exercise 50s

Left: AMR Image/istockphoto / Right: RyanJLane/istokphoto

4 of 5
Decade: 50s

What to do: Tennis, dancing, hiking
Why: Weight-bearing exercises like these help you maintain bone density, which generally starts to drop once you enter menopause (declining estrogen levels play a role). Why are weight-bearing exercises so helpful at this point? "Bone is living tissue, and it only keeps itself as strong as it needs to be," says Elizabeth Matzkin, MD, chief of women's sports medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. "So if you regularly stress your bones, they'll maintain greater strength to keep up with your activities."
The Plan: Aim for 30 minutes of weight-bearing activity daily. If that doesn't work with your schedule, Matzkin says you can get the same benefit with fewer but longer workouts, as long as you lengthen your workouts slowly to avoid injury.

What to do: Exercises that build your leg muscles
Why: The more powerful your legs are, the better your brain will age, found a recent study in Gerontology. Researchers looked at sets of female twins with an average age of 50 and found that within the pairs, the twin with stronger legs had a brain that aged better (both structurally and functionally) over a 10-year period. The strong legs/strong mind connection isn't totally understood, but one theory is that when our muscles are put to work, they release neurochemicals that stimulate brain cells, and since leg muscles are among the largest muscles in the body, they may release more.
The Plan: The researchers recommend doing activities that boost your legs' explosive power, like running, jumping, skipping and dancing 3 times a week for 45 minutes.