How to Get Stronger, Faster, Fitter, and Healthier in Your 50s
Age-related decline doesn't accelerate now – it continues at the same slow pace it did in your thirties and forties. But since the decline has been going on longer, wrinkles and love handles start to show, and prostate and colon cancers are more likely to strike. Three strategies can help you stay healthy: Treat rest and recovery as critical aspects, not afterthoughts; fight inflammation with nutrition; and look for early indicators of diabetes.
Injuries become more common in your fifties. We've all heard about the out-of-shape guy who jumps into a pickup basketball game only to blow out his Achilles tendon in five minutes. After surgery and a year of inactivity, he's overweight and even more out of shape. This can also happen to guys who exercise regularly. Most sports like running and lifting train big muscles, neglecting small stabilizers that protect joints and tendons. This becomes dangerous in your fifties, when connective tissue loses elasticity. It's time to bear down on what Verstegen calls "prehab" – muscle-specific exercises that strengthen injury-prone areas. "This not only protects you from pain," he says. "It also provides a foundation on which you can keep making strength gains into your golden years."
Researchers finger inflammation as the root cause of chronic disease. We're not talking about the surface inflammation you get when injured but the more insidious kind – systemic inflammation that affects your entire body on an internal level, caused by stress, lack of exercise, and most of all, a bad diet. Eating too much sugar, for example, can raise inflammation and lead to heart disease. "Sugar is one of the major causes of heart attacks," says Teitelbaum, adding that the average person eats his weight annually in sugar that's added to food. And by 50, chronic disease is no longer a distant possibility but something that could knock on your door any day.
The best way to fight inflammation is to eat anti-inflammatory foods like walnuts, avocados, olive oil, fruits, leafy-green vegetables, and oily fish. Medical Go for regular prostate exams, schedule a colonoscopy if you haven't already, and get annual checkups for blood pressure, cholesterol, C-reactive protein (a marker of inflammation), and blood glucose. If a good diet and enough exercise haven't brought down high blood pressure or cholesterol, talk to your doctor about meds. Supplements DHEA Take 25 to 50 mg daily of this natural hormone to improve testosterone and metabolic function. CoQ10 Research on the risks and benefits of statins, taken for high cholesterol, is mixed. But if you have to take them, counter possible negative effects to exercise recovery by supplementing with 100 to 300 mg CoQ10.
Sex drive declines with age, but a recent survey found that men are more sexually satisfied in their fifties than in their thirties. Researchers credit this to the fact that older men begin to enjoy intimacy to a greater extent, in addition to continuing to enjoy sexual pleasure. If your libido is slowing, scale back on alcohol and get more sleep. "Cutting back on sugar will also help keep the plumbing to your groin healthy," says Teitelbaum. Sleep Sleep quality and duration tend to decline naturally as you age. Get more sleep by avoiding stimulation from flickering lights, such as those from televisions, smartphones, and computers, for at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
Alternate upper- and lower-body prehab days. Each workout should take 15 minutes. Do one or two sets of 10 to 12 repetitions of each of the following:
LOWER-BODY PREHAB DAY
External hip rotation Place a resistance band just above knees, and stand with feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, and hips back. Keeping chest up and feet flat, move knees in and out. Bent-knee lateral walking Place a resistance band just above the knees, and stand in a quarter-squat, feet shoulder-width apart. Keeping chest up, back flat, knees apart, and toes forward, step laterally to one side with one foot, and then step the same distance to the same side with the other foot. Repeat to the other side.
UPPER-BODY PREHAB DAY
Bent-over Ys Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, arms at your side. Hinge forward 45 degrees, with back flat and chest up. Hold shoulder blades back and down. With thumbs pointed up, raise arms overhead to form a Y. Return to start position, and repeat. Bent-over Ts Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, arms down and straight, and palms forward. Hinge forward at the waist with hips back, back flat, and knees slightly bent. Pinch and hold shoulder blades back and down. Raise your upper arms until they form a T with the lower body; rotate upper arms until forearms are parallel to the floor. Return to start position, and repeat.