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The #1 Best All-Around Exercise for Every Post-50 Body

BHG doing the plank on aarp youtube channel

Recently I introduced you to one of the best exercises anyone, of any age, can do to fight osteoporosis AND get those upper arms looking lean and mean. In case you missed it, click here to read the blog post and see the short video: "Fix the Flaw: How to Get Fit Arms After 50." 

For those of you who were inspired enough to get down and "do ten" (I hope that was all of you!) get ready, 'cause we're just getting warmed up.

As promised, I'll now introduce you to what is probably the #1 best all-around, full-body strengthening and toning exercise there is: the Plank. It works out your arms, legs, hips, core, back and tush - pretty much your entire body  - and it's an exercise that benefits both men and women (like the push-up). But, like most things in life, it isn't a magic bullet. You need to combine this with other things like eating well, moving your body every day (walking is great), and being committed. If you 're considering adding running to your fitness program, check out this article and video for run after 50 . . . for life: "Running After 50: You CAN Do It!"

Discussion: Do you exercise regularly?

For sure, it isn't always easy to firm up our bodies as we get older. The good news? As I learned firsthand after I turned 50 a few years ago, it's far from impossible, especially if you incorporate this incredibly efficient & effective exercise into your fitness program.

I did my first Plank while taking a mat Pilates class a few years ago. I thought it was incredibly hard, but almost Zen-like because you have to be totally and completely still for 60 seconds. (You may need to work up to that time, as did I.) It's an amazing exercise that works your entire body.

After I turned 50 and was trying to figure out how to get my body back into shape, lose the postmenopausal 15 pounds I had packed on, and fight osteoporosis by strengthening my muscles, I interviewed many experts for my book who taught me how to do the Plank so it really works. Proper form is key, so be sure to read the instructions below and be sure to watch this video, which is part of the new "The Best of Everything" video series for the AARP YouTube Channel.  The last thing you want to do as you're embarking on a new fitness program is do it incorrectly and get hurt.


Here's what you'll need:

  •   yoga mat or rug
  •   sneakers
  •   formfitting workout clothes (so you can check on your form)
  •   timer (most smartphones have one)

Here are the rules:

  •   Get the green light from your doctor.
  •   Do this every day.
  •   Try to hold the pose for 60 seconds, but take your time building up to it. Try 30 seconds, then 45, until you hit your goal.
  •   If you can take a 10-second "breather" and do another one, go for it!
  •   Follow the exact directions for each move (details below).
  •   Remember to breathe!
  •   Stop doing the exercise if you feel any kind of pain. These should be a challenge, but not painful.

  How to do The Plank:

Hold your body in a "plank" position, simulating the "up" part of a push-up . . . but stay there, holding perfectly still for 30 to 60 seconds. Keep your abs tight and your back flat the entire time, with your elbows slightly bent. Try to lengthen your whole body, reaching back through your heels and forward through the top of your head. Never let your abs droop down. Visualize a string attached to your spine, pulling your belly button up toward the ceiling. In essence, every single part of your body should be tight, taut and still.

When you do the Plank properly, your heart will be pounding, your arms will be shaking, and you'll be waiting for that little "ding" from your timer letting you know that the 60 seconds (or 30, or 45) have passed.

 (Note: If you have wrist problems, try doing a variation with your arms bent so that your forearms are on the floor facing forward and your shoulders are directly over your elbows, as shown in the video.)

Other things you can do to help with your overall fitness program:

  • Try to do some kind of cardio exercise every day for at least 30 minutes: Walk, run, elliptical, swim, bike, Zumba, whatever you enjoy doing.
  • Eat small, healthy meals throughout the day (every two to three hours) that include whole grains, dark leafy greens and no processed foods or sugar.
  • Drink lots of water and green tea
Questions? I want to hear from you! Let me know how you're doing with the exercises. For more tips on living your best life after 50 (or 60, or 70...) check out The Best of Everything After 50: The Experts' Guide to Style, Sex, Health, Money and More and Keep me posted on how you're doing by subscribing to me on Facebook and "tweeting" me on Twitter at @BGrufferman.  Check out the full video series - The Best of Everything - on the AARP YouTube Channel. 

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