Health And Fitness Needs Of Women at 50+

Here come the golden years, time to enjoy and reap benefits of living a hard working life. Turning 50 and going on to 60, 70 and 80 should in no way hamper achieving optimum health & fitness goals. Recent studies indicate that between the ages of 30 & 70 many of the symptoms & conditions that were traditionally associated with normal aging are in fact the result of sedentary lifestyles. 

This article has tried to cover certain health & fitness needs of women at 50+:

Nutritional Needs

The dietary needs for seniors is basically the same as it is for younger people, but there are a few differences to consider. Each one of you holds the power to improve your nutritional status by bringing about certain modifications in the diet pattern.

  1. Choose a diet rich in a variety of plant-based foods. Antioxidants and other phytochemicals found in vegetables and fruits can help prevent the cell damage that, over time, can lead to the weakening of body tissues such as skin, organs and vessels, and diseases such as cancer. Try new recipes from the newspaper, cooking magazines, television cooking programs or internet web sites.

  2. Aim at eating at least five servings of vegetables and fruits each day. Make sure that vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans cover two-thirds (or more) of your meals, while animal-based foods cover one-third (or less). Fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants and other phytochemicals that are potent cancer fighters. By choosing to eat more foods that come from plants and fewer that come from animals, you can benefit your health in many ways, including helping to prevent cancer and heart disease, maintain a healthy weight and promote digestion. Try adapting favorite recipes to include larger amounts of plant-based foods and smaller amounts of meat or poultry.

  3. Drink alcohol only in moderation, if at all. Some drinks, especially young red wines such as Beaujolais, contain anti-oxidant vitamins and minerals, which can help to reduce the risk of heart disease and some cancers. Beers and Champagnes can also provide beneficial nutrients. Drinking can be a very pleasurable part of a healthy lifestyle, but drinking to excess can cause liver damage, mood and energy-balance problems. Try not to drink on an empty stomach as this can cause your blood sugar levels to crash.

  4. Select foods low in fat-You can use olive oil, sesame oil or walnut oil to enhance the flavor of your food or for cooking, but do try to keep the quantity low. The type of fat found mainly in animal products like meat, whole milk, cheese, eggs, butter and lard, is called saturated fat. There are many reasons to avoid eating a diet high in saturated fat, and in fat overall. This type of diet possibly increases the risk of cancers of the lung, colon, rectum, breast, prostate and endometrium. It also increases heart disease risk. Excess calories are a final reason to avoid overindulging in fat--too much fat and too many calories can lead to weight gain, which itself increases the risk of some forms of cancer, particularly endometrial cancer. Obesity also heightens risk for heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. 

  5. Control Salt in diet :To cut down on salt, read food labels and look for low-sodium versions of your favorite processed foods. Fresh foods have less sodium than commercially canned or frozen foods. Prepare your foods with less salt, avoid adding it to cooking water and taste your food before salting. Flavor your foods fabulously with fresh and fragrant herbs, spices, salsas, chutneys and healthful sauces. Experiment in the kitchen. Invite friends over for a delicious dinner of brand new dishes.

  6. Prepare and store foods safely.-Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Make sure your refrigerator temperature stays below 40� F. Don't allow perishable foods to sit at room temperature for more than two hours, or more than one hour in hot weather. Store groceries or leftovers quickly in the refrigerator or freezer. Be sure to carefully read expiration dates on food labels and take note of visible food spoilage. Keep raw meats away from other foods and use different cutting boards for chopping vegetables and meats. 

  7. Make your daily fluid intake 3 to 5 pints and even more in summer Water helps the fiber in your food to swell and perform its duties. It also helps to metabolize other nutrients from your food, keep your skin and hair healthy and prevent your body from becoming dehydrated.

  8. Include Some �GOOD� Bacteria in your daily diet, in form of 'LIVE' yogurt containing Bifidus and Acidophilus.- A small pot of �bio� yogurt a day should help to keep a healthy balance of good and bad bacteria in your gut. If you don�t like or are unable to eat live yogurt, seek the advice of your dietician.

