Midlife exercise myths run have a width continuum. Here’s the biggest, not even suggested in this post: these myths are truer the older you are. If you’re in your 50s those habits decrease exercise benefits. If you’re in your 60’s they’re derailing you. But in your 70s, they’re a downright train wreck.
But back to those of you in your 50s. The damage these myths do while you’re in menopause will be more devastating in 10 years. You don’t feel yourself gain a couple ounces of fat or lose a couple ounces of muscle. But it’s happening unless you’re doing something to offset it.
Look up all the research you can on walking. There are a lot of benefits. But know that there’s a threshold of returns. You don’t get more bone density by walking more. You have to have a minimum exercise stress and once you’re off the couch more of that same stepping doesn’t do it. You don’t gain more muscle from walking, in fact you’ll get some initially, then begin to lose if you’re not challenging yourself and even then walking is not known for increasing muscle mass.
It’s not helping with your mobility unless you’re using it as a warm up.
Midlife Exercise Myths #1: Something (exercise) is better than nothing.
I’m all for a plan A, plan B, and plan C. But that’s not random. Something is better than nothing only if it’s in direct alignment with your health priorities.
You first have to determine the best, ideal, optimal plan for your fitness level. Determine what you’d do each day weekly, so you have a daily “optimal” plan. I like to design those plans based on hormone balance, muscle and bone needs, and your brain – or mood.
Then, you create a plan B, for those days when you’re traveling or duty calls. Instead of a 30-minute strength training program you do a 10-minute focus on major muscle groups. Let’s face it, we’ve all had plan C days. That is, if all else fails. Neither plan A or B are going to happen, but you at least stretch or do some body weight squats, bridges, and push-ups.
Say you decide walking every day is better than not being active at all. Agreed. But if you spent that hour of exercise time daily differently your fitness level could improve dramatically.
Once you can do that walk easily, unless you’re making the walk hilly on some days, adding intervals, and going long and slow others, you’re not improving your fitness level. Most walkers work up to a distance and hold it or walk.
A Little Better
Try to beat your time on a couple days a week. Work toward a pace of 15-minute miles (4 mph) if you’re not there.
A Lot Better
Add intervals in the middle of your walk. Walking the same pace over and over can decrease stress but it maintains, not improves your fitness. You’re not doing anything for your fast twitch muscle fibers. (See more about Fast Twitch muscle fiber losses during aging here). For metabolism and for reaction skills fast twitch fibers are your friend.
How Could You Spend Your Exercise Budget for More Value?
You can spend an hour 7 days a week walking, or you can spend those 7 hours like this:
- 1.5 hours of strength training (done in two sessions)
- 1 hour of interval training (done in two sessions)
- 2 hours of hiking hilly terrain (done in two sessions or one long one)
- 2.5 hours of walking (divided between three walks – one short and fast, two your usual pace)
- Alternately, reduce the hiking and hours of walking and add two or three yoga or stretch sessions as well.
If you’re thinking, I don’t have time for all that. It’s still 7 hours. If you wait until you’re retired and it’s easier, you’ll have lost muscle and bone that you can’t completely recover.
So, to those of you in your 40s or 50s I say start now! To those of you in your 60s or 70s I say start now and treat it like a dose of medicine that cost you a big co-pay!
For some reason we think it’s optional. In a way… it is. You can take the pills and suffer negative side effects or you can do the exercise and enjoy the positive benefits.
Midlife Exercise Myths #2: Everything in moderation.
I won’t spend a lot of time here, as I really beat this one a lot in 2020. At the beginning of the pandemic I shared frequent posts and live sessions explaining the role of exercise in immunity. Let’s not forget our own responsibility to check our habits, no matter what you believe about vaccines or masks. Exercising too much or too little will harm your immunity.
That statement however, leads people to say exercise in moderation, which is falsely leading you to believe walking regularly for instance is enough.
In truth, that lingering “moderate” exercise is carryover from the late 80s and 90s. It’s been replaced many times in science literature.
Here’s a more accurate statement:
Moderate amounts of low and high intensity is optimal for immunity. And for you dear listener, what’s good for your immunity is good for your hormones.
Older? Midlife Exercise Myths Still Apply, Maybe More
And you do want to look at cortisol and insulin and other hormones ‘til death do you part. Women in their 80s get breast cancer. Your awareness about estrogen shouldn’t end. Your libido and muscle depends on growth hormone and testosterone. That’s just to point out hormones are different but not gone.
Midlife Exercise Myths #3: Because it’s working for her [someone else].
They don’t put beautiful women on the cover of dvds or feature them in fitness ads for no reason. It’s not an accident that ads show a little skin. Somewhere deep down even if we swear up and down, we just want to be healthy, we’d all love the benefit of looking better, right?
You want to look like someone else, the guru in the videos or teaching the class. She looks good so why won’t it work for you, you wonder. Well, case in point, your life is unique. You ideally, listen to your body, make decisions based on your sleep or lack thereof. You learn the blueprint of your hormones and understand the exercise prescription for you now may change as your hormones do.
There’s the muscle and bone loss avoidance that you have to consider. That’s not visible. There’s the fast twitch muscle fiber loss to consider. What you think is causing someone’s progress is not necessarily causing someone’s progress.
Monkey See Monkey Do
For example, you see someone else walking daily. You also have gotten the message that you need to lift weights and do that. Even though you’re not sure what you’re doing is really making a difference, you do that. Admittedly, you’re a little less regular with that because you’re not sure what you’re doing is working or how. Then you do yoga a couple times a week, or at the least you stretch. You follow that kind of program for a while.
But you’re still not losing weight (maybe gaining) and not seeing results. Hm, now what?
Start with you.
What’s happening with your signs and symptoms?
- Fatigued? Or have energy?
- Insomnia or sleeping well?
- See muscle definition? Or lack of tone?
- Has a bone density test revealing serious loss of bone? Or bone health is good and you want to keep it?
- Need to lose some fat? Or ideal body composition?
- Belly fat specifically? Or mostly subcutaneous fat?
What about time?
- Can you do 45+ minute workouts or do you need shorter ones?
- Do you have morning times you can do your intense exercise?
- What’s missing in your routine? Strength? Interval training for Fast Twitch Muscle?
Busting Midlife Exercise Myths AND Stopping the Sabotage
My stepped-up Post-pandemic support with 15% off select digital videos ends as April does. You’ll see DVDs still available too… though supplies are limited and that’s the last of our dvds when they’re gone!