Growing older can spark fears of slowing down, wearing out and generally falling apart.
Fortunately, you have the power to shape a more positive destiny, says Lee Jordan, a Jacksonville Beach, Florida-based health coach and behavior change specialist.
"Age is just a number, and not the primary indicator for fitness and wellness," says Jordan, who is also a personal trainer certified by the American Council on Exercise.
Staying fit is essential to good health at age 50 and far beyond. Following are four "must do" exercises as your golden years approach.
1. Weight-bearing exercise – Squat to press
As we age, osteoporosis becomes a serious risk. This disease causes bones to weaken, putting them in danger of breaking after a fall or other mishap.
Weight-bearing exercise can help strengthen bones. It is especially important for women, who make up 80 percent of those diagnosed with osteoporosis, Jordan says.
"Approximately one in two women over age 50 will break a bone because of osteoporosis," he says, citing figures from the National Osteoporosis Foundation.
Weight-bearing exercises are those that force you to work against gravity. One exercise Jordan recommends is the squat to press. Stand with feet hip-width apart and heels pressed to the ground. Hold a dumbbell in each hand at your sides.
"Move into a squat, keeping your knees behind you toes and moving down as if sitting in a chair," Jordan says. "As you stand back up from (the) squat, raise the weight over your head with palms facing each other."
2. Stretching exercise – Arm opener
As we age, the body becomes less flexible and more prone to injury, according to the American Council on Exercise. Stretching can increase your range of motion and might slow joint degeneration.
The "arm opener" can stretch much of your upper body. Stand with your feet apart, then place your arms behind you. Interlock your hands – with the palms facing up and the knuckles facing the ground -- at the level of the tailbone.
At this point, gently move your interlocked hands up and as far from the tailbone as you can. Your arms should be relaxed, not stiff. Hold the position.
3. Balance exercise – One-foot stand
Each year, at least 300,000 people over age 65 are hospitalized for hip fractures caused by falling, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Poor balance also puts your mind at risk. Falling is the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries, Jordan says.
Standing on one foot can be a great way to enhance your balance. Relax your arms, then raise one leg so your knee is nearly even with your hip and forms a 90-degree angle with the foot.
"Shoot for one minute and increase from there," Jordan says. "Do both sides. Incorporate this through your day -- standing in line at the store, watching TV."
4. Aerobic exercise – Wild-card walking
Aerobic exercise keeps your heart and lungs in great shape. It decreases blood pressure and resting heart rate. You get a host of benefits with cardio workouts, from a lower risk of heart attack and stroke, to healthier skin and clearer thinking.
If jogging seems too intimidating, start with a vigorous walking routine. Jordan recommends something called "wild-card walking."
"Begin walking at a somewhat hard pace for five minutes, then each one to two minutes chose and perform a wild-card movement," he says.
Examples of wild-card walking include:
- Walking backwards
- Side shuffling
- Walking off a sidewalk and onto a grassy area
- Taking stairwells when walking in an urban environment
The full workout should last about 30 minutes, Jordan says.