  9. Include some dairy products or other significant calcium sources of calcium in your daily diet: Getting enough calcium and vitamin D can help prevent osteoporosis, the leading cause of bone fractures in older women.

  10. Do not use tobacco in any form. Smoking puts your health at risk. It is the main cause of lung cancer and also contributes to cancers of the mouth, throat, pancreas, cervix and bladder. Tobacco use is responsible for 30 percent of all cancers and increases the risk of heart disease and respiratory disease. Even if you're a long-time smoker, you can still benefit from quitting.



Aim at eating a well balanced diet to get all the nutrients your body needs. Talk to your doctor about your changing nutrient needs and possible interactions with medications. A multivitamin and mineral supplement is a great "nutritional insurance policy" to make sure you're meeting your nutrient needs.

Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for Women Over 50



Vitamin A

800 RE


150 mcg

Vitamin E

8 mg


10 mg

Vitamin K



12 mg

Vitamin C

60 mg


55 mcg 


Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) for Women Over 50

Vitamin D

10-15 mcg


1200-1500 mg

Vitamin B6

1.5 mg


800 mg

Vitamin B12

2.4 mcg


1.8-5.6 mg


14 mg


300 mg

Leading a healthy lifestyle is helpful at any age. It's not expensive, and it�s never too late to take charge of your life by starting an exercise program and eating well. Staying active and eating well will reward you with increased vigor and a new zest for life!

Daily health care


  • Keep your eye glasses clean and use good lighting for close work.

  • Have your eyesight checked every year. Your glasses might need changing and examination could detect a treatable condition such as cataract or glaucoma.

  • Flu injections may give a degree of protection and at least reduce the severity of an attack.

  • Report any pain in the eyes or sudden deterioration in vision, go to your doctor without delay.


  • Deafness is not inevitable in old age; wax accumulates faster, so syringing may help. 

  • If you cannot hear ordinary conversation, see your doctor.


  • Have regular 6 months check if you have your own teeth.

  • Dentures should be checked at least every 5 years; they may need adjustment or replacing. 


  • Wear good, supportive shoes-avoid uncomfortable shoes and slippers for daily use.

  • See the podiatrist if you have difficulty taking care of your feet.

Fitness Needs

Weight gain in midlife is common among women. Also it needs to be notified that weight gain is associated with age, and not with menopause. Studies have shown that getting stronger, increasing flexibility, and boosting cardiovascular endurance help stave off many hazards of aging. Most women recognize the unhappy tendency to gain about 10 pounds a decade after age 40. But they don't realize that they are losing muscle mass at the same time, At this age about a fourth of the weight loss is muscle. Each lost pound of muscle depresses the body's metabolism by about 40 calories a day. Strength training can replace the lost muscle, get the body's metabolism back up, and keep weight off permanently.

Major Health Benefits of Increased Physical Activity

  • Increased cardiovascular fitness by 20_25 percent

  • Increased flexibility and muscle strength

  • Decreased depression and anxiety

  • Weight loss

  • Lower blood pressure

  • Dramatic reduction of the risk of heart disease

  • Stronger immune system

  • Prevention of bone loss

  • Aerobic exercise brings additional oxygen & glucose to the brain, both of which are crucial to brain function.

  • Exercise also aids in the production of Human Growth Hormone which in turn helps us to maintain and develop muscles, strength and stamina.



Before beginning an exercise program, first consult your doctor.

A well-balanced exercise program should include:

  • Cardiovascular Training or Aerobic exercises

  • Strengthen exercises.

  • Flexibility or stretching exercises,

Cardiovascular Training

Without exercise, muscles lose strength (by 30 percent between ages 80 and 90). Bones weaken. Flexibility flags. Balance diminishes, leading to falls. Injuries aside, these problems make it difficult to walk, lift even light weights, and otherwise function normally. The remedy, is a program that builds muscle and bone and improves balance.

Decreasing physical activity and smoking cessation are major factors in weight gain with age. In middle-aged women, genetic factors remain the strongest influence on the amount and distribution of body fat, accounting for up to 60% of the variance. Among the environmental factors leading to total and central obesity, decreased physical activity is more important than energy intake and dietary composition. Overall weight gain results mainly from decreasing activity with age and can increase both general and central fatness. 

