I write this post as a 53-year-old woman who has never been toned her life.
I’ve never had a toned body.
However, I wouldn’t say that I’m unfit. I walk the dog regularly, I always choose to walk over using the car if I can, and I can cycle a reasonable distance.
About five months ago I had thyroid surgery to remove quite a large goitre in my neck. The goitre had impacted my windpipe and affected my breathing. I struggled to exert myself because I just couldn’t take in the air quick enough due to the lump. It’s only now I’m healed that I realise what a big effect it had on my health.
Finally, I can breathe easily. I can walk up a hill without gasping for air. Now I feel free to do something about my fitness.
So, my big question now is, can a 50 year old woman get toned (like me)?
I can get fit at 50, but can I get a ripped body? Could I possibly look fairly decent in a bikini?
I don’t expect (or want) to get big burly muscles. What I would like, is to firm up a bit, and maybe prevent my body from moving south so quickly?
Why am I so soft now I’m 50?
My body generally feels soft all over, especially in the midriff area. I don’t expect my body to feel like a 20-year-old, but greater firmness would be most welcome.
According to the American Medical Council, Men typically add 3.4% to their body weight every 10 years between the ages of 22 and 45, and women can see a 5% gain each decade.
We know that less physical activity combined with a drop in metabolism and a drop in muscle mass is a recipe for more and more fat gain as the clock ticks.
In other words, you get softer and softer as time goes on because the structure beneath (i.e. muscles) reduce, and even the foundations (bones) can become weaker.
Physically inactive people can lose as much as 3% to 5% of their muscle mass each decade after age 30. Even if you are active, you’ll still have some muscle loss.
Why do I put weight on more easily now I’m middle-aged?
This is what I have learned. It’s a clear case of ‘use it or lose it’.
As you age, unless you keep your physical activity up, your muscles get weaker because they are simply not needed to maintain your body in the way that you use it.
The more muscle you have, the more energy you need to service those muscles.
The less muscle you have, the less energy you need to service those muscles.
Let’s take a doughnut as an example.
If a middle-aged person with reduced muscle mass were to eat that doughnut, more of the consumed calories would turn to fat than someone who has more muscle.
So here is the question.
If you need more muscle in order to keep the weight off during middle age and beyond, is it possible to reverse the decline of muscle mass?
Can You Get Toned at 50?
Yes of course you can. Can you regain muscle mass after 50? Yes! You can get toned at any age.
If you have never been toned before now, know that your journey to fitness is going to take longer than it would have done if you were 20 years younger.
But, hey, we have more patience now we are in our 50’s don’t we?
What you have now that you probably didn’t have in your thirties is perhaps more time to fit in workouts and the motivation to see the process through.
Why is it more difficult to tone up after 50?
It turns out there is science involved.
The general rule is that the older we get, the harder we have to work out to achieve the same result as a younger person. This is true for both women and men.
With one difference.
According to a study carried out at Washington University, it’s older women that have the harder time maintaining and building muscle mass and it is all to do with how they process the proteins in their diet. It’s thought that the hormone changes during menopause are to blame.
The upshot is, women need to eat more protein in order to build muscles effectively.
Eat more protein if you want to get toned at 50
Women need to eat more protein to help gain muscle mass along with a muscle-building exercise plan.
Protein-rich foods would include foods like chicken, oats, broccoli, red meat, soy and lentils. These are all foods that you might typically find in a healthy diet anyway.
How much protein to include in your diet?
To give you an idea of the amount of protein you should have in your diet, the recommended daily intake (RDI) of protein for women is 50-46 grams. You need to then add 0.8 grams per kilo of body weight.
That will give you the recommended intake of protein for your weight.
Now we need to increase the RDI of protein so that we can support our muscle growth. In a university study where women doubled their protein intake, it was found that muscle growth increased compared with those that did not even though the level of exercise was the same in both groups.
Can we just change our diet and not bother with exercise?
Well, no, a good diet rich in protein should certainly help, but you also need to work your muscles to make them grow.
What are the best exercises to do after 50?
Obviously, I am not a fitness expert. This is where I need to consult with the professionals.
However, before I divulge, there are a couple of very important things I have learned during my research.
- Consult your doctor before you embark on a fitness regime. This is even more important as you get older.
- Whatever type of exercises you go for you should always take it easy at the beginning. Don’t go overboard. Start small and build it up as you feel more confident.
- Listen to your body. Rushing makes you more prone to injuries that will set you back, and your journey back to health will take much longer.
There are loads of different exercises you can do. Whatever you choose, make sure that you enjoy it. If you find you don’t, move and try something else.
Walking must be the easiest to do regularly and the cheapest too. It’s the perfect exercise if you plan to get fit while on a budget.
We often hear 10,000 steps a day as a good number to aim for. However, don’t feel under pressure to do that because a study by Dr Michael Mosley proved that brisk walking is actually more beneficial than longer slower walks. If you can feel your heart rate and your body temperature going up as you walk, that is a good sign.
I have tried and loved yoga. I didn’t start yoga practice until I turned 50 and since then I have done it on and off. I know that if I keep at it along with brisk walking, that I have a good chance of getting more toned and fitter too.
Swimming is a really good exercise to choose if you have injuries or need to protect your joints. Your body is supported by the water so there is never any excessive pressure.
If you need more than brisk walking, try running. It is a very low-cost way to get fit all you need is a decent pair of trainers.
This includes lifting weights to make your muscles work harder than they usually would under normal circumstances.
Should I go on a diet at 50?
You should definitely increase your protein intake when you are on a toning exercise regime because this is the nutrient that your muscles need to grow.
Increase your intake of protein-rich foods like chicken, red meat, lentils, and oats. If you think you might struggle to do this on a daily basis, why not consider meal-prepping because it can save you time during the week.