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Fitness through the decades - your 50s+

25 June 2015 Andrew Verdon

Safe to say Sydney to Hobart winners with over 40 years ocean racing may be over 50

"Safe to say Sydney to Hobart winners with over 40 years ocean racing may be over 50"

Photo by:
Kylie Wilson,

From our late twenties up to our thirties, we spend more time on our career, partners and responsibilities and priorities that come with them, than anything else. But as you reach your 50's (and beyond), generally you have less work responsibilities, the kids leave home and you may find you now have more time for exercise. The main areas that people find they deteriorate in as they age are a loss of strength, poor balance and reduced flexibility and stamina.

Everyone can maximise their health and fitness as they mature by taking time for age-appropriate exercises on top of adapting a healthier diet. So my focus here when I developed this program was 'bang for your buck'! Maximum results for the minimum time spent to help slow the aging process. Remember - A walk twice a week around the golf course is an activity, not exercise! Pleasingly, the Laser class sees more and more entries each year in its Great Grand Master division (65 years+) at major championships.

Overall, my clients often find they are much fitter when they turn 50 than when they for 40!

Health and Injury Risks

You do need to be aware of the risks associated with exercise as you age. My suggestions would be to check your blood pressure regularly and check in annually with your doctor. If you are overweight then work to bring this back to a healthy level to further reduce the risks. Be aware of your heart rate when exercising to monitor your intensity. Look for some detailed information on how to monitor your heart rate and exercise intensity in a coming issue.

Maximum heart rate - a very basic formula to work out your predicted maximum heart rate is:

220 - Your age = your predicted max heart rate

We will look at some other (more accurate measurement methods) over the coming months.

You also need to be aware that as you age, you lose flexibility in the muscles and tendons and the lubricating fluid in the joints.

So go for exercises with less impact and stretch regularly - daily if you can!

Exercise Program Basics

A person in their fifties and sixties still needs a good balance of aerobic, cardiovascular, and strength training exercises. My tip is to divide each exercise session you complete into the rule of thirds:

  • 1/3 for cardio exercises
  • 1/3 for strength
  • 1/3 for flexibility

E.g. at the end of the week, if you added all your minutes (or hours) of exercise up to equal 180 minutes (3 hours) then aim (roughly) for 60 min of cardio, 60 minutes of strength training and 60 minutes of flexibility. Most people are never close to these numbers and therefore spending too much or too little time in certain areas (esp. strength and flexibility generally, which are too low).

A good aim goal each week (i.e. seven days) is to train for 45-60 minutes on three days per week.

Fitness Tips

  • Exercise is your strongest preventive medicine.
  • Keep muscle! You lose 10% of your muscle mass per decade after 50 if you're sedentary.
  • Focus on good fats have Omega 3 and 6 in your diet.
  • Exercise intensity remains high, but balance the program. Be mindful of the risks...
  • Stretch daily if possible - recovery is crucial!
  • Use the 'Rule of Thirds'.

A sample 60 minute session for a 55-60 year old sailor

Flexibility and Mobility - 20 minutes

Ensure you include some dynamic stretches and some mobility work especially around the spine and hips, and gently raise the heart rate over the 20 minutes.

Strength - 20 minutes

Select five to six exercises and complete the strength and core exercise together as a circuit. Do this three times with one to two minutes rest at the end of each cycle, and then begin again. Aim for full body - i.e. upper body, lower body and trunk exercises. You could use a mixture of free weights, body weight and some equipment.

Cardio - 20 minutes with a choice of two methods:

Alternate an interval session one day and steady state session the next time you train.

Intervals: Warm up for five minutes then 5 x 60 second sprint with two minutes recovery after each


Steady state: 20 mins at moderate pace

Warm down for 5 minutes

Do some light stretches or go for a short swim

Remember sailing is a demanding activity/sport and the better you prepare the better and longer you will perform.

Contact Andrew

Current Masters & Grand Masters Champions may be over 50 too

"Current Masters & Grand Masters Champions may be over 50 too"

Photo by:
Kylie Wilson,


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