Want to get fit after 50?
It's not out of reach, even if you've made it to 50 without ever breaking a sweat. There's still time to get into the best shape of your life. Today I'm sharing my best recommendations on getting fit over 50, whether you're brand new to fitness, or you're ready to level up your current exercise routine.
What’s different about getting fit over 50?
Very little! Theoretically, we focus on the same things - improving behaviors that overtime will improve our health. That includes exercise and eating better, but it also means managing stress more effectively, sleeping better and focusing on other lifestyle factors like sitting or drinking too much.
That said, once you’re in your 50’s, you may have to approach your fitness goals little differently. You may have less energy or even a few physical impediments (joint problems, etc). That doesn’t make fitness any less possible, it just means you need to approach it a little more thoughtfully.
Your fitness goals are probably different now
In our 20s, we all wanted to look hot. Maintaining health and vitality weren’t really things we worried too much about. We took our health for granted. Now, we don’t.
Personally I feel more invested in my future health. At 50, I know retirement isn’t far off and I have a long list of adventures I still need to experience. Investing in my health now is the best way to ensure my future dream comes true.
Getting started in fitness after 50 (a path for Beginners)
Assuming your goal is weight loss and general health improvement, my best advice to you is to start with what interests you the most. Fitness doesn’t have to look like exercise. By that, I mean, you don’t have to go to a gym to get fit and it doesn’t have to be a punishing experience.
Consider the following:
- Do you prefer being outside or in an air conditioned space?
- Do you like the idea of exercising with others, or solo?
- Is there something that interests you in particular? Golf, water aerobics, weight lifting or running?
- Do you want the personal support of a coach, or are you good to follow along to an exercise video?
As you consider these things, something might bubble to the surface as most interesting (or least insufferable). Start there.
Home Workouts - The Perfect Starting Point
If you have NO idea what you’d want to do, start experimenting with home workouts. It's the least expensive option that can yield great results.
I always recommend Beachbody on Demand to my clients and readers because it offers a variety of high-quality workouts, from cardio dance to barre, yoga and weight lifting. There is something for everyone on this platform and many of the workouts do not require any equipment.
If you are a beginner, check out my best recommendations for beginner home workouts but I'll summarize them here too. They can all be accessed on Beachbody on Demand.
- PiYo- a fusion of Pilates and yoga with non-stop, low impact movements. It's great for building strength and flexibility and also feels REALLY good.
- 21 Day Fix - this is a strength and cardio workout designed for beginner/intermediate exercisers. It does require a few weights, but it's the most effective workout program on the platform for losing weight and toning up.
- Cize - dance cardio that's pure fun. You'll forget you are working out at all.
- 3 week yoga retreat - perfect for beginner yogis who want to improve flexibility, mobility and manage stress.
- Barre Blend - great for overall toning and fat burning, but also a lot of fun. I really enjoyed this 8-week workout.
If you find you love one of these workouts, like barre or yoga, you may want to venture out to a studio to practice it in a class setting, but starting with home workouts is less intimidating and much cheaper. With Beacbhody on Demand you get access to all these workouts (and more), so if you don’t like one, just turn it off and try the next.
Barre is the perfect workout for 50+ exercisers
Whether you're already into fitness and you want something that's low impact to round out your routine, or you're just getting started, barre workouts will deliver results. The workouts are based on the Lottie Burke technique that was created as a form of physical therapy for ballet dancers. It was intended to build strength and mobility to prevent injuries so dancers could prolong their careers. Since then, it's become a wildly popular workout because it delivers great results.
You can definitely check out any number of studios (Physique 57, Pure Barre, Barre 3 and The Barre Method to name a few), but why not try it through an online program first to see if you like it?
I like to recommend Barre Blend (also on Beachbody on Demand) - because it's an 8-week progress program that will take you from beginner to proficient while giving you a great workout. Another great online barre program is Xtend Barre. It's available on Openfit, which also has great workouts.
Leveling up your fitness over 50
This is a much broader topic as you probably have a modality of fitness you already know and enjoy. If you’re looking to level up your current fitness abilities or get better physical results, I recommend leaning into strength training.
Strength training is the best exercise for people over 50 (especially women)
If you're already doing some form of exercise, but you want to see better results, strength training is the way to go. The National Institute for Health suggests that women’s bone density drops dramatically after menopause. This puts us at higher risk for bone breaks and other mobility issues.
Fortunately, you can prevent that from happening with strength training! If the thought of lifting weights sounds scary or unappealing to you, consider bodyweight workout programs. This is another reason why I love barre workouts - they focus on improving strength, posture, flexibility and mobility while giving you a great low impact workout.
If you’re curious to try weight lifting (don’t worry, you won’t bulk up), I can recommend a few different programs on the same app so you can try them all.
Some of the links above have sample workouts in them, so you can try them out and see if you like how they feel.
Fit Over 50 Starts with Food
I'd be remiss if I didn't come back to the important of solid nutrition as the most important factor in your fit over 50 journey. If weight loss or better health is your goal, there is simply not way around it.
The basic principles of good nutrition are the same no matter what your age is.
- Eat enough protein to support muscle development (between .8 and 1 gram of protein for every pound of your current weight).
- Eat healthy fats - they're good for your brain function, satiety and health.
- Be smart about carbs. Especially as you age, you probably don't tolerate process carbs as well as you used to. Look for high fiber, whole food options, like veggies (non-starchy if you're trying to lose weight).
- Drink half your body weight in ounces of water every day (I'm 134lbs, so that's 68 ounces).
- Track your food intake for a few days (at least) so you can see what you're currently consuming in terms of total calories. If you want to lose weight, aim for 12 x your current body weight in total calories for the day (I'm 134 lbs, so that's 1608 calories).
- Avoid processed food as much as possible. Let whole foods like veggies, meat and oils or other fats be the focus of your diet, but allow room for treats.
Getting started means getting over your fears
I think it’s worth addressing the thoughts that might be going through your head right now - “All these workouts are great for most people, but I can’t do that”. I know how that feeling goes. I too, often feel like I am too old to start doing new things, but I push through those thoughts.
Thoughts are not facts. They are just fearful ideas that hold us back.
No matter what kind of fitness you chose to start doing (even if it’s just a long walk after dinner every night). Start today and stick with it. Hopefully, when you’re rocking a healthy + hot body in your 80s, you’ll think back to this article and be grateful that you gave yourself the chance to try.
Caren is a certified yoga teacher, fitness instructor and author of The Fit Habit. Here she shares simple, low carb recipes, quick home workout ideas and practical ways to foster mind + body wellness.