Food and Fitness After 50: The Value of Starting Slow to Meet Your Goals

This post was written by Dr. Bob Murray, my co-author of Food & Fitness After 50

Now in his mid-60s, William is two years into a new commitment to lead a healthy lifestyle. William exercised on and off (mostly off) over much of his life, but those efforts typically lasted only a few weeks before he eased back into a sedentary lifestyle. His day job has always been a mix of desk work, car travel, and walking job sites, but did not include enough consistent physical activity to make a difference. As often happens, William became increasingly overweight and was diagnosed with high blood pressure. He recognized that he was out of shape and generally unhealthy and knew that if he did not change his ways, the lifestyle he wants to lead for the rest of his life would be compromised. William has no desire to compete in road races or triathlons, he simply wants to remain functionally fit so that he can engage in everyday activities without undo stress or strain. To accomplish that goal, William realized that he’d have to improve his stamina, strength, flexibility, and balance.


To improve his functional fitness, William developed his own program built around the 4-mile walks he enjoys taking with his Fox Red Labrador Retriever each weekday morning. A recent study from the University of Missouri (The Gerontologist 2016) supports dog walking as a healthful exercise for those 50+. The article looked at the link between dog ownership, pet bonding and walking behaviors in over 700 adults with an average of 67 years. The researchers found that dog ownership by itself was not associated with better health, but dog walking is tied to both better health (lower body mass index, fewer chronic health problems and more frequent moderate and vigorous exercise) compared to non-dog owners or those who don’t walk their dogs.
After work 3 to 4 times each week, William heads to a local fitness club that caters to older clients. He spends about 60 minutes on his own doing a variety of exercises using free weights, machines, and his body weight. Each week or two, William completes an hour session with his personal trainer to help maintain his motivation, learn new exercises, and challenge his limits. William enjoys variety in his fitness routine and while group classes don’t appeal to him, he’s keeping an open mind about adding a group class in the future, if only to keep things fresh.
William is happy with the results of his commitment; he has lost weight, his blood pressure is under control, and he has more strength and stamina. His goal is to continue his routine throughout the year—no more taking winters off—and challenge himself to further improvements in his functional fitness. William said that he’s learned that it’s never too late to develop new fitness habits and would advise people to start slowly with an activity that they enjoy and gradually add more over time. He also said that becoming more fit has made him more conscientious about his diet. He doesn’t follow a diet plan, but has realized that he’s making better choices with portion control.
William’s experience is very typical of those who start a fitness program later in life and stick with it. Simply put, there is a lot to be said about the benefits of moving more and eating less on a daily basis. Physical activity is a potent medicine that improves virtually every aspect of how our bodies function. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) program, Exercise is Medicine®, encourages physicians to treat exercise like other vital signs (heart rate, blood pressure, body weight, etc) and routinely evaluate physical activity at every doctor’s visit. To learn more about the initiative click here (Exercise is Medicine) and to receive a free quarterly newsletter from ACSM’s Fit Society check out this link (Fit Society).


For more information on Food & Fitness After 50 or to ask Chris or Bob a question about food & fitness visit Food & Fitness After 50 Site. The book is available for pre-order on Amazon at this link Pre-order.