Should your fitness regimen change as you get older?

Fitness Regimen Basics for the Over-50 Crowd

You don't have to go this far for strength straining -- simple hand weights are just fine.
You don't have to go this far for strength straining -- simple hand weights are just fine.


­Suppose you're over the age of 50 and want to begin a fitness regimen. It's actually not much more complicated or difficult than figuring out a fitness regimen for anybody else, and you don't need to join a gym -- there's plenty of information to be found online, in books and via DVDs. The first step, however, is a consultation with a doctor to be sure that you (or the person in question) are not only healthy enough to begin, but are aware of any potential limitations or complications.

Cross-training, or using a combination of exercises, is a great way to combat boredom and keep you interested in exercising. It also accounts for energy levels that may vary from day to day and can help prevent injury by working different muscle groups. Some people find specific exercises that they enjoy and prefer to stick with them, but there are a few different types of exercise that most people should try to do on a regular basis.

Any workout should start with a short warm-up. This simply means that you're warming up your muscles to prepare them for more strenuous work. One easy way to warm up is to start walking slowly. You can also stretch to warm up, but it's important that these stretches are dynamic rather than static -- in other words, you're moving while stretching rather than standing still, so as not to strain the muscle.

Aerobic, or cardiovascular, exercises allow you to burn fat and lose weight, as well as improve your cardiovascular health. Aerobic exercise can include walking, cycling and swimming. Most people should do some kind of aerobic exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, most days of the week.

Strength training, also known as weight training, strengthens your muscles and bones and should be done for at least two days a week. Just 2-pound hand weights or even bottles of water can provide resistance. There's also balance and flexibility training, which can help prevent common injuries such as falls. Pilates and yoga fall under this category of exercise.

All workouts should end with a cooldown, which stretches muscles and brings the heart rate back to normal. This usually entails stretching for five or 10 minutes.

These basics are for people without any restrictions. But if you do have arthritis, heart disease or another condition, you can still exercise. We'll check out some modifications next.