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Over 50? Don't Make This Big Mistake, Warn Experts

Don't let yourself stagnate, physically or mentally.

By age 50, many of us are looking to slow down a bit, enjoy what we've accomplished, and appreciate life a little more. But the key to living another half-century is not slowing to a stop. If you're over 50, experts have an important piece of advice: Don't let yourself stagnate, physically or mentally. Staying mentally and physically active can have major, wide-ranging benefits for your health, keeping your heart strong, your brain in top shape, and slashing your risk of chronic disease. Read on for the 5 essential tips—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You May Have Already Had COVID.


Remember Your Adult Life is Only Half Over


By definition, 50 is true middle age—the midpoint of adulthood that indicates there's a lot of time left. According to actuarial tables, the average 50 year old will live to age 80. If adult life begins at 21, you've lived 29 years as an adult, and you have 30 years to go. "At 50, your adult life is only half over," says Robert Beam, MD, a family medicine specialist with Novant Health-GoHealth Urgent Care in North Carolina. "There is plenty of time to learn a new language, learn to play a musical instrument, check out scuba diving, kickboxing, or even go to college." Maintaining the outlook that these are years to fill with activity will help keep you healthy.

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Stay Physically Active


As we age, most of us get less active—at the precise time our bodies need us to keep moving. Being too sedentary is a major risk factor for obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart attack, stroke, and reduced bone density. Getting more exercise lowers the risk of all six. The American Heart Association recommends getting 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week (or 75 minutes of vigorous activity), plus muscle-strengthening exercise two times a week. Moderate-intensity exercise includes activities like brisk walking or gardening, while vigorous exercise includes running, biking, or swimming.

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Take Mini-Breaks

Woman walking up stairs to exercise

Even small amounts of activity can make a real difference. If you sit for most of the day, Sarah Rettinger, MD, an endocrinologist at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California, recommends setting a timer reminding you to get up and move once every hour, for five to ten minutes. "Take a short walk outside, walk stairs, take a few laps around the house or apartment, do a few jumping jacks—anything to get your heart rate up a bit, or to make you a little out of breath," she says. "Over the course of a day, these mini-breaks really add up."

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Stay Mentally Active


Additionally, staying mentally active and engaged can keep your brain healthy, lowering the risk of depression and anxiety and reducing your risk of developing cognitive decline and dementia in the later years.

An important piece of that is staying socially connected and active. Studies have found that loneliness can have negative health effects similar to smoking 15 cigarettes a day and may increase older adults' risk of developing dementia by 50%. Do everything you can to stay social: Socialize regularly with friends and loved ones, join activity groups, or volunteer. Studies have found that mentoring young people is particularly good for brain health.

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Stay Positive

Portrait of happy mature woman wearing eyeglasses and looking at camera. Closeup face of smiling woman sitting in cafeteria with hand on chin. Successful lady in a cafe pub.

If you view aging as only a period of decline, it could become a self-fulfilling prophecy. "Having a positive view of aging is associated with both living longer and living better," says Scott Kaiser, MD, a board-certified geriatrician at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California. Scientists at Yale have determined that people who have positive self-perceptions about growing older live 7.5 years longer, on average, and have lower rates of dementia than people with a more negative outlook. And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor whose health and lifestyle content has also been published on Beachbody and Openfit. A contributing writer for Eat This, Not That!, he has also been published in New York, Architectural Digest, Interview, and many others. Read more about Michael