50 plus and fearing muscle loss? Professional trainer’s tips for lifetime fitness without injury

Linda Rider


Getting back your fitness in the 50s&nbsp | &nbspPhoto Credit:&nbspiStock Images

Key Highlights

  • Now in your 50s and lost about the way ahead at the gym?

  • Men’s Health tapped PT Keith Lazarus – an UK-based physical fitness expert.

  • The end product is this: Whether you know what you’re doing or you’re new to all this gym-stuff, here’s how to construct a plan that will make your body stronger for longer.

More so in India than in the developed countries, men and women pour in their time, energy, monetary resources, and everything they can to settle the children comfortably – first at school, then through college/university and sometimes even upto marriage.

What has happened in the meantime is that the once athletic body that you prided yourself in, has gathered a beer belly. Take the stairs sounds like a piece of advice from some very privileged people, you will huff and pant if you must ditch the elevator.

Do you realise what you have done to your fitness? Your body is sending you an SOS. Get yourself back on the fitness wagon.

A report in the Men’s Health issue online says it’s never too late to pick up a gym habit. You’re never too old to get your dream body, and you’re never too past it to sculpt a summer six-pack. 

Dividing older gym-goers into three types:

  1. Those that never stopped training,
  2. Those who have lapsed and
  3. Those that have never trained at all.

All one must focus on is the fact that the benefits of training into your 50s are undeniable. Because, while age-related muscle loss, called sarcopenia, is a natural part of ageing (once you hit 30, you can lose as much as 3 to 5 per cent a decade), numerous studies, including this one published in The New England Journal of Medicine, have found that resistance training can counteract muscle weakness and physical frailty in older people.

Men’s Health connected with Personal (Fitness) Trainer Keith Lazarus, himself a 55-year-old man and an epitome of fitness, to develop a plan perfect for the Over 50s. UK-based Lazarus’ bio on LinkedIn reads: “Helping desk-bound executives over 40 improve their physical health & recover from injuries more effectively using my osteopathic training techniques.”

Here’s Lazarus on how to make your body stronger for longer:

  1. You are a regular gym-goer: “I would think of the body as a global entity,” says Lazarus. “There’s nothing wrong with split sessions in principle, but you don’t want to overload too much of your muscle type at our age.” Remember the mantra: Full-body sessions over isolating muscle groups. “Practically, it’s more productive to train the body as a whole,” says Lazarus. Focusing on functional fitness instead of the constant arm-day, back-day, leg-day routine puts the emphasis on mobility, the quality that’s taken for granted by younger gym-goers,” says Lazarus. Remember the mantra: Keep activities varied. “Granted, there’s space for a heavy lifting schedule in your sessions, but keep the activities varied and the focus on movement. “Tonight, it could be a CrossFit-inspired workout. Tomorrow it might be pure movement exercises or light weights for speed,” says Lazarus.
  2. For the ones who had quit training years ago: Where do you start your training – even if you are “returning” once you reach the big 5-0? Well, according to Lazarus you should start from the very beginning, says Men’s Health. Remember the mantra: Prioritise “form” over “load”. We all have muscle memory, says Lazarus. But advises going easy as “there’s bound to be some issues due to the time out.” Your movement may have changed over the years, offers Lazarus. He says, “… maybe they’ve sat on their hip too long, or there’s been a shoulder injury.” So even if you were a great lifter earlier, do not emphasise on the load part right now on return. Remember the mantra: Flexibility, mobility and safety are paramount. You must go easy and not let your ego decide for you Lazarus is okay with you adding the extra load once the muscle memory has kicked back in. After you are fifty, Lazarus warns any 2-3 years out of training translate into all hope of you becoming as fit as you were going away for good. He says muscle and mobility deterioration once lost are irreparable. That’s not to say you cannot exercise or must not try to do stuff you did earlier – but full strength is out of the question.
  3. For those who begin training at 50: “First, complete beginners at 50 should be coaxed into having the confidence to do basic movement drills,” says Lazarus. Here again, focus. Remember the mantra: Start by working on basic movement drills.  He prescribes the basic forward lunge, the side lunge, stepping up or simply touching the toes as the beginning exercise for new beginners. “Given most guys can’t touch their toes in their twenties (and are clearly in need of our beginner’s guide to stretching), flexibility, mobility and safety are paramount,” says Men’s Health – while prescribing a basic movement drill that can be completed nice and easily for first-timers under supervision.

KNEE LUNGES

HIP AND KNEE FLEXERS

Remember the mantra: Staying motivated matters, work out with a PT or join some classes. If you’re new to lifting, consider working with a PT or joining some classes. It is important to stay motivated and persist in your fitness routines, rather than figuring out how to get six-pack abs at this age and stage.

Nutrition Hacks: One hack to keep the middle-age spread at bay that Lazarus gives is “Don’t eat until you’re full,” citing the 2008 British Medical Journal study that showed how eating quickly is the reason behind the mounting obesity. We should actually eat slowly to await the body’s signal that “you’re full” and use that as a benchmark to help you watch your waistline. Eat sensibly, eat nutritious foods that comprise lots of protein, fewer white carbs and ration that alcohol for yourself.

Stay consistent, do not give up. Get fit, fitter, in fact, become the fittest version of yourself. Happy training.

Disclaimer: Tips and suggestions mentioned in the article are for general information purposes only and should not be construed as professional medical advice. Always consult your doctor or a professional healthcare provider if you have any specific questions about any medical matter.

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