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Exercising in Your 50s but Working Out Like You're in Your 30s?

From the Show: Train Your Body
Summary: Should you be doing the same exercises you did when you were younger?
Air Date: 4/21/15
Duration: 10
Host: Melanie Cole, MS
Guest Bio: MIchele Stanten
stantenMichele Tanten, a walking coach ( and ACE-certified fitness instructor, has been inspiring and motivating people to get active for more than 20 years.
Michele is the author of Firm Up in 3 Weeks and Walk Off Weight, and co-author of Walk Your Butt Off! As the former Fitness Director of Prevention magazine, she created a marathon walking program and coached thousands of readers to walk full and half marathons across the country.Michele has also produced and appeared in more than a dozen exercise DVDs and created numerous audio workouts.

Michele has been a presenter at the ACSM Health & Fitness Summit, serves on the Board of Directors for ACE, and is a member of the Every Body Walks Collaborative. She has written for a variety of publications, including Self, More, Weight Watchers, and Shape magazines. Her numerous media appearances include The Today Show, Good Morning America, The Biggest Loser, CNN, USA Today, and NPR.
Exercising in Your 50s but Working Out Like You're in Your 30s?
When you were in your 30's, you may have lifted weights and used all the equipment in the gym. But, your now in your 50's, you might find some of those exercises more difficult.

Should you even be doing the same exercises you did when you were younger?

Michele Stanten, a walking coach and ACE-certified fitness instructor, discusses your workout and how it might change as you get on in years.

RadioMD PresentsTrain Your Body | Original Air Date: April 14, 2015
Host: Melanie Cole, MS
Guest: Michele Stanten

Train your body. Here's exercise physiologist, Melanie Cole, MS.

MELANIE: Boy, you're in great shape in your 30's and your 20's. You go to step class. You do Zumba; you can do Boot Camp; you can do, you know, plyometrics. You can really crank on the Stairmaster, the treadmill, the elliptical and you feel great. So, if you're somebody that exercises in your 30's, you work out with a trainer, maybe you don't, whatever it is you do, what changes as you get older? What do you have to change? Do you change something? Are there things that you change up? Reduce? Things that you add on?

My guest today is Michele Stanton. She's a walking coach and A Certified fitness instructor.

Welcome to the show, Michele.


MELANIE: So, in our thirties. God, you feel great. That's the baby-making years. We're all in great shape. Stuff doesn't start to hurt and head downward yet. So, what changes as we get older in our exercise routines?

MICHELE: Right. And it's easier to keep the pounds off or to lose weight.

MELANIE: Lots easier.

MICHELE: A lot changes and if you're exercising in your 30's, you're going to delay some of these changes that are happening, but our metabolism starts to go down 1-2% every decade after the age of 20. We start to lose muscle mass, 3-5% after the age of 30 per decade, especially if you're not exercising. The loss of muscle mass is really a big thing here, because as you lose that, you burn fewer calories throughout the day, so guess what? You're going to gain weight easier. It's going to make weight loss harder and as you're losing that muscle mass, you're becoming weaker, so everyday activities become harder as we get older, so you really want to maintain that muscle. It's going to help to keep it more active. We start to lose bone, 1% per year after age 35, and then, when we hit menopause in that 40-50's, that increases to 2-3% and then you're at more risk for osteoporosis or a bone break if you fall. So, there are a lot of changes that are happening. Exercise is really key to slow these down or even turn some of them around as you get older.

MELANIE: Absolutely. As you and I discussed before, there are things that you add on and things that you might need to take away. So, some of the more hard impact things, you know? I'm in my 50's, just became in my 50's, so past that actual point.

MICHELE: I'm right behind you.

MELANIE: I do notice some differences.


MELANIE: I notice some things. It burns a little more quickly. I feel my knees after a certain number of squats. You know? You just feel things. I'm more tired. You know? So, what do we have to reduce and then tell us the more positive. What do we add on?

MICHELE: Well, joint problems and those muscle strains tend to increase as we get older. Some of the keys there are minimizing some of that impact with activities. That doesn't mean you have to stop higher impact activities like running or, you know, Boot Camps are kind of in that, too, but you want to reduce them. You want to add, maybe, some more rest days in between. Don't do all those high intensity, high impact workouts on back to back days. Give yourself a day break where you do something like a yoga class or a spin class where it might be high intensity, but it's joint friendly. So you want to protect those joints and give them the time. As we get older, it takes us a little longer to recover. So, we need longer rest periods than we might have in our 30's. Another big key there is making sure that you're warming up and cooling down. A lot of times, in our 30's we just rush in, get that workout in and then rush out at the end without taking the time stretch, without warming up and those key parts of your workout are going to make the majority of your workout feel much better. Your muscles are going to feel better. Your joints are going to feel better because you gave them that transition from being inactive to working out versus just jumping right in. Then, that's when our bodies start screaming at us. So, don't skip your warmups and your cool downs.