The decrease in physical activity with age need not be inevitable; women should be encouraged to maintain physical activity, even if there are some limitations (such as arthritis). It is no longer sufficient to simply exercise the heart and stretch our muscles. Strength needs to be promoted in those muscles as well. 

Whatever you decide to do, what is most important is that you stick with it. Do what you can when you can. If exercise is new to you, start slowly. Always start with warm-up exercises and end with cool-down exercises. Try for a total of ten, fifteen or twenty minutes a day and work up from there. If possible, AICR recommends working up to an hour a day of activity. You don't have to do sixty minute's worth of activity all at one time, however. You can divide it up throughout the day--ten minutes here and ten minutes there--and still reap the benefits.

Strength Training

Strength training�lifting light weights or using resistance bands�is especially important, since it builds lean muscle mass and can prevent bone deterioration. The effects of strength training include a highly toned body, enhanced strength and power, less susceptibility to injury and improved sports performance. 

In a study by Morganti et al., 20 women, all 60 years old, exercised twice a week for one year at 84 percent of one repetition maximum (RM). Performing an intense training regime, the women increased their strength in upper-body, lat pull-down by 77 percent, knee extension by 73.7 percent and double leg press by 35.1 percent. Although 40 to 50 percent of the strength gains were observed during the study's first three months, improvements in strength were observed over the program's entire 52 weeks.

Like their younger counterparts, older women also reaped the positive effects of strength training on BMD. In a study by Tufts University's Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (Nelson et al. 1994), 20 women, ages 50 to 70 years, trained at high intensity two days a week for one year. The authors reported a one percent increase in femoral neck and lumbar spine BMD in the women, compared to the control group participants (no strength training), whose BMD decreased by 2 percent.



* The major goal of strength training should be developing sufficient muscle function to enhance the ability to live a physically independent lifestyle.

* Learn the proper training techniques for all of the exercises in the program.

* Maintain normal breathing patterns while exercising, since breath holding can increase blood pressure.

* Perform all of the exercises in a slow and controlled manner. To prevent orthopedic trauma to joint structures, avoid ballistic (fast and jerky) movements.

* Never participate in strength-training exercises during active periods of arthritic pain, since exercise could exacerbate such a condition.

* Control the range of motion so that the exercises are performed through a "pain free arc" (e.g., the maximum range of motion that does not elicit pain or discomfort).

* Never use a resistance that is so heavy it cannot be lifted at least eight repetitions per set. Heavy resistance can be dangerous and damage the skeletal and joint structures. It is recommended that every set consist of eight to 12 repetitions.

* As a training effect occurs, achieve an overload initially by increasing the number of repetitions, and then by increasing the absolute resistance lifted.

* Limit each workout to one to two sets of eight to 10 different exercises. Make sure that all the major muscle groups are included in the training session.

* Don't over train. Two strength-training sessions per week are the minimum number required to produce positive physiological adaptations. Depending on the circumstances, more sessions may neither be desirable nor productive.

* Perform multi-joint exercises (as opposed to single-joint exercises) since they tend to aid in the development of functional strength.

* Given a choice, use machines to strength train, as opposed to free weights. Machines tend to require less skill, and allow individuals to start with lower resistances, increase by smaller increments (this is not true for all strength-training machines), and more easily control the exercise range of motion.

* Understand that the first several strength-training sessions should be closely supervised and monitored by a trained professional who is sensitive to the special needs and capabilities of the older adult.


WF members can log on to Strength Training Contents to know more.

Flexibility Training

Try to incorporate the following stretching exercises in your daily fitness routine:

1. Finger Stretch:

  • Place the fingertips of each hand against each other.

  • Press the palms and fingers together, creating tension along the fingers. Now relax the fingers.

  • Squeeze the fingers together in tight fists. Relax the fingers and hands.

  • Repeat 2 times, gradually increasing to 5. 

2. Breathing:

  • Sit comfortably erect in a chair with your arms at your sides.

  • As you inhale, gently raise your arms to a count of 4.

