Getting a Great Workout When You Are Over 50

Margie Weiss is a personal trainer who owns a Washington DC-area company called Body By Weiss. She’s put together a series of videos to show how anyone can get and stay fit, even when they’re over 50. It’s a challenge, but it’s possible!

Getting started

Weiss recommends that you approach your workout in what she calls “segments.” This means a discrete warm-up, workout, and cool-down. This is consistent with what other trainers recommend and places the least strain on the heart. We want the heart to get stronger through exercise—not induce a heart attack! She says it’s important to work all the major muscle groups, starting with the lower body, moving up to your core, and then the upper body. And then after those muscles have been warmed up and worked hard, that’s when you want to stretch. Too many people stretch their muscles before they work out, which is looking for trouble: cold muscles can be pulled or damaged that way. Always stretch after your workout.

Tools

What will you need for the workout? In general you want to start with a mat. Add to that some hand-weights in varying sizes (two pounds, three pounds, five pounds, and ten pounds to start with will be fine; you can get them at any sports store or order them online). And she also recommends a Resist-A-Ball (a big ball that you can sit on; you can get this wherever you bought your mat and your weights). And it’s important not to forget what you’re wearing: strong supportive running shoes and clothing that you can move in easily.

It’s all about the core

In terms of safety, Weiss says that you always want to keep your core in mind. All your strength comes from your core, so you want to always protect it as well as work it and keep it as strong as possible. One of the ways to keep your core strong is to constantly be thinking about getting your belly as close as you can to your backbone, tightening your rear end, and keeping your shoulders low and your chin high. Even when you’re not exercising, this is a great way to keep your core strong.

How to exercise

Always do the core strengthening and then you can start your exercise. Almost everyone worries about the number of reps they “should” do, but the real answer is that it depends: everyone is different. Just do the level with which you feel totally comfortable—and then push it a few reps beyond that.

Here’s an example: if you’re doing a bicep curl, start both arms at the same time and do them together for as long as you can. When you get tired, though, don’t stop: do the same exercise but alternate your arms, so that one of them is continuously getting rest while the other one continues to work. What this means is that you’re controlling the number of reps through different factors: your energy level, the resistance level, and by your ability to get the weights exercise done safely.