Aging is inevitable. Reaching the milestone of 50 will bring health challenges like increased risk for heart attack, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, weight gain, and muscle loss. Prevention is the best medicine for any aging health problems, but there will always be health risks that will remain out of your control. You have the choice before and after you reach 50 to stay focused on the health factors you can control. Even if you weren’t a regular exerciser before you turned 50, it’s never too late to make fitness over 50 a fixture in your life. While aging is inevitable, feeling your age is a choice. If you want to combat the plague of health risks nagging you as you age, make fitness a staple in your life, and you will look and feel tremendous. Your body, both inside and out, will thank you. There is no rule that says once you reach 50 (60, 70, etc) you have to throw in the towel. There will always be challenges from arthritis, old injuries, or a lack of energy, but don’t you think exercise could be just the medicine to stop those ailments in their tracks?

Here are some tips:

Be Honest. It all starts with honesty. You have to be honest with yourself about your exercise history and your commitment level. If you have gone through life as a “once-in-a-while” exerciser, you can’t just decide to sign up for a triathlon. You’ll get so burnt out before you even get started. If you feel you have the wherewithal to engage fully your time and efforts toward a triathlon or marathon, by all means do it! There are plenty of 50-, 60-, and even 90-somethings doing crazy athletic things like surfing and running marathons. This is where honesty comes in. You don’t have to go bananas with the training to stay fit after 50. Walking every day is a start. Just get moving. The rest will take care of itself.

Look For Inspiration. Speaking of 90 year olds surfing, search for examples of older people doing remarkable things well past the point anyone thought they could. Use these individuals as examples, not necessarily to do exactly what they are doing (but wouldn’t that be great?), but to take note of how they are not letting society label them “old”. Generations change, and it’s no secret that “Generation X” will not lay down when they age. In the meantime society is currently labeling older individuals as stagnant and observers are following the example they see.

Be Different. Don’t let the world label you. Fitness over 50 is a real choice and a great choice. Stay flexible, stay active. Walk, jog, and run. Keep your heart active, but always stay within a safe heart rate zone. Ignore the myth that you can’t build muscle. Your muscles still work just fine.

Don’t Eat Like You’re 18. You can enjoy treats, but you can’t eat like you did when you were 18. Drink water like a fish and eat nutritious foods. Have a good balance of protein, carbs, and fat (40%, 40%, 20%). Eat a lot of vegetables and fruits.

Have Fun. Think of fitness over 50 as fun preparation for retirement. Don’t spend all your life working just to be too out of shape and worn down to enjoy any of your retirement.