Fitness after 50 – A Way of Life

by John Kirk
(Shellharbour, Australia)

Hard at work

Hard at work

An article by John Kirk

Fitness after 50 should not be just something we hope comes our way. We should make it a way of life.

The transition period from our 40s to our 50s presents us with lots of changing priorities and potential health issues. In fact, our life can change dramatically as we start to think about retirement.

Recently, the Victorian (Australia) Government Betterhealth website stated that –

“Only around one in 10 Australians over the age of 50 exercises enough to gain any cardiovascular benefit. Some estimates suggest that about half of the physical decline associated with old age may be due to a lack of physical activity. It has been suggested that people over the age of 65, more than any other age group, require adequate fitness levels to help them maintain independence, recover from illness and reduce their high risk of disease.”

The evidence seems to indicate that much of the damage to our health and fitness has historically occurred between the ages of 40 and 60. However, future generations could be worse off due to the obesity epidemic that has swept through Europe, North America and Australasia. Unless we take the matter of health into our own hands, fitness after 50 will become a myth.

For some people, breakfast at McDonalds is a daily routine. Even worse is the growing number of women I see at lunchtime sitting at tables with a salad in front of them alongside a diet coke while smoking a cigarette. I’m still not sure which is worse. Is it the cigarettes or the diet coke? And they can’t work out why they are overweight. Usually, these are 20 and 30 something girls......not the 50 plus age bracket.

Their bodies are simply not in balance.....that’s why they have weight issues. We were not made to smoke cigarettes or drink diet coke. Just ditching these 2 bad habits will help to promote personal fitness which will last through their 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond.

If only people understood how easy it is to improve health and to maintain fitness. A good nutritious breakfast, plenty of water throughout the day, some fruit and vegetables and 30 minutes of strong walking each day is often all it takes to reverse poor fitness both before and after 50. If you need to lose weight, you’ll also need to count calories, walk further and more often, add some swimming and deep breathing and diarise your progress.

When I began to change my life in 2000, I did all of these things to ensure my fitness after 50. Here I was......a 20 year Cancer Survivor with a 25 year smoking habit. Up until then, I drank lots of soft drink (soda) and didn’t eat much fruit. I did, however, eat lots of chocolate, sweets, cake and dairy products........and beer (don’t forget the beer)........and wine (can’t forget the wine). I was 6 – 7 Kg overweight, my cholesterol had become a big problem and I had Pulmonary Fibrosis. My fitness levels were poor and I puffed hard when walking up hills.

Later, I started to run and, these days, I occasionally ride a mountain bike and run in marathons. However, walking, breathing and a healthy diet was enough to make me realize what I had been missing out on. Now I am sold on fitness and I am annoyed if I don’t spend at least 5 to 6 hours walking or running each week. When I no longer have to commute 90 minutes each way to work, I will do more swimming as well.

Don’t misunderstand me. I choose to do all this because I enjoy it. You do not need to walk or swim for longer than 30 minutes a day. You do not need to run marathons like me. You just need to be consistent. Listen to your body. It will tell you just how much exercise you can cope with. Lastly, eat healthy and fitness after 50 can be yours.

By the way, I still drink beer and wine, eat chocolate and ice cream.........just not as much. Vigorous, regular exercise has allowed me these pleasures. Every time I walk or run, I know I can eat more chocolate and drink more beer. What a reward!!!!

For more information on health and fitness after 50, please visit my website –

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