Being physically active is more than a decision in one’s golden years; it’s a joyous celebration of vitality. The days when becoming older meant going at a snail’s pace are over. When you hit 50, you enter a new chapter of your life in which exercise may help you feel stronger and more energized.
Better late than never. The concept of physical exercise is quite compatible with this proverb.
Supplemented with cutting-edge research and professional views, this piece is more than simply a guide; it embodies the power of maintaining an active lifestyle. By exploring the best exercises for people over 50, we’re showing that physical fitness knows no age limit.
The Three Pillars of Fitness After 50
Many details of the benefits of physical activity for adults over 50 can be read here. But the three primary objectives for adults aged 50 and up make it abundantly obvious that physical activity is important.
1. Strength Training: Without regular strength training, the rate of muscle mass loss begins at age 30 and continues at a rate of 8 to 10% every decade.
The results of this muscular “wasting” won’t become evident, though, until about the age of 50 or 60. Indeed, this can lead to issues with movement or motility. Therefore, maintaining a regular exercise routine as you age might help delay the onset of muscular atrophy. It aids in warding off mobility issues and allowing us to continue living independently as we age.
2. Maintaining Balance: A person’s balance is as important to their physical fitness as their strength. So, just as with muscular functioning, there are a variety of workouts that may help you enhance your balance. Due to improved balance, the danger of falling decreases significantly as we age. The value of reducing the hazards of falls cannot be overstated, as they can result in severe injuries, such as hip fractures, among the elderly.
3. Mental Functions: Physical exercise has several health benefits, one of which is the preservation of mental faculties. The scientific community agrees that regular exercise mitigates the effects of aging on cognitive function. It may even help ward off dementia and other brain diseases.
Physical Activity Guidelines for Fitter Future
These days, healthy individuals can begin a fitness program or try out a new activity without first seeing a doctor. Regular exercise can benefit people with most health conditions, but those with heart disease, lung illness, or metabolic disorders should see a doctor before starting an exercise program.
The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, published by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, are summarized in the table below.
|Moderate-Intensity Aerobic Activity
|150 to 300 minutes per week
|Vigorous Aerobic Activity
|75 to 150 minutes per week
|A combination of Moderate and Vigorous
|An equivalent combination of moderate and vigorous
|Not specified (enough to work all major muscle groups)
|At least 2 days a week
|In addition to aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities
Remember that you may divide the total time into smaller chunks of 15 10-minute sessions spaced out across the week. In other words, the advantages of regular physical exercise can be felt without strenuous physical activity for extended durations.
In addition, important considerations include your availability, resources (financial or otherwise), and health status.
Must-do Exercises for People Over 50
Now that we have already understood how to measure physical fitness in the previous article and know that people over 50 also need to exercise, figuring out how to start is not always easy.
Going back to an active lifestyle after a long break could be difficult. Your previous workout routine probably isn’t the best for an older adult. However, those of us over the age of 50 can readily follow the exercises listed below.
1. Fast-Paced Walk For General Health
For those over 50, walking is the most accessible form of physical activity. It is typically mentioned as one of the most effective ways to exercise. Not only do studies demonstrate that walking after meals can reduce your blood sugar response to that meal (thereby enhancing insulin activity),.
A recent 2023 study of a large sample shows that brisk walking for at least 11 minutes can reduce the risk of premature death to 25% and may lessen the likelihood of stroke, heart attack, and other cardiovascular-related deaths by 31%.
How much to do?: The CDC recommends doing at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, such as brisk walking, at least five days a week (or 150 minutes total).
2. Cardiovascular Exercises: Keeping the Heart Young
Regular cardiovascular exercise is essential for maintaining a healthy heart and plenty of energy.
To reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke, the top mortality globally, the American Heart Association suggests engaging in moderate-intensity aerobic exercise for at least 150 minutes each week.
One great method to raise your heart rate without overtaxing your muscles is to walk briskly. Not only is it easy to do, but it’s also fun and convenient. Remember, the idea is to raise your heart rate and breathe harder while still being able to maintain a conversation.
Cycling is another low-impact option that promotes cardiovascular health. It may be helpful for people prone to joint pain or who prefer less strenuous exercise.
A 2018 research published in the Journal of Rheumatology shows that regular cycling can alleviate osteoarthritis pain while increasing mobility in the knee joints. Another research found that cycling, whether on a pedal cycle or an electric bike, improved executive function and overall health in 100 people aged 50 and over.
How much to do?: Similar to walking, the CDC recommends engaging in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, such as brisk walking, five days a week and 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise, such as running, jogging, or trekking, once a week.
3. Strength Training: Building and Maintaining Muscle Mass
Despite what most people think, strength training isn’t exclusive to young people. Muscle mass normally decreases with age, so it’s important to keep it up.