  • Bring your palms together over your head and hold your breath for a count of 4.

  • Exhale to a count of 4 as you lower your arms to the sides. Establish a rhythm of coordinated breathing and movement.

  • Repeat the exercise 3 times, and gradually increase to 10. 

3. Sit Jogging:

  • Sit in a straight back chair.

  • Inhale as you begin to lift your right foot.

  • Exhale as you begin to lower your right foot and raise your left.

  • Jog 10 steps; increase to 50.


4. Shoulder Rolls:

  • Place your fingertips on both shoulders, elbows to the sides.

  • Inhale as you circle your elbows up and back.

  • Exhale a you bring them forward and down.

  • Repeat 4 times gradually, working upto 10. 

5. Wrist Stretch: 

  • Extend your right arm. Place your left hand under the right forearm. Spread the fingers of your right hand comfortably. Flex the wrist back.

  • Stretch the wrist forward and down.

  • Repeat 2 times on each side, gradually working upto 5.


6. Shoulder Lifts:

  • As you inhale, lift both shoulders. As you exhale, lower them and relax.

  • Repeat 4 times, taking deep breaths between repetitions and increase gradually to 10.


7. Ankle Stretch:

  • Sit comfortable erect in a straight-backed chair with both your feet flat on the floor. 

  • Extend the right leg forward and inhale as you raise it off the floor, gently pointing your toe.

  • As you exhale, flex your foot so that the toes are pointing towards the ceiling.

  • Inhale again as you point your foot, and exhale as you flex it. 

  • Now wriggle your toes, relax your foot, and return it to the floor.

  • Repeat with the left leg. Gradually work upto repeating 5 times on each side.

Possible Disabilities or diseases

While reaching upto the old age a number of diseases do creep in to our bodies. These are mainly concerned with joint pain, chest pain and other kinds of illness. Some of them are listed below:

  1. Osteoporosis: This a manifestation of the normal wear and tear sustained by major joints throughout life. Adequate intake of calcium and vitamin D and regular weight-bearing exercises and strength-training exercises are the most important preventive measures you can take. Various studies have shown that when our bones are taxed from exercise they grow stronger and denser and more resistant to fracture.

  2. Respiratory Infections: The old are more at risk, too, from respiratory infections because their lung tissue has lost so much of its elasticity and resilience. They can develop certain diseases like asthma, lung cancer, etc. These can be prevented by doing deep breathing exercises, avoiding excess of smoking and pollution. 

  3. Breast Cancer: This is believed to result from a series of alterations in the genes of breast cells. The exact causes are not known but age, hormones and family history appear to play an important role. The best way to prevent this disease is early detection. Performing monthly breast self-examinations, having annual manual breast examinations by a doctor and having regular mammograms are life saving measures that every women should take. Click here for the latest news in Breast Cancer Treatment.

  4. Skin: Cleansing your skin everyday lowers your risk of skin infections by reducing the amount of oils, debris and bacteria, that accumulates. The best care of the skin is to protect it from sun. Keep eating a balanced diet, cleansing and moisturizing the skin as and when required Avoid smoking cigarettes, substances that are allergic to your skin, cuts, abrasions and burns, which can lead to infection or scarring. Check out Top 10 tips for a Healthy Complexion.

  5. Blood Pressure: More than half of all women at 60 and above have high blood pressure. High blood pressure makes your heart work harder than usual. At first, this makes your heart stiff and weak, weakens arteries and can also lead to stroke by promoting the formation of blood cells in arteries in the brain. This can be treated effectively by losing excess weight, regular exercise and through medication also. Desired Healthy blood pressure should lie within the range of 160mm hg - 170mmhg.

  6. Chest Pain (ANGINA): In the cardiovascular system, the arteries slowly harden and arterial plaque clogs up the blood vessels, a process that can lead to strokes and heart diseases. Angina is the chest pain caused by a reduced supply of oxygen to the heart muscle. You may feel a tight, heavy, or squeezing sensation deep beneath your breast bone or in a band across your chest. The pain may radiate to your left arm, shoulder, neck, jaw, or down your back. You may also experience nausea, sweating or shortness of breath. If you feel any of the above mentioned pains, consult doctor immediately, for best prevention. This often occurs during physical exertion or emotional stress and may last only a few moments.

