Cardiovascular training is one of the best things you can do as you age — it improves your mobility and flexibility, improves your endurance and helps you sleep better, according to WebMD. Plus, doing cardio can even extend your life! But along with the good, there is also the bad. Over time, cardio can limit your progress, unnecessarily wear down your joints, and even worsen your condition. We’ve rounded up some of the worst cardio habits that are destroying your body after 50, so read on to learn more about them and how to avoid them to thrive in your 50s and beyond.
1. You train despite pain or injury.
That’s a big no-no. While it’s admirable to exercise “no matter what,” always play the long-term game with fitness. If you have pain or injury, take a step back so you can take two steps forward while resting and rehabilitating. However, if you solve problems, you risk making them worse, which could lead to an even longer absence from training and a deterioration in your physical condition.
2. You’re not adding low-impact cardio.
Running, for example, is great cardio, but if you’re only running on pavement, it can be hard on your joints and tendons, especially if you’re untrained and have poor technique.
Instead, it’s far better for your muscles, joints, and overall progress to use a variety of methods to occasionally give your body a break while improving your fitness. Add methods like cycling, swimming, hiking or rowing to your weekly routine and you will feel the difference.
3. You train too often.
It’s fine to exercise several times a week, but if you’re pushing every day, or sometimes twice a day, you’re putting way too much pressure on your body. As you age, your body recovers more slowly, so you need to manage your training frequency to give your muscles, joints and ligaments a chance to recover and rebuild so you can get back to 100%.
4. You push yourself to exhaustion too often.
You shouldn’t exhaust yourself every time you train. Sure, it’s okay to feel tired after a long workout, but if you do that every time, you’re putting a lot more stress on your body than you can recover from.
5. You skip warm-ups and cool-downs.
When it comes to cardio, many people skip the warm-up and jump right into the workout. The problem, however, is that you won’t prepare your body to handle physical activity, and you’ll increase your risk of injury, muscle aches, or just plain poor performance.
Always do a full warm-up, especially if you’re older. Then, when you’re done with your workout, stretch your muscles to improve your flexibility, which is essential in your 50s and beyond.
6. You always use the highest intensity.
High-intensity training – pushing your heart rate up – has its value, but if you always train this way, you’re missing out on a lot more benefits. A low-intensity, long-duration workout does wonders for your cardiovascular health without tiring you out.
However, high-intensity cardio can also be very demanding. Do it only once or twice a week and mix in lower intensity workouts to improve your full spectrum of conditioning.
7. You are using poor technique.
Always use proper technique when doing cardio. Whether you’re running or swimming, exercising with poor form can lead to overuse injuries because you’re putting a lot of repetitive stress on the wrong muscles and joints.
For example, running is not simply “walking very fast”; it requires correct foot strike, posture, shoes, cadence, etc. When in doubt, have a coach oversee your form so you can feel good for years to come.
Anthony J. Yeung
Anthony J. Yeung, CSCS, is a fitness expert featured in Esquire, GQ, and Men’s Health and the founder of GroomBuilder, the destination for men who want to transform their bodies for their weddings. Join the free 5-day course to burn fat and build muscle for the big day! Learn more about Anthony