Five Things Women Should Do to Stay Fit and Healthy after 50

Make this decade your healthiest yet

Mature Woman Stretching outdoors

Make this decade your healthiest yet

Some say that 50 is the new 30. You can stay healthy as you ease into your 50s by adopting good habits that will help you counter cardiovascular, hormonal and muscle changes.

“While midlife may bring some health challenges for women, these challenges don’t have to keep you from feeling good and living a fulfilling and vibrant life,” says Yuan Shao, MD, an internal medicine physician at Scripps Clinic Torrey Pines. “Establishing preventive health habits now will help you stay strong and healthy for years to come.”

Take charge of your health

Try these five tips to pre-empt the changes that inevitably occur with age.

1. Eat a healthy diet

“Diet can significantly affect your health as you get older,” says Dr. Shao. “Poor nutrition can lead to heart disease, diabetes or high blood pressure, and a healthy diet can help prevent chronic conditions.”

  • Eat less than you did in your 40s, by about 200 fewer calories per day
  • Eat fresh vegetables and fruit
  • Get your protein from lean meats, poultry, fish and eggs
  • Focus on whole grains for carbohydrates, such as oatmeal, whole grain breads and quinoa
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Limit high-calorie and high-fat foods, such as ice cream, butter and fried foods

2. Get enough sleep

Most of us need seven to nine hours of sleep every night for optimal health, but as we age, getting those hours may be tougher.

“Conditions such as arthritis and hot flashes interrupt sleep and make sleep deprivation more common,” says Dr. Shao. “When your body lacks sleep, it releases hormones that compromise your immune system and make you more susceptible to illness. Sleeplessness can also cause mood swings and brain dysfunction.”

To increase your chances of a good night’s sleep, pay attention to your sleeping habits.

  • Turn off the television and computer one hour before bed
  • Go to sleep 15 minutes earlier than you usually do
  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day
  • Set your bedroom to a cool temperature 

3. Stay physically active

“Cutting down on your physical activity as you age is the opposite of what you should do,” says Dr. Shao. “Being physically active improves sleep, boosts your mood and helps you stay fit.”

  • Get 30 minutes of aerobic exercise each day. Getting your heart pumping helps increase muscle mass, counteracts a slowing metabolism and keeps your heart healthy.
  • Do resistance training twice a week to target muscle strength and endurance and fend off bone loss.
  • Stretching and balancing exercises help maintain flexibility and make you less prone to injury. 
  • Pick activities you enjoy, whether that is walking the dog, hiking or playing in a recreational sport league.

4. Be positive

None of us can turn back time, but humor, laughter and being optimistic helps you stay energetic, joyful and healthy at any age.

  • Practice being grateful. Writing gratitude lists can boost your mood and improve happiness. 
  • Make acts of gratitude toward others a daily habit. When a friend, colleague, client or family member goes above and beyond, make sure to let them know you are grateful. Stop by with a cup of coffee or send an email thanking the person.
  • Keep your mind active. Take the time to study art, music, language or join a book group.
  • Get a pet. Pets can help reduce stress and depression, and increase social interaction and physical activity. 

5. Keep up with annual check-ups

“Regular health exams can find issues before they start,” says Dr. Shao. “When you invest an hour in getting your health screenings and services, you are taking important steps to help you lead a longer, healthier life.”

Many screenings and exams, such as a colonoscopy, a mammogram, and blood pressure and cholesterol tests are particularly important to keep up-to-date. Talk with your doctor about the preventive care plan that is right for you.