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After 50, All Roads Lead to Fitness

Want energy, good looks and a youthful attitude? Get fit!

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Here's how I turned things around

  • First, I made myself a priority. Many may be depending on you, but you have to be in good mental and physical health to be of service to any of them.

  • I started down my path to fitness by going for slow runs with walk breaks, and I learned how to do push-ups and other strengthening exercises to prevent bone density loss and, therefore, osteoporosis. (Consult your doctor before starting a new exercise regimen.)
  • I scheduled annual health checkups and kept up with the latest health and wellness information specifically geared to people over 50. I changed the way I ate by cutting out processed foods and the "white stuff" (sugar, potatoes, white rice and pasta) and added lots of whole grains (quinoa and brown rice are great options), dark leafy greens and other calcium-rich foods.

  • I dropped the bad habits I'd slipped into, such as not sleeping enough and not moving my body every day. That helped me shed (and keep off) the 15 pounds I had gained after menopause.

In other words, I took complete control of my health, wellness and life.

Because experts say that to see something work, you need to give it three months, I made a commitment to try out my fitness plan for that amount of time. Sure enough, after three months I saw my health, fitness and life turn around. My energy returned, and to celebrate my 55th birthday, I ran in the New York City Marathon. I am ready for whatever's next.

See also: Biggest Loser guru Bob Harper on getting fit for good

Thanks to the push-ups and other exercises I now do, my body is stronger than ever. The combination of exercise and eating better changed how I look in my clothes and how I feel about my body. When I was overwhelmed by life, my shoulders would sag and I'm sure I looked like a defeated woman. Now, I walk straight, stand tall and present myself with a sense of confidence I truly feel.

More important, my key health-check numbers (cholesterol, blood pressure, bone density) have improved, which has certainly diminished my risks for contracting certain diseases, illnesses and conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and some cancers that are directly linked with weight, poor nutrition and lack of exercise.

A plan just for you

While I chose a specific exercise program that includes running, walking and push-ups, there are many roads that lead to fitness. For you, it may be tennis, dancing, yoga, swimming, tai chi, Zumba, basketball — or all of the above!

Whatever you choose, try to do something every day, even if it's just going out for a long walk. (Quick tip: Get yourself a simple pedometer and walk 10,000 steps every day.) You'll feel better and look better, and your body, mind and spirit will be ready for whatever's next.

Barbara Hannah Grufferman writes about living and aging well for AARP Media.

Video Extra

FITNESS AFTER 50: Learn how to have strong, toned arms.

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