Health and fitness consultant Lee-Anne Wann is dismayed when people over 50 cut back on fitness activities, saying their bodies are ageing.
"People attribute mental decline, weight on the stomach, saggy skin, looking older, more fine lines, joint problems, lack of energy, on getting older," says Wann, 42, who has been working in the health and fitness industry for 15 years.
"I disagree, I think it is more about the impact of what our lifestyle has on us. And the older we become, the more time we have had to experience that impact."
She believes exercise is essential as we age.
"At 50-plus, exercise is going to prevent mental and physical deterioration, like mental health and bone health," says Wann.
"If you are 50-plus and already exercising, that is great. But you do need to look at your training habits. Are you recovering properly? Are you eating good foods to make sure that the exercise is beneficial and not just breaking down the body?
"Do you have time to fit in all your exercise? Do you enjoy or hate it? Is it another chore? These things play massively on our mind sets, which can then exacerbate stress.
"Look at the routine that meets your needs in life. Don't let other people tell you what you should do. Some people love yoga or paddle-boarding, some don't. If you love running don't stop it, but maybe look at the speed, the type, the duration or the ground that you are running. That might minimise the impact of stress on the body and shorten recovery time. Could you go to interval training?
"What are your goals at 50-plus, and why do you exercise? Is it to increase longevity? To maintain your weight? Or to reduce stress?
"My opinion, for most people 50-plus, is looking at improving and maintaining strength and muscle. Strength training is probably top for longevity of life and anti-ageing, and for bone strength and bone density.
"You need to lift heavy things — whether that is lifting your body or some weights or some milk containers with sand — it needs to be weight-bearing to stimulate the action of the muscle. If we are looking at exercise, I go: tone, target and relax."
Wann says, ideally, exercise needs to be part of our daily lifestyle. "I would say 30 minutes to an hour.
"This is where you look at programmes like 10,000 steps. It is a good benchmark to aim for; that is probably 45 minutes to an hour-long walk."
Good nutrition, sufficient sleep and staying hydrated are other important factors to staying well.
"If you are exercising but you are fatigued and carrying a bit of weight around your stomach and you are not recovering well, pull back on the duration. Go for quality and not quantity, and look at your sleep quality, your food choices and the amount of water you are drinking."
Wann says injuries are the leading cause people in this age group stopping exercising.
"People get injured and it doesn't heal and it niggles. Invariably they go 'well that is age and I am going to stop doing what I am doing as it is not good for me'. "Minimising your risk of injury equates to improving general health, i.e. drinking water, eating good-quality protein to help the body recover, trying to improve your sleep where you can. All those things that are not directly related to your exercise but reduce your risk of injury while exercising.
"Being dehydrated increases our risk of injury substantially. Tendons are not as flexible or as pliable. If you are stiff and sore in the morning, it may not be you are getting older, it may well be that you are dehydrated. Or you may have too much sugar or processed food in your diet and that is going to cause inflammation and make it harder to move."
— Make the muscles work
Target — Target your heart and reduce stress. This is called high-intensity work, and as we get older, a lot of us tend to skip this. High-intensity training could be running up a hill and walking back down, or going to a boxing class, not necessarily for muscle-building, but for movement. We want to sweat as well. High-intensity training is one of the best ways to promote fat loss and increase memory.
Relax — It's important to unwind the body, doing Pilates, yoga or some stretches to counteract our posture all day, or getting some fresh air. Doing something to reduce the stress load on the body. Men, particularly as they get older, don't tend to take the time out.
Sometimes less is more. Prioritise your goals and time.
Minimise risk of injury with good nutrition, adequate sleep and staying hydrated.
Wann's top three supplements:
High-quality fish oil
It has a positive effect on every disease known to man. It turns on the genes required for fat burning.
It helps us sleep better, improves brain function and heart health, and decreases belly fat. It is one of the first minerals to be leeched through chronic exposure to stress.
Magnesium-rich foods include dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, fish, beans, whole grains, avocados, yoghurt, bananas, dried fruit, and dark chocolate.
Essential for helping the body detoxify and getting rid of chemicals.
Go for quality and not quantity, and look at your sleep quality, your food choices and the amount of water you are drinking.