How does one practice fitness over 50? This is a question that many older adults find themselves asking whenever they think about ways to improve their weight and general health. The gym, and fitness in general are often seen as things and places that only the young and physically fit can participate in. This, however, couldn’t be further from the truth. If you are looking to get fit at 50, the first thing to know is that it’s never too late to start. While you may not be able to keep up with people in their 20s and 30s – as you are probably not as strong or as fast as you once were, – you can still find tips and tricks to help you achieve your goals. In this article we are going to show you some of those wellness and fitness tips that not only work, but are also safe and effective for your age group.
Can You Transform Your Body At 50?
Yes, you can absolutely transform your body at any age – even at 50 years and above. Building muscle and especially losing weight is hard at any age, but things get harder due to muscle mass loses, a slower metabolism, and other health issues. While it might be hard, it is not impossible.
Here are some tips that can help you easily transform your body at 50.
The Right Mindset
Before thinking about what foods to eat, the exercises to do or even whether you’d like to join a gym or not, the first and absolutely most important thing that you must do is get into the right mindset. Yes, losing weight will be hard. You are also not as strong as you were and might also have a few health issues that could potentially get in the way. Make your peace with this and find ways to work with and around them to reach your goals.
Speak To Your Doctor First
It is never a good idea for anyone (at any age) to start working out without speaking to their doctor first. For people over the age of 50, this is even more important if you have any underlying health issues. Speaking to your doctor – and possibly getting a physical – helps you better understand your body and how much you can push yourself without hurting yourself.
Fix Your Diet
You can’t out exercise a bad diet. In a study published earlier this year in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, researchers concluded that both physical exercise and a good diet go hand in hand in reducing mortality rate and lowering the risk of chronic diseases such as cancers and cardiovascular illnesses (5). The combination of a good diet as well as increased physical activity also helps you lose weight much faster and more efficiently.
As a person over the age of 50, you must make sure to eat a healthy diet, ie.
- A balance of complex carbohydrates, lean protein, healthy fats, as well as plenty of vegetables and fruits.
- Watch your calories – Eat at a calorie deficit if you are looking to lose weight or have a calorie surplus if you are looking to add weight/muscle
- Do not restrict food groups – Once again, a balanced diet is the best diet for weight loss
- Reduce your salt, saturated fats, processed foods, and added sugar intake
- Drink more water
- Increase your fiber intake
Diet takes precedence over physical activity when it comes to transforming your body at any age.
Become More Physically Active
Once your diet is back on track, the next thing is to become more physically active. Living a sedentary life means you gain fat and weight more easily. You are also at a higher risk of many chronic illnesses and other diseases that come with old age. According to the CDC, increased fitness at 50 and above not only improves your health but also your quality of life, improves functionality, reduces the risk of premature death, supports mental health and healthy aging (1).
Build Muscle Mass
As if getting older wasn’t complicated enough, at the age of 30, our bodies start losing muscles involuntarily through a process known as sarcopenia. Through this process, we tend to lose about 3 to 8 percent of muscle mass per decade – thus by the time you are 50, you’ve already lost anywhere between 6 to 16 percent of your body muscle mass.
In older adults, lack of muscle mass not only leads to decreased functionality, increased disabilities due to falls, and reduced bone density but it also increases fat storage in the body which increases your risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and much more (3, 6). More muscle also means a faster metabolic rate which equals to faster weight and fat loss (2).
Do Some Cardio
Not only does it improve your cardiovascular health – reducing the risk of heart disease, – but cardio also improves your stamina, makes you stronger and more flexible, supports mental health, improves balance and coordination, reduces the risk of injuring yourself through falls, etc. (4, 7).
What Is The Best Workout For Over 50?
As seen above, both cardio and strength training are equally important for fitness over 50 for various reasons. But what exercises are best suited for an over 50 workout and are there any that you should avoid?
