Zumba and Fitness Over 50
Ah, the joys of aging. How many times have you woken up and decided that you were thrilled with being over 50? As I approach this landmark age I contemplate the gifts of my aging but able body.
Instead of whining about turning 50, I am celebrating it. I am grateful to be able to lie on the floor and then get up again without falling over; sit cross-legged without pain; hit the dance floor (or Zumba class!) with friends; bike with my 17 year old daughter without getting too winded; hike with my son and be able to keep up without killing myself. I attribute much of my current personal fitness to Zumba. Did you know that in an average Zumba class you can burn between 450 – 600 calories? I have experienced just that- I leave class feeling happy and upbeat. I have lost weight, gained energy and made new friends!
Exercising over age 50 is different than exercising at 30, or even 40. Our bodies change over time – but one thing that does not change is our ABILITY to continue to get better physically. In fact, Zumba and other regular exercise gives you energy! Muscles atrophy over time, but science has proven that even octogenarians can increase muscle strength and see improvement in a short time. Here are some general guidelines to safe and effective exercise for those of us over 50:
First and foremost: check with your doctor to determine which exercises are best for your body. Even if you are working with a certain risk factor (ie diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis) you can learn modifications to exercise so that you can participate to the best of your ability. Many people take medication that might alter their heart rate, or decrease their cardiovascular capacity –so you need to understand what you should and should not do before beginning an exercise program.
How do you turn back the clock? – Exercise regularly – the amount you do and the intensity with which you do it determine how quickly you see results. Exercise should be varied and include the following components:
- Aerobics (Zumba, walking, swimming, biking, etc)
- Strength Training (weight lifting, Pilates, Yoga)
- Flexibility (any kind of stretching)
- Balance (coordination practices like Zumba)
Aerobics (activities which challenge your cardiovascular system)
Zumba®Fitness is great exercise for everyone, but especially those of us hitting or over that mid-century mark. For many people, dancing is really fun and appealing, but as we age low-impact or no-impact dancing is best since many adults suffer from joint related issues such as arthritis. Most Zumba moves, like the salsa or mambo, are low impact, repetitive and done enough that we get a good workout without pressure on the joints. Calories are burned without a lot of wear and tear on your entire body giving you the positive effect of weight loss without injury!!
Weight training can make a positive difference in strength and overall ability to manage day to day activities. The critical factor is how often you strength train, how much weight you use, and the duration of your training. You’ll see improvement more quickly if you strength train a minimum of 2 times a week – better if you do some every day but not the same muscle groups. So, if you do upper body on Monday, do lower body on Tuesday and alternate. Again, this does not need to be a huge time commitment. You can get a good strength training session in as little as 15 minutes.
One common complaint among the 50+ population is that their flexibility is really limited. Some feel like just turning their heads is difficult. Flexibility training is a key component to an overall exercise program – from the top of the head to the feet – and it is also becomes an enjoyable and relaxing practice for most people.
Key for everyone but especially older adults – balance is extremely important to practice. It helps prevent falls, and improves overall daily life. While practicing balance, focus on something not moving, engage your core and keep breathing. Incorporate balance into your daily routine by standing on one leg while waiting in line or brushing your teeth.
A combination of Zumba 3-4 days/week, muscle conditioning and stretching at least 2 times a week and spending time practicing balance is a great way to create and maintain a healthy mind and body for 50 and beyond.