Why it’s good to exercise over the age of 50

Nicolette Dirk, finance writer, moneybags.co.za

The symptoms of osteoporosis, bad posture and muscle weakening can be prevented by exercising over the age of 50.

This is what the South African Seniors Fitness Association (SASFA) conveys to elderly people they train at various old age homes and institutes since 1999.

Using vibrant music and an energetic instructor, people all over the country can work up a sweat, no matter what their age.

“It’s not about looking good as much as feeling good when it comes to exercising over the age of 50,” says Iona Henning, chairperson and national trainer of SASFA.

Henning’s series of exercises focuses on suppleness, cardio and strengthening. Her team of 200 trainers go to various old age homes where they take the over 50’s through their paces.

Henning says the senior fitness exercise program comprises of flexibility, balance, poise, co-ordination and stamina, muscle strengthening and cardiovascular exercises. “These exercises are set to enjoyable and stimulating music. Our senior instructors are all fully trained and hold a National Certificate,” says Henning.

Why is exercise important for over 50s?

Henning says that exercising over a certain age is important to feel good and live a quality life.

“Exercise teaches the body balance and many elderly people struggle with this. They end up falling and hurting themselves without even knowing. Some senior citizens living alone will lose their balance, fall and die without anyone there to assist them,” says Henning.

According to www.iofbonehealth.org osteoporosis is estimated to affect 200 million women worldwide – approximately one-tenth of women aged 60, one-fifth of women aged 70, two-fifths of women aged 80 and two-thirds of women aged 90.

“Osteoporosis is a debilitating illness but through exercise you help to strengthen your skeleton. This also helps with the bone density which is a symptom of osteoporosis,” says Henning.


Some reports state that regular physical activity lowers your risk for a variety of conditions, including Alzheimer’s and dementia, heart disease, diabetes, colon cancer, high blood pressure, and obesity.

“The rule is to listen to your body. You could get a frisky 90-year old or a risky 50-year old. People are all different and you should only push your body as far as it can go,” says Henning.

What type of exercises can older people do?

Henning says clients get a cardio workout from her program. However, she never lets them do anything that causes them pain. For this reason she advises people over the age of 45 years to steer clear of high impact aerobics.

Any unnatural movement like twisting the ankle or turning the neck is not good for someone over the age of 45 years because your bones are getting brittle.

Henning and her team even work with elderly people in wheelchairs and people suffering from Alzheimer’s. Her exercise with bedridden people will focus on isometric exercise. Isometric exercises are  usually done in static positions best suited for bed-ridden patients.

For her Alzheimer’s patients, Henning gets them to exercise in the same way children do at a kindergarten to stimulate their movement, despite them not being lucid at all times.

“The important thing is to do something. Older people don’t have to sit in pain and do no exercise because it will only make them feel better,” says Henning.

Moneybags says:

Consult your physician before taking part in an exercise program.

If you are over 50 and doing an exercise keep your movement natural.  Maintain a heel toe movement when you jog and never go beyond the point of pain over the age of 45 years.

For more information on SASFA call 010 222 0070.