Getting the approach right

For this week’s blog, I thought I’d share an email I received earlier this week from a chap called Kevin and my response.  It’s about medical suitability for exercise, and some overall guidelines on nutrition and activity for someone of 50+.  It’s really about getting the approach right in this fitness-up, fatness-down personal project.

I’m blogging this as I hope my comments will be appropriate for a wider audience, perhaps including your good self…

Any questions or comments welcome, as always, on


Kevin wrote:

Hi – I’m 52 and l used to smoke heavily but quit 6 years ago. After that l put weight on (4 stone) which was due to a combination of beer, junk food and not doing anything to burn off calories. My job is not physical either. I am now dieting and eating a healthier diet of meat fish veg and salad. I have lost a stone in the past month but l want to lose more and get fit. This is not a fad/new years resolution but a serious attempt to change my lifestyle. The main worry is am l eating enough and will exercising now at my age be dangerous, do l need to take medical advice?




My response:

Hi Kevin

Many thanks for getting in touch.

If you’ve any doubts about your suitability for exercise, you would always be wise to seek medical advice.  Any personal trainer – such as me – would ask you to sign an industry-standard medical declaration in advance, and that declaration asks you to self-assess your suitability, and asks you to seek your doctor if you’ve any doubt.  In addition, any decent personal trainer will discuss your response to this questionnaire, even if it is perfect (actually, especially it is perfect) to ensure that the trainer is happy with the responses given.  There will once again be the advice given that even though the form indicates nothing of alarm, medical clearance should be sought if there is any concern or doubt.

However, if your underlying health is good, you have no medical conditions, and your blood pressure is in the normal range, then it’s likely that you’ll be fit for exercise.  But start slowly and build up – you aren’t in your twenties any more, and the body doesn’t take as well to adaption to and reaction to stresses at your (and my age) than it does for those half our years and less.  Take any ache seriously and take a day off exercising where it hurts.  I’m a big believer in listening to your body, a skill we all have but sometimes don’t use   But, just to confirm, once again, see the doctor if you’ve any doubts.

It sounds like you have adopted a much healthier diet, which is great, and the foods you mention are indeed the right way to go.  My nutrition advice, in one sentence, is to cut the calories overall, and within that, cut the sugar, other ‘fast’ carbs and saturated fats the most, and fill in some of those calories eliminated by upping the protein.  Beyond that sentence, maybe add some extra protein in the shape of a protein shake.  Meat or fish, both with loads of green veg and/or salad is a winning combination for dinner.

On the exercise front, combining your new diet with moderate cardio exercise is good for losing fat.  And the ideal time to do cardio is first thing in the morning, pre-breakfast, therefore continuing the body’s overnight fat-burning period.  If you do this, some black coffee or a fat burner (I can recommend one) would be ideal to take beforehand, but don’t have anything with calories (such as milk or sugar) prior to the cardio, and of course keep hydrated. Come back to a good breakfast with protein as well as carbs after.

Make sure you are doing some resistance training too (weights or weight-simulating machines) to add back some of the muscle that you will probably lose with the diet and as part of the cardio.  This is best later on in the day, and try to do this at least two or three days per week. If you only do this once or twice per week, do exercises that cover the main muscle groups only across the whole body (chest, back, quads, hamstrings), ideally with compound (multi-joint movement) exercises.  If you can do three or more sessions a week, then something more complex on a body-split basis is appropriate, and you can probably add in dedicated biceps, triceps, shoulders and calf work as well as abs training to those bigger muscle groups, and add some isolation training to the compound moves.

There’s a lot more on all these aspects on my web site – which I encourage you to look at.

Finally, if you’d like something more personally tailored to your needs, I offer a one-to-one Skype consultancy session that may help, or we could meet in Central London for an hour, or longer if you want have a Personal Training or in-gym Fitness Consultancy session.

I hope this is of help to you, please let me know how you get on or if I can help further.