If you’re over 50 and out of shape, the thought of exercise can seem like a daunting prospect. You may be in pain or just plain tired after doing absolutely anything for three (3) minutes. The good news is that there are plenty of exercises that will help get you started on your way to fitness without causing too much discomfort.
Here are 11 workouts specifically for people who are older and out of shape but ready to start moving again!
If you’ve never been a regular exerciser, walking is a great place to start. You don’t need any fancy equipment or a membership at a gym. All you need is the will to get going and ten (10) minutes of your time.
Start with just five-minute walks three (3) times a day, at least once every other day. If possible, go for long walks on some days as well as increase the number of days per week that you walk (but always allow yourself those rest days).
If five (5) minutes isn’t enough, gradually increase how long you walk until you’re doing 20-30 minutes daily. Remember that it’s better to do little and often than one big session each week. If it takes 30 minutes to walk, but you only have 20 minutes to spare, take two short walks rather than a single long one.
Many older people have put off rowing because they believe it’s only for young athletes. In fact, rowing is a great exercise that targets big muscle groups and works your heart too (11). It can be done on the water or on an indoor rower, which simulates going out onto the river. However, you don’t need access to a gym with a rower to get it done.
You can use an old-fashioned hand-operated rower (you push the handle towards you while keeping your back straight) or a sliding seat machine, which acts like being on an actual boat.
Start slowly if necessary. Both types of rowers have adjustable resistance settings, so you can make it easier or harder, depending on your fitness level. If you’re very unfit, use the old-fashioned version, which is light and easy to use for beginners, but be sure to work gradually towards using a sliding seat machine whenever possible.
Cardio exercise should always come before strength training if you’re new to working out – and swimming is an excellent cardio workout! You can choose between different strokes (front crawl, backstroke, etc.), which will work different muscles in your arms, legs, and chest/back area.
It’s important not to overstretch when doing any exercise for the first time because this increases your risk of injury (9). So stick with the front crawl initially rather than trying other strokes that might be too complicated. Swimming is safe for older people, but avoid diving into pools if you have any joint pain or arthritis, as this type of impact could make it worse.
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Many people are wary of traditional “stretching” exercises because they can often lead to injuries, especially if you’re not used to doing them. Yoga is a good alternative because there’s no jumping around or sudden movements that put a strain on your muscles and joints.
There are many different types of yoga that can all do slightly different things. Bikram yoga takes place in rooms heated up to 40 degrees celsius, so you can expect an intense cardiovascular workout combined with weight loss. Vinyasa flow focuses on the breath rather than stretching poses; this is perfect for those who want to focus on their flexibility. Yin yoga is a slow-paced and relaxing form of practice.
Start by attending a beginners’ yoga class once a week, and then gradually increase the number of days you attend. If you’re feeling adventurous, purchase a yoga DVD or online streaming service so you can do it in the comfort of your own home.
Like yoga, Pilates is another low-impact exercise that’s perfect for older people and those who are out of shape. It focuses on strengthening your core muscles as well as your arms, legs, and back, which makes it great for overall fitness and posture (7).
The best way to start Pilates is to find a beginner’s class and stick with that for a few weeks until you’re comfortable with what’s involved. If you can’t find a class nearby, consider purchasing an exercise video and following the instructions at home; many of them focus on Pilates exercises because this is such a great workout for everyone.
Running isn’t suitable for everyone over 50, but if it is safe, then it should be considered as part of your workout routine. Many older people tend to avoid running because they think their knees will hurt or they won’t be able to keep up. However, the truth is that all adults need to run no matter how fit or unfit they are.
It might sound like common sense, but it’s important not to take on too much when starting out. It’s better to run for ten (10) minutes and walk for five (5) than not exercise at all. Aim to increase your running time by a few minutes every week, and always remember to warm up before you start any strenuous physical activity.
High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
Although cardio exercises like running and swimming are great for your heart, they aren’t the most effective way to lose weight. This is why HIIT should be included in your workout routine because it’s a high-intensity interval training program that combines cardiovascular exercise with resistance training (5).
You can do HIIT using bodyweight exercises, or by using weights or machines at the gym. It’s a very intense program and should only be done for around 20 minutes three (3) times a week. If you’re new to HIIT, start by following a beginner’s program until you feel comfortable with the exercises involved.
Tai Chi is often seen as a “relaxing” exercise, but it’s actually great for overall fitness and can help improve your balance, coordination, and strength (10). Many people do Tai Chi as their only form of exercise, but it’s also a good addition to other workouts like yoga or Pilates.
There are different forms of Tai Chi that all have their benefits. Sun style is more vigorous than the others and helps burn a lot of calories. Yang style focuses on balance, which is why it’s so good for older people who want to improve their posture and stability. If you have access to a teacher or class, start with one form and then move on to the next as soon as you’re comfortable with what you’re learning. Keep in mind that you should do all forms of Tai Chi very slowly, stopping and starting suddenly can lead to injuries.
