By Rachel Lankester, Editor

Here are great tips from Elaine Reynolds, master personal trainer and yoga teacher on how to stay fit as you age. Elaine was a guest on my Magnificent Midlife Podcast. She specializes in guiding women over 50 through the maze of midlife changes, encouraging resilience in the face of the unexpected twists our bodies take. 

how to stay fit as you age

Menopause, aging, and fitness

Elaine has always trained older women and recognizes especially the challenges they face during perimenopause. After surveying nearly 2000 women, she found a common thread – traditional fitness routines weren’t effective anymore. She empathizes with the struggles of middle age and continuing to reach our fitness goals, having experienced weight gain, bloating, and fatigue during perimenopause herself. 

Realizing the need for a different approach, she fine-tuned her training for women over 50. Women in this age bracket often grapple with the need to accept and adapt to the needs of our changing bodies. Elaine highlights the importance of not giving up and adjusting training styles for older adults, based on individual preferences and needs.

She stresses the significance of resistance training to maintain muscle mass and build muscle strength, especially for the stabilizing muscles around aging joints. It needn’t be hard to incorporate movements into your exercise routine that mimic daily activities. She advocates for a shift in focus towards flexibility and lengthening the body, in addition to traditional strength training. 

Exercise and posture

To promote body lengthening, Elaine recommends engaging in dynamic movements through a blend of standard yoga poses, power yoga, barre, Pilates, functional strength training, and low-impact cardio exercises performed in a flowing sequence. Emphasizing the importance of lifting weights in the aging process, she encourages viewing exercises as not only muscle-strengthening but also as movements that elongate the body.

The good news is that even small changes in our posture can have a big impact. We have a tendency to naturally collapse and shrink with age, and she urges women especially to counteract this by focusing on elongating the spine. 

She also commented on the negative effects of habitual forward-leaning positions on neck, shoulders, diaphragm, and overall posture, highlighting the strain these positions place on the body. Elaine wants us to be consciously aware of our sitting posture and incorporate specific exercises into routines to effectively counterbalance the impact of modern, forward-leaning lifestyles. Acknowledging the inevitability of such habits due to computer-based living, she reinforces that consistent application of targeted exercises can help maintain spine length. 

Accommodating changing needs

We need to shift our mindset and be willing to adapt to the changes in our bodies in midlife. Finding an exercise program that works for our older bodies and accommodates health conditions we may be experiencing is key. Women often stick to familiar routines, resistant to make modifications despite the potential benefits.

The focus on appearance can become less important as we age, making it more important to prioritize how one feels. It’s more important to be strong and flexible than thin, for example. Maintaining a healthy weight is important but not for how we look, rather than the health benefits that brings. 

Regular physical activity and healthy habits are encouraged not solely for aesthetics, but for the long-term advantages in aging, avoiding chronic pain and joint issues. Strong muscles, a flexible body and good cardiovascular health from consistent aerobic activity, are what will keep us fit and active, allowing us to resist the risk of disease and cognitive decline, and enjoy longer life. The best exercises, including weight-bearing and balance exercises, for example, will help maintain good overall health, support good bone density and reduce our risk of falls as we age. 

For older adults, daily movement and stretching become non-negotiable if we want good quality of life and to reduce the risk of chronic diseases.  Regular exercise is crucial and there are significant consequences to neglecting it. Glute strength becomes particularly important especially during the perimenopausal and menopausal stages, underlining the role of glutes in supporting various bodily functions.

We need to keep our glutes strong but also reduce any pain in that area by stretching or using a spiky ball on pressure points, for example. Tools like fascia blasters and handheld TENS machines may also be useful for self-healing and relieving muscle-related issues. We need a holistic approach to women’s wellbeing, combining physical activity, flexibility, and self-awareness in the aging process.

Meditation and body positivity

Elaine emphasizes the importance of meditation alongside physical exercise as part of her holistic approach to well-being. Stress reduction and mental well-being are integral components of a comprehensive fitness routine. She also underscores the need to view health as a complete picture, not solely focused on physical exertion.

Addressing the challenge of quieting the mind, Elaine advocates for incorporating meditation into daily life, even if briefly, to enhance mindfulness and reduce negative thought patterns. Meditation can help massively with managing stress and achieving mental clarity, helping with sleep problems which can arise as we age and helping us maintain good mental health.

Elaine encourages women not to despair in the face of bodily changes. She urges us to embrace our current state and work towards the strongest and healthiest version of ourselves. She also reinforces the idea of staying present and avoiding comparisons with the past or others, fostering a positive and realistic approach to fitness and overall well-being.

Click here to listen to Elaine’s inspiring podcast interview in full. 

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Last Updated on March 22, 2024 by Editorial Staff

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