Fit 50: How To Stay Fit And Healthy At 50 Years of Age

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Fit at 50? Healthy at 50 is the better strategy!

Author: Neil Adams MBE

They say life begins at 50.

Well, I’m not so sure about that, as with everything that is successful, it takes a mixed process to get there, but it sure as hell makes life easier! It’s like what “they” say about money, that it doesn’t buy happiness. Well I’m not so sure about that one either, as it’s most likely easier for the people who have it to start preaching that particular pearl of wisdom! Probably looking at it as being the ultimate achievement and the only way to make one happy would make that true. However, having it, money and in this case health, would sure make being happier a lot easier! This is called balance and this is the true secret to being not only fit at 50, but healthy.

As a 3 times Olympic athlete in the sport of Judo, I was a training animal. 6 sessions a week, 5 hours a day, it was a full time job. Was I fit? I was superhuman! Was I healthy? Let’s just say I didn’t feel human. Not only did I have the constant battle of tournament stress, keeping my fighting weight and life in general as a young man in his 20’s & 30’s but also fighting colds, flu, headaches, mouth ulcers, you name it. Why? Because I was so concentrated on being the fittest man out there, not the healthiest. You can see my fitness levels in action on the famous Superstars TV show in the video below.

“So what is the secret, Neil Adams?” you ask. It’s not a pill, it’s not hours in the gym either, however, it does take some traits that all successful Olympic athletes must have in order to succeed and realise their goal and you, yours: persistency & consistency. These are the milestones I have carried all through my career in sport and now into business and my fitness regime. Many people ask me why I keep up the intensity of workouts and say surely Neil you can relax a bit now. My answer to them is: I do it because I can.

Now I have a “consistent” argument with my Dad who is 83 years of age and still on his road bike 3 times a week doing 30+ miles each time. He is used to doing these long work outs and then will go weeks without doing any physical activity because “he doesn’t have the time”. Sound familiar? He’s not lying. He doesn’t have the time for the 2+ hours on his bike that he enjoys. I say to him though and to you, that it is all about consistent workouts: minimum 30 minutes a day and I like to say 6-7 days a week. This even can be made simpler in that those 30 minutes don’t have to be all in one block. It can be 10 minutes, 3 times a day. My advice is that it is done in one block as you want to your heart rate up which works your heart and makes it stronger. This is easy for me to say as my job as National Coach for Neil Adams Effective Fighting affords me the time to do it this way. Any way that you can fit it in is better than nothing!

What you need to know is that cardio work outs are strength training for the heart which is a muscle in its own right. You just can’t use a dumbbell to increase its size and function, it is prolonged, persisant and consistant good work that does it. We’re not talking stress here. That’s not good heart work. However with increased heart strength you are able to combat the effects of stress on your body which leads to better overall health.

Fit 50

If you want to lose some weight, then you have to look at getting your heart rate in your target heart rate zone for a minimum of 30 minutes. Why this magic number 30? It takes 20 minutes for your heart and body to get into that fat burning zone and any time after that is fat that is melting away because you are burning it for energy. So the extra 10 minutes every day soon add up. This is of course, if we maintain the other mantra: calories in, calories out. There are many nutritional plans out there and schemes, some good, some not-so-good. It does, however, all come down to one simple equation: to maintain weight, you must burn the same amount of calories you have taken in (and this includes the calories used to perform your everyday bodily functions). To lose weight, you need to burn more calories than your bodies needs for its basic operations and more than you have taken in nutritionally. As we get older, our body uses less calories to function but we keep eating (& drinking) the same, therefore, we all tend to put on little more weight and it creeps up on us. My favourite cardio pieces are the C2 rowing machine, the Elliptical trainer and the Versa Climber all which use your whole body as well as pumping that heart muscle. If I’m bored or lack the motivation for a workout, I break up my workout on all 3 pieces so do 10-15 minutes on each.