If you are looking into fit and wellness over 50 and working out is one of your top priorities, then other than speaking to your doctor, working with a trainer is the best way to start getting fit. Since your body is not as agile as it was, a trainer can help keep you safe and prevent injury while working out.
However, if you do not have the budget for a gym membership or personal trainer, here are some dos and don’ts to keep in mind while exercising.
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Fitness Over 50 Workout Dos
Here are some things to do and pay attention to as a 50-year-old working out:
- Warm-up and Stretch – It may seem unimportant, but warming up before your workout and cooling down after your session is done is very necessary. These two factors not only determine how well your session will go, but how well your body/muscles will cope in the coming days.
- Choose low impact exercises – Osteoporosis and arthritis are a very real and very common problem among many older adults. At 50 and older, your bones and joints are more fragile and thus doing high impact exercises can lead to fractures. Instead of activities that require jumping or kicking, opt for low impact but still effective workouts like cycling, walking, swimming, etc.
- Pace yourself – This is not just a fitness over 50 tip but one of the most important fitness for life tips. Not only are you not in a race/competition with anyone but you are choosing to be fit for yourself and your health. Start small and work your way up to more challenging workouts.
- Choose workouts that you enjoy – Just because someone else enjoys a certain type of workout does not mean that you will. The best way to find out what you enjoy is simply to try out as many workouts as are available to you. Remember that it is much easier to stick to your workout plan (and eventually reach your goals) if you genuinely love what you are doing.
- Combine both cardio and strength training – Remember that cardio improves the health of your lungs and heart while improving your stamina, while strength training prevents bone loss, helps with rebuilding lost muscle mass, weight loss, and much more.
- Pay attention to pain – Pain is a part of working out, especially in the beginning when your body and muscles aren’t used to it. However if the pain lasts more than a day or turns from mild to anything more or even excruciating, stop and see a doctor.
Over 50 Workout Don’ts
Here is what not to do while working out if you are in your 50s
- Don’t do high impact workouts – They increase your risk of fractures
- Don’t start working out before speaking to your doctor – Based on your health, your doctor will be able to advise you on which kind of exercises you can do safely without hurting yourself and putting your health at risk.
- Don’t lift heavy weights – As stated above, pace yourself. Not only is your muscle mass much lower than a couple of years ago, but your bone density is also much reduced. Lifting heavy weights from the get go will very likely lead to injuries.
Which Are The Best Exercises To Improve Fitness Over 50?
Some exercises and activities that are perfectly safe for older adults to do include:
- Cardio – walking, swimming, cycling, jogging, dancing, gardening, etc.
- Strength training – Lunges, basic bodyweight squats, deadlifts, modified push and pull ups, bicep curls (weighted with dumbbells or kettlebells), calf raises, ab workouts, etc.
- Others – Yoga and Tai Chi.
How Many Times Should A 50-Year-Old Workout?
If you are in good health, you can easily workout for 30 minutes five days a week as a 50-year-old without any issues. You can divide up these days and allocate some to cardio and the others to weight lifting/strength training. If 5 days seems like too many, try 2 to 3 days a week and work your way up. Remember that the point is to actually workout and pacing yourself.
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The Bottom Line
When it comes to fitness over 50, many may be discouraged that they aren’t as strong as they once were, and also with health issues that they may be battling. While these are real issues that one should be cautious about, with care and proper management, you can still workout and get fit. The trick lies in listening to your doctor, trainer (if you have one), and pacing yourself.
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!
- Adults 50 and Older Need More Physical Activity (2022, cdc.gov)
- Increasing muscle mass to improve metabolism (2013, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Muscle tissue changes with aging (2010, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Older Adults (n.d., cdc.gov)
- Physical activity, diet quality and all-cause cardiovascular disease and cancer mortality: a prospective study of 346 627 UK Biobank participants (2022, bjsm.bmj.com)
- The benefits of strength training for older adults (2003, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- The Importance of Physical Activity Exercise among Older People (2018, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)