Biking is a great exercise for people over 50 because it’s low-impact and you can do it at any speed. If you don’t feel comfortable riding a bike on the road, try cycling in a park or on a trail instead. It’s also important to make sure your bike is the right size for you to avoid injuries. Many bike shops offer free sizing adjustments so that your bike is perfect for your height and weight.
At the gym, you can use exercise bikes, elliptical machines, or indoor cycles for your cardio workout. If you’re cycling outdoors, include hills in your route to get an extra calorie burn, but be careful when going downhill, so you don’t hurt yourself.
Although biking seems like an easy exercise, it has so many great benefits. You’ll improve cardiovascular fitness while toning every muscle in your legs and buttocks (2). Other than that, you can also increase the intensity by turning up the resistance on your bike or adding some weights to your shopping basket when you ride out of the store.
Every adult needs to strength train at least once a week because it increases bone density and prevents injuries when exercising (3). There are lots of different types of strength training exercises that include both free weights and machines. Start by finding a program that’s suitable for your fitness level and stick with it for at least six (6) weeks.
If you’re not sure where to start, try this simple routine that only requires a set of dumbbells:
- Do a warm-up with five (5) minutes of cardio.
- Do three (3) sets of 12 repetitions of the following exercises: squats, lunges, chest presses, bent-over rows, and bicep curls.
- Finally, finish with five (5) minutes of cardio.
As you get stronger, you can increase the weight of the dumbbells or the number of repetitions you do for each exercise. Strength training not only helps to tone your body but also increases your metabolism, so you burn more calories even when you’re not working out.
If you’re looking for a low-impact exercise that’s also fun, water aerobics is a great option. You can do it in a pool at your local gym or community center or even in your own backyard if you have access to a swimming pool.
There are lots of different types of water aerobics classes, but most involve doing exercises like marching, jogging, and dancing in the water. The resistance of the water makes these exercises much more challenging than they would be on land, so you’ll see results faster.
Water aerobics is also great for people with joint problems because it’s gentle on the joints (6). Many people find that they can do more exercises in the water than they can on land.
What Makes Losing Weight Over 50 So Hard?
There are several reasons why you may struggle to get in shape after 50, including:
As you get older, your metabolism naturally slows down (4). This means that you’ll have to eat fewer calories than you did when you were younger to maintain your weight, and it also becomes harder to lose weight.
As you age, your risk of injuries increases because your bones and muscles are not as strong as they used to be (1). This is why it’s important to start slowly with any new exercises, so you don’t overexert yourself.
Many medications cause weight gain by increasing your appetite or slowing down your metabolism, which can make it even harder to lose weight after 50. Talk to a doctor about changing the dosage or switching medication if you find that you keep gaining weight. You should also ask your doctor about the possible side effects of any new medication before taking it, for example, some antidepressants which can cause muscle loss, hence, slowing down your weight loss progress.
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What Can You Do To Boost Your Weight Loss After 50?
If you’re over 50 and out of shape, there are several things you can do to make your workouts more effective:
Change Your Diet
With a slow metabolism, it’s even more important to eat healthy foods and avoid processed foods that are high in calories but low in nutrients. Make sure you’re getting enough protein, fiber, and healthy fats, and drink plenty of water to help your body burn more calories.
Start Slow To Avoid Injury
If you want to build muscle or improve your cardiovascular fitness, start slow and stick with lower-impact exercises like walking, swimming, and biking. As you get stronger, you can add more high-impact exercises like running and strength training, but always do a warm-up before working out so you don’t injure yourself.
Get Plenty Of Sleep
As you age, it becomes harder to sleep. It’s important to get enough rest not only for weight loss purposes but also because lack of sleep has been linked to heart disease and diabetes (8). Keep track of how many hours you’re sleeping each night so that you can make adjustments if needed.
Some sleep hygiene tips include turning off your TV and other electronic devices an hour before bed, going to sleep at the same time every night, and establishing a relaxing bedtime routine. Try reading a boring book or taking a warm bath to help you wind down.
The Bottom Line
Weight loss over 50 doesn’t have to be hard if you’re careful about what kind of exercises you do and how much weight you try to lose at once. As long as you follow these tips and consult a doctor before starting any exercise program, there’s no reason why you can’t get in shape and start feeling great again.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Avoiding Injuries as You Age (n.d., hopkinsmedicine.org)
- Cycling – health benefits (n.d., betterhealth.vic.gov.au)
- Effects of Resistance Exercise on Bone Health (2018, nih.gov)
- Find Out Why Metabolism Slows As You Age (n.d., piedmont.org)
- High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise and Fat Loss (2010, nih.gov)
- Hit the Pool to Relieve Joint Pain (2021, arthritis.org)
- Pilates and yoga – health benefits (n.d., betterhealth.vic.gov.au)
- Sleep Duration as a Risk Factor for Cardiovascular Disease – a Review of the Recent Literature (2010, nih.gov)
- STRETCHING AND FLEXIBILITY – How to Stretch (n.d., mit.edu)
- The Health Benefits of Tai Chi (2019, harvard.edu)
- What Are the Health Benefits of Rowing? (2021, clevelandclinic.org)