  7. Depression: In older people, depression can result from a stroke, diabetes or some type of cancer. It can disable you emotionally, physically, socially and professionally. Depression usually results from a combination of genetic, biological, psychological and environmental factors and also sometimes from an imbalance of brain chemicals. Severe stress, grief, or other difficult changes in a person's life may contribute to this chemical imbalance. Family history is also a factor. Unlike milder feelings of sadness or the blues, major depression seldom goes away with time or an improvement in circumstances. It's treatment usually involves medication or psychotherapy or both of them together. Do if you experience any of these symptoms, consult your doctor immediately.

  8. Flu and Pneumonia:  An annual flu shot is strongly recommended for women 60 and older, as well as women with heart, liver or kidney disease, diabetes, aids, or any type of lung disorder. Even if you are in perfectly good health, you should consider having an annual flu shot. You need to get a full shot every year because new strains of the influenza virus develop every year. If you have any risk factors for complications from influenza, you should also be vaccinated against a common bacterial form of pneumonia. One vaccination provides lifelong protection. Ask your doctor about being immunized against pneumonia. 

  9. Urinary Incontinence: This is the involuntary loss of urine from your bladder. It is characterized by the leaking of urine when you sneeze or cough. One out of 3 women 60 and older, experience this disease. You may feel a growing sense of isolation as you gradually restrict your social activities for fear of having an embarrassing accident. If you experience incontinence talk to your doctor. Surgery, medication or a program of bladder training to increase the capacity of your bladder can help you regain control of the functioning of your urinary system.


  1. Memory Lapes:

    This is very common after 60 and causes the loss of intellectual abilities such as memory, thinking, reasoning, judgment, orientation and concentration and it can cause drastic changes in personality, mood and behavior. During the early stages of disease, women are cared for at home and during the later stages, women may become extremely confused, disoriented, unaware of their surroundings, irritable, suspicious, fearful or even violent. They may become unable to perform daily functions, such as dressing, eating, or using the toilet. This disease requires proper caring of the person. Good nutrition is important because deficiencies of vitamins and other nutrients can intensify the symptoms of this disease.

    Tips for mental fitness

    Learn to adapt to a lifestyle that is not governed by the need to earn a living.
    Recognize your own strengths and put them to work in new and fulfi11ing ways.
    Plan for the future so you have plenty to look forward to.
    Set yourself new goals.
    Stay tuned in to the outside world, including current events, the social scene, family life, and the arts.
    Hang on to your own identity, no matter what pressures there are to conform to the geriatric mold.
    Maintain standards of dress and behavior that add to feelings of self-respect.
    Keep self-pity and any other negative tendencies at bay so that you present a positive and purposeful image to the world.
    Be dignified, not submissive.

Don't let health problems keep you from starting an exercise program. Exercise can make a real difference not only in how you feel physically, but also mentally and emotionally.

Social Aspect

 In aging, as throughout your life, it is very important to keep active and stay interested in the world around you, and to find a supportive and challenging contexts in which to promote continued personal growth and obtain fulfillment.

  • Everyone of retirement age should build some exercise into their daily round, but under a doctor's supervision. It will pay dividends.  

  • Make a point of walking or possibly, bicycling to the store.

  • Use the stairs instead of the elevator when possible.

  • If you have no dog of your own, perhaps offer to take someone else's for a walk.

  • Take up an activity that you enjoy, such as, golf, dancing, walking, swimming, tennis, or gardening, at least 3 times a week and preferably everyday.

  • Start an exercise routine to mobilize your joints. Use the warm up and flexibility exercises.

  • A heart attack does not ban you from activity; exercise in moderation is advisable.

  • It is never too late to start.

Hence, retirement is not the end of one's life. Cope up with it as you did with all other aspects of life. Instead, retirement can give you a whole new vision of life, exploring a complete new world in itself. Millions of women today are finding these leisure years as rewarding as their working years.


Dated 08 February  2014

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