MELANIE: Absolutely. That's very important. What do you do to add on to things? To make it so that it's like, you know, you see things change in your body, Michele and in your 30's, you could do all those things and you weren't targeting specific spots. I mean, maybe you were because you wanted toned glutes and all this.


MELANIE: But, now, you're kind of looking at preventing cancer. Your goals are different.

MICHELE: Absolutely.

MELANIE: You're looking at keeping the boobs up a little bit. You're keeping the back of the arms from shaking around when you wave hi to somebody. So, now you've got sort of goals.


MELANIE: Things you want to accomplish.

MICHELE: And that is one of many, many reasons that if you are not currently strength training, you really need to start when you're in your 50's. Strength training, lifting weights, doing body weight exercises like planks and pushups and squats. Those are the exercises that are going to start slow that muscle loss and, believe it or not, you can build some of the muscle loss that you might have already lost. You can rebuild it. So, you're going to get stronger and it's going to tone those areas. You're going to get stronger. You're going to strengthen those muscles around the joints, so you'll be less likely to get joint pain. You're going to protect those joints from injuries. So, again, probably the number one thing that you can do in your 50's, if you're no already, is strength training.

If you're already strength training, a key is to make sure—one of the things that I find that women do all the time is they use weights that are way too light.

MELANIE: I see that too.

MICHELE: Uni-weights. You're not going to rebuild that muscle with 2 and 3 pound weights. Think about what you do during the day. The grocery bags that you lug, the suitcase that you hoist up into the overhead compartment on the airplane. Okay. You can do that. You can pick up 10 or 12, 15, even 20 pound weights for some of the exercises and that's what you need to do to rebuild some of that muscle. So, start strength training. If you're already doing it, have a trainer work with you or look at your workout and kind of up the intensity so that you're getting those benefits. At this stage, though you really need to make sure that you're using proper form. So, having somebody instruct you on the exercises or build the program for you can be really beneficial to avoiding injuries and getting results.

MELANIE: Well, one thing that I've noticed as a trainer for 25 years. If I'm working with somebody in their 30's and I give them like a pelvic tilt or a lift, you know, a gluteal bridge, one of those kind of things, they look at me and roll their eyeballs. “Really? You're giving me this exercise?” But, you give it to someone in their 50's, 60's, 90's, they're like “It feels so good on my back. Oh that feels great,” and they want to stretch it and they want to feel that. So, some of the exercises that you're going to do just feel good and you know that you're doing them and they feel like they're stretching or working something that needs to be stretched or worked whereas, somebody in their 30's doesn't want a feel good exercise, they want a results oriented exercise.

MICHELE: Yes. Keep in mind those feel good exercises can produce results, too.

MELANIE: Absolutely.

MICHELE: Some are going to be more visible than others. Those bridges and pelvic tilts are strengthening those core muscles which are really key to keeping our posture as we get older, we kind of get that forward lean from being hunched over our computers and the steering wheel in the car. So, you want to be doing exercises that open up your chest. Yoga is a great exercise as we are getting older, you get that stretching because as we get older, everything kind of stiffens up. So, the stretching, you get strengthening with yoga, just getting more in touch with your body, so you're noticing when something might hurt and, you know, listening to your body at this age. Back in our 30's, we kind of pushed through that pain a lot of times, but as you're getting older, you don't want to do that. You really want to listen to your body and back off if you need to when something's hurting.

MELANIE: That's important. We only have about a minute left, Michele, but some of the exercises that we do with a different goal—a goal toward preventing cancer or heart disease, so we're looking towards cardiovascular exercises or, as you say, strength training to prevent osteoporosis.


MELANIE: The goal is different. So, in this last just half a minute or so, wrap it up for us as our exercise routines change as we age.

MICHELE: You definitely want to continue doing your cardio. You might want to, like I said, bring it down to a lower impact depending on what you're doing and how your joints feel, but keep moving. The most important thing is to keep moving. If you're exercising, you're going to a Zumba class, you're going to a spin class or you’re going out for walks, you're getting that cardio; that is great. Also, keep in mind you need to be moving throughout the day. There's more and more research showing that if you sit too much, you're still doing damage to your body and, especially as we get older, that increases your risk for diseases. So, in addition to your workout sessions, get up, move around, take a walk. You know, break up your day so that you're not sitting in that chair so much which, as we get older, becomes even more detrimental to our health.

MELANIE: Great advice. So, your exercise routine changes a bit, but you can change with it and keep healthier as you age. It's not that hard.

You're listening to Train Your Body.

This is Melanie Cole.

Stay well.