Over the years I’ve met a lot of people in my age bracket (50+) who want to both increase their fitness levels and reduce their fatness levels. I find a great breadth of interest in fitness from these people.

Many are happy to take it to a highly-detailed level, quantifying calories, grams of macronutrients, day-long eating time schedules, very involved resistance workouts and cardio agendas. I call this group the ‘Number-Crunchers’.

I love them and indeed I am one myself!

But there’s another, larger group who want general guidelines for a healthier lifestyle. They are happy not to be quite so focused and full of equations as the other group, but are keen to have guidelines or rules that will help them achieve their fitness-up and fatness-down goals.

For this group, I have devised some simple rules to follow

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In this article I will describe my Elementary Approach to Fitness. This approach is elementary in more ways than one.  However don’t let that sound like a negative. They are absolutely effective!

There are three parts to the approach, each of which is just two words.  So the whole thing is covered by just six words!  Each of these two word phrases breaks down into a few guidelines, but if that’s too much detail, remember those six words – two words for each of three parts.

Just following these six words has the power to change your life forever!

The six words of the elementary approach to fitness over 50

A – Eat Less:

Most of the Western world tends to eat too much. Many people would get considerable benefits by simply reducing the amount eaten, whilst increasing the movement level.  That really will do it.

Here are some further guidelines on this:

1. Within this ‘eating less’ approach, add ‘Eat Better’.  Cut the total amount overall, but keep the protein and fibre up and the sugars and saturated fats down.  Don’t try to eliminate the saturated fats completely, the body needs some. Try to only have saturated fats that come with protein attached.

2. Try to plan your eating every day.  Think of what you are going to eat, and approximately when.  It’s best to write that plan down. ‘Plan your eats, then eat your plan’, sums it up! My preferred plan usually has breakfast, morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack, and dinner at three-hourly intervals – which neatly gives me the 12-hours of eating in each 24 – plus an extra feed straight after a weights workout to make 6 meals a day.

3. If you decide to eat something that you know you shouldn’t, make it worth it – quality not quantity. A glass of good wine to replace several of standard stuff, or maybe a pint of craft-brewed ale with natural ingredients rather than a few of the amber fizzy stuff.  Same for bread too.

But don’t be a diet bore – if you’re going out to a social function, enjoy the event, try to follow the guidelines – and if you’ve planned your day well, then you have probably eaten less earlier in the day to allow for a few excesses at the event!

B – Exercise More:

elementary approach to fitness_2

The body is happy to accept exercise in any form -going to the gym and formal training sessions aren’t the only form of exercise that counts.  Your body actually wants to move, to exercise, it’s only your brain that’s advising you differently.

1.  Try to get some cardio in your life as a regular session – that’s a brisk walk, jog, bike ride, cross-trainer, something that gets your heart rate up for around 20-40 minutes.  An ideal time is pre-breakfast, as this is the best time for the body to supply fat as a fuel.   In addition, later in the day put in a resistance or weight training session on two or three non-adjacent days per week.  There are many examples of exercises available, including on my web site, and try to include exercises for the major muscle groups of the legs, chest and back.

2.  Progress incrementally, but do make sure you progress!  If you can do 8 good repetitions on one exercise for example, then try 10 next time.  And if you do that, try 12 the time after.  Then, with success there, increase the weight but drop the repetitions to 8 as your target next time.  To do this, record your exercise progress as recording your data is key to the week-on-week encouragement  and inspiration. Measurement is motivation!

3. Find exercise activities in your daily life – walk up stairs rather than taking the lift,  walk rather than drive for a short journey – and if you are walking, do it briskly with a good arm swing – if you walk 40% quicker than before you will burn 40% more calories per minute!  Not only that but you get to where you are going earlier!

C  – Extend Nights:

The body’s primary fat burning period is overnight, specifically the period between a few hours after eating the last meal up until when calories are consumed again. This period is gold dust to the keen fat-burner, make use of it by following these three guidelines:

1. Create a 12 hour gap between consuming calories.  So if you ate dinner at 8pm, don’t have breakfast (or any other calories) until 8am. If you know you have an early start tomorrow and have to eat breakfast at 6am, then tonight’s eating and drinking should be done by 6pm.

2. Get some light/moderate calorie-burning exercise in for some part of the 11th hour of those 12.  So once you wake up, go for the 20-40 minute cardio I mentioned before. Nothing intense or anaerobic that is going to demand fuel from anywhere other than your fat reserves.

3. Have some coffee before that morning exercise.  No sugar or milk, of course, as they contain calories and that would break the 12-hour no-calorie guideline. But the caffeine in black coffee is fine and acts both as a stimulant and helps the fat cells release fat to the bloodstream for use as fuel.

That’s it, just those three guidelines.  There’s much more I can say about each of those points, but the above is all you need to get going. Also, if you can’t follow this every day, do it when you can. The higher percentage of days that you can do this means the quicker you will obtain your results.

The best thing about the Elementary approach is that it works! I have used it on myself with success, and have a range of clients using this approach, and they have either achieved their targets or are well on the way to doing so.

And to remind you of the three big areas, it really is Elementary:

E                Eat
L                Less
E                Exercise
M               More
E                Extend
N               Nights
T                Towards
A               A
R               Renewed
Y               You

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