness coach and founder of NothingBarredFitness.com.
“Mobility, strength and technique will all have faded drastically and injuries happen, particularly when an individual is trying to push themselves to a level they can no longer compete at,” he says.