Muscle wasting, bone density loss, and strength loss are all thought to be unavoidable as we get older, yet strength training is the only kind of exercise that may significantly mitigate or even reverse these effects. It has also been found that strength training can increase muscle strength by 30–40% in people over 50.
How much to do? The National Strength and Conditioning Association recommends that people over 50 opt for strength training activities at least twice weekly. The best is to focus on using all your main muscle groups—arms, legs, shoulders, and trunk—and aim for 3-6 sets for 10 to 15 repetitions before your muscles fatigue.
4. Flexibility and Balance: The Key to Mobility
Falls are a major issue for anyone over the age of 50. Therefore, it is vital to practise flexibility and balancing exercises to avoid them. Improving your flexibility and stability can be as easy as stretching, tai chi, or basic balancing exercises.
For those over 50, the slow-motion martial art of tai chi can have profound health benefits. Research shows it can strengthen muscles, improve flexibility, enhance balance and coordination, and lower stress levels without overstressing the body. In addition, the low-impact design prevents the joints from experiencing excessive strain or wear and tear. Another study by the Emory University School of Medicine demonstrated that Tai Chi sessions can significantly lower the incidence of falls by about 50%
Not only does Tai-chi help with muscles and balance, but it has also been found to enhance cognitive enhancement, memory retention, mood control, and stress reduction, all possible outcomes of this age-old kind of meditation.
Please refer to our article here to learn more about Tai Chi and how to perform it.
How much to do? There is no hard-and-fast rule about how long you should practice Tai Chi, although it is usually gentler than other forms of exercise. For this reason, most practitioners often devote 20 to 30 minutes daily to it.
5. Exercise Your Eyes
Like other body parts, our eyes need some exercise to maintain the best possible vision at our age. Recent 2023 research has found that eye exercises can be a great tool to prevent and control myopia.
Try these eye exercises if your eyes are particularly fatigued first thing in the morning.
- Blinking: Gently close both of your eyes slowly and momentarily. Repeat it 15 times, as it helps strengthen and relax the muscles in your eyes and lubricate the eye’s surface. Those who read, watch television, or engage in close-up activities like needlework often should prioritize this activity.
- Tracking side to side: If you have trouble seeing objects in the periphery, try holding a pen or other tiny item at eye level about 18 inches away from your face. Move it slowly from right to left and back, keeping your head still while you track it with your eyes.
- Tracing: Focus on anything in your field of vision and follow its shape with your gaze. Do this workout many times daily to build up the muscles in your eyes.
- Near and far focusing: This exercise aids in relieving eye strain and is essential for detail work. To perform it, focus on a close-up object about a foot away from your face, then look up to focus on a 30-foot-away object. Focusing on a distant object helps strengthen muscles needed for quick eye adjustment, making it an essential exercise for daily activities.
Also, as a general rule, the American Association of Ophthalmology (AOA) suggests the ” 20-20-20 ” guideline for frequent breaks: Take a 20-second break at least once every 20 minutes and stare at anything 20 feet away. To understand more about eye exercises and their benefits, please refer to our article HERE.
How much to do? Researchers from the University of California, Riverside, found in 2010 that elderly individuals can improve their eyesight with simple eye workouts in as little as two days.
In another research, a group of samples performed eye exercises for 18 minutes and showed improved results in reading and understanding the writing. So start practicing these exercises several times daily to boost your vision and relieve eye strain.
Keep in mind that the goal of these exercises is to delay or prevent vision loss associated with aging. While they do not worsen pre-existing conditions, they do not qualify as remedies or solutions for enhancing visual acuity.
6. Yoga and Pilates: Gentle Yet Effective
Like tai chi, yoga, and pilates are low-impact exercises that relax the body, strengthen your core, increase your flexibility, and stabilize your balance.
Research found that mind-body practices improve physical balance, lower body flexibility and strength, mental health, and sleep compared to inactive individuals. Another research published in the International Journal of Yoga shows that arthritis, a common condition among people over 50, can be better managed and reduced with daily yoga practice. Starting with basic positions can make these practices more approachable.
Pilates is second to none when it comes to improving posture and alleviating back pain when it comes to strengthening the core muscles. It is easier on the body than regular weight training or jogging, and it helps to enhance joint flexibility without overstressing it.
Before you try it on your own, enrolling in a beginner’s class is best. If you have any health concerns, the instructor can let you know if specific motions or postures are off-limits or not, and they can also ensure that you are performing the exercises properly.
7. Boost Your Brain Health
Being physically active is one of the finest methods for maintaining a youthful body appearance as one ages. The same goes for the brain.
Multiple studies have shown that aerobic exercise may have more benefits for the brain than other forms of exercise, such as stretching, toning, or strength training. Exercise raises brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels, an essential protein for neuronal growth and maintenance. Among its many advantages, exercise aids in the prevention of brain inflammation.
Also, research released in 2021 indicated that learning new things in old age, including how to use new technology, might slow down or even halt the cognitive decline of getting older.
Brain and memory games, as well as