I used to run. I used to run a lot. I did the London Marathon in fact. I ran so much, that my hips gave out at 42 years of age and then the other at 51. It is just an example of not keeping the balance and how over training can be just as bad as not training at all. In fact, over training can and will lead to not training at all as you will be injured and sick. It is important to find the exercises that you will continue to do and in a regular manner that will not harm your body or harm the programme you have set out for yourself.

fit and healthy at  50

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So enough of the theory, let’s get practical. Should you bound up to the local gym doors? If you want and you like the social aspect of a gym, then sure! There are also ways you can keep fit and healthy at home, at the office or on the road, if you travel a lot like I do. Again, my first mantra of Persistency & Consistency comes into play here. If we are going for the healthy option as I hope we all are, we need to look at endurance training and not body building to be the next Arnie. I work out every day. 30-45 minutes cardiovascular and 30 minute weights circuits which keeps my ticker going and adds more cardio time onto my minimum of 20 minutes. I do 3 sets, which means I do the whole circuit 3 times. Within each of those circuits, I perform 6-10 exercises. For each exercise, I do 20-30 repetitions, or reps as they say in the industry. I take a 2minute rest in between each circuit. This template can be used on any sort of gym and home health equipment. Let me share with you my favourites.

Rubber Band Training

These rubber bands are long stretches of rubberized material and come in different densities that act as different strengths or resistance. If you have had an injury and have had to see a physiotherapist, they most likely gave you rehabilitation exercises using the bands. No need to stop once your injury is healed and many shops have packages on sale with exercises included in them. This is called strength in extension and it develops the mussels to endure long, steady periods of whole muscle use. You will recognise this sort of strength in gymnasts. Here are some of my favourites:

Bicep curl

Tricep extention

Lateral shoulder raises

Upright row

We took the time to develop our own resistance bands for Judo player​s and they are also being used by non Judoka across the globe.  One of  the major reasons behind their popularity with Judo players and non Judo people is the unique construction. Using the same type of material that is found on a Judo suit, our bands challenge every fitness area. From cardio to Grip strength, the bands when combined with our unique Judo workout moves provide the user with an amazing and challenging workout for any age, or they can be used for rehabilitation purposes as well.  You can see my personal workout using the bands below in a video that has had 10,000 views on YouTube.  For more information on the bands please go to our Uchikomi Bands Page

The TRX®

This is one of my new favourites and it travels with me everywhere. The TRX® is an apparatus that hangs from a door or a beam or if you are in your gym, they may have special stations and hooks, even classes. The exercises performed on this piece of equipment are body weight based and may be used after some sort of basic strength programme has already been achieved. In short, I wouldn’t recommend starting with the TRX® but it is a great way to up your game and keep your workouts challenging and variable. You can work your whole body with this piece of equipment and it has helped me tremendously through both my hip replacement rehabs. These are my favourites.

Body pull up

Reverse sit up

Incline pressup

One legged squats

Swiss Ball

The Swiss ball is a great piece of equipment, that if you have a travel pump can be as mobile as the bands and the TRX®. Again, exercises done on the ball are body weight but also develop that all important core stability that is essential to health as we find the years creeping up chronologically. The fact that it will improve your golf game massively also helps! These exercises help your core muscles, which are abdominals (tummy), obliques (side), and spinal erecti (back along the spine) and serve as the basis for basic motor movement and tasks that we perform on an every day basis. Keeping these healthy makes for easier mobility….and it doesn’t make you look half-bad either!

Some exercises:




Press ups- on the ball

Press ups- legs on the ball

Hamstring curls

Looking after yourself takes commitment and it takes time and one of our biggest misdemeanours is not making ourselves a priority. Take your daily agenda and block out some time, just as you would a meeting with your boss, or a doctor’s appointment. It is just as important, if not more to keep that date with yourself as part of your work-life balance and healthy lifestyle programme. So I take that back what I said at the beginning, life can start at 50 and a healthy, fit one at that!

Neil Adams MBE is a Double Silver Olympic medallist and former World Champion in Judo. He was the 1996 GB Olympic Coach, 2009-2012 the Belgian National Coach and is presently the Senior Technical Director at Neil Adams Effective Fighting Ltd. Neil will be 57 years old in September.

For any further information, please feel free to contact him at

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