Run Strong at Any Age

"If you've been walking, try adding some running. If you've been running at an easy pace, try doing some gentle fartleks." Fartleks combine aerobic and anaerobic training. To perform them, jog for 10 minutes as a warm-up, then run hard for four minutes with a one-minute recovery. Repeat two to three times and finish with a 10-minute cool down.

Muscles become accustomed to a training program very quickly, says Hinton, "so by changing your routine every six to eight weeks, you keep your muscles guessing and continue to build strength."

It's not too late to start running and see benefits. Begin with walking, Hinton says. Once you can walk four times a week for at least 30 minutes, incorporate some short run segments. Each week, slowly increase the run segments and decrease the walk segments. Build to a 30-minute run over an eight- to 10-week period.

In Your 50s and Beyond

You may not sprint as fast as you once did, but you can still run well at longer distances as long as you get adequate rest and recovery time. A University of Florida study showed that VO2 max dips by 10 percent between the ages of 50 and 60 and then drops 12 to 15 percent during the 70s. For a runner, this is equivalent to losing 30 seconds per year from a 10k PR.

Most women experience menopause during these years--the average age is 51--and "running can alleviate mood swings, sleep problems and other side effects of menopause," says Hinton. Post menopause, women lose 2 to 5 percent of bone mass. The good news: Running helps strengthen bones and slows down the rate of bone loss. '

"Running makes bone compress on impact and then relax between strides, stimulating the bone to grow," says Pribut. "To help bone retain its strength, slowly increase the amount of running you're doing."

Cross-training and strength training are essential, says Hinton. "Strength training, at least three times a week, will help you avoid losing as much muscle mass as those who are sedentary," she says. "And flexibility decreases as we age. Stretch after every single run. Doing so will help keep you from developing the old lady shuffle."

As you get older, nutrient needs are higher even though caloric needs are lower. Women age 50 and older require 1,600 calories to 2,200 calories a day depending on their activity levels, according to the National Institute on Aging. "Choose nutrient-dense foods like whole grains, cereals, beans and fresh fruit," Dorfman advises. "If you've been taking care of yourself for the last 20 or 30 years, you're ready to keep running in these years and beyond."

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