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It’s okay to be a little bit skeptical about fitness trends. 

After all, it’s easy to find companies that promise miracle results by showing super-fit people using their product for minutes a day. Just because something gets attention doesn’t mean it works.

But that’s not to say you need to exercise the same way you did 30 years ago.

Exercise science has advanced over the decades, and folks over 50 will find improved results—and a more enjoyable process—by taking advantage of some of the newer trends in fitness.

To help you separate the useful information from marketing gimmicks, here are five fitness trends worth following when you’re over 50.

1. Use Wearables to Track Your Health and Fitness

Any list of fitness trends will likely be topped by a single world—wearables. For the unfamiliar, this term encompasses any equipment that’s worn on your body to provide data about your activities, including smartwatches, Fitbit trackers, heart-rate monitors and all other kinds of high-tech equipment.

The reason it’s on top? According to one market research report, the industry is expected to reach $116.2 billion this year, while growing to $265 billion in the next five years.

Much growth will likely come from devices that move beyond fitness tracking and into other health-related measurements. You can already monitor your sleep and heart rate on many devices, but some are predicting that’s just the beginning, with things like blood pressure and illness tracking possible in the years ahead.

What’s available now is quite impressive and can make a big difference in helping you maintain a fitness regime. Having accurate information on your workouts can be motivating, and the cost of these devices have dropped significantly. For less than $100, you can find a wide variety of wearables that can offer you all kinds of valuable data plus online coaching and other resources to help you create an exercise plan.

If you’ve started walking, running, biking or hiking, wearables are an excellent way to monitor your progress and track your workouts. If you’re still unsure about investing in new technology, you can find many of the same features on your smartphone via apps that are often free or inexpensive.

Map My Run will give you tons of data on how fast and far you’re moving—you just need to be carrying your smartphone. Try it out and see how you like it before buying a tracker for your wrist.

2. Get Outside

Get outside! You’ll be glad you did, by Krakenimages

It comes as no surprise that people spent more time exercising outdoors in 2020, given that our indoor options were limited. It turns out many people ended up liking the change.

According to one study, close to 40 percent of people surveyed said they planned to give up their gym memberships and focus on exercising at home or outdoors. Many people left the gym and realized there are all kinds of resources close to home to use, like bike paths, sports courts, and hiking trails.

Perhaps folks discovered that running or cycling outside is a lot more fun than using a treadmill or stationary bike. Outdoor exercise can also provide a social outlet if you’re participating with a group. Joining a running group or tennis club will help you meet like-minded people and motivate you to show up for your workouts.

Keep in mind that it’s not an either/or proposition: You can plan indoor and outdoor workouts on your schedule.

With larger events now possible, it’s a good time to sign up for a 5K run, triathlon or bike ride. You may find events help motivate you to keep up with gym time when the weather makes outdoor exercise more challenging.

3. Hire Some Help

After 2020, many people decided it’s time to make health and wellness changes. For many, it was a year with a much more sedentary vibe. That’s led to an interest in working with experts to help get back on track.

Both personal trainers and nutritionists are reporting greater demand for their services. Even if you have experience with an exercise regimen, a personal trainer can help you set specific goals, recommend training plans and motivate you. A nutritionist can take a look at your diet and make reasonable suggestions for healthy improvements.

If you’re worried about the price tag—working with a trainer generally costs $50-100 an hour—consider hiring someone to set up a program and meet with you a couple of times a month. (You’re responsible for the majority of workouts on your own.) Or join a group class, which may not have the one-on-one attention, but will still give you supervision and guidance.

4. Up the Intensity

The last decade has seen the mainstream acceptance of HIIT, or high-intensity interval training. The goal is to push your body to the limit for a short burst, resulting in more efficient fat-burning and better muscle growth than with long-and-slow endurance training.

Recommending these intense workouts for individuals over 50 was initially frowned upon due to fear of injuries. But today it’s widely accepted that the benefits outweigh any downsides—if it’s done correctly.

That means working up gradually to get your body used to the intensity level, warming up before starting your workout and cooling down sufficiently after you finish. Some gyms specialize in this type of exercise, but just about any gym or personal trainer can help get you rolling.

Muscle loss begins in most people by age 50, and resistance exercises are a primary way to slow down that process. So, even people who primarily do aerobic exercise should incorporate some strength training into their workout program—and a HIIT workout is an efficient way to do so.

5. Increase Your Flexibility

Touching your toes once a day keeps the doctor away (or something like that!), by Conscious Design

It’s hard to miss the increased prevalence of classes that work to improve flexibility with yoga, Pilates and Tai Chi leading the pack.

Unfortunately, flexibility is another thing we lose when we reach our fifties. Thankfully, like with muscle loss, you can work to stem the tide. Increased flexibility also can go a long way to helping avoid overuse injuries that come from repetitive exercises like running and cycling.

Watching the vets in a yoga class may be intimidating, but beginner classes are welcoming to everyone, and you can make a big difference even if many of the moves seem impossible (at first!).

At-home exercisers may want to invest in inexpensive resistance bands, which can help increase your mobility and engage muscles that otherwise don’t get used.

Once again, get guidance from the start to avoid injuries, whether with a personal trainer or online tutorials. But adding flexibility training a few times a week can make a huge difference in your overall fitness.

Written by Jeff Banowetz for Matcha in partnership with OrthoCarolina.


September 29, 2021

I saw this link on Q City Metro, having recently truned 50 and wanting to up my workouts it was intresting. I have always avoided yoga but I get that it will help maintain flexability........I believe I will give it a try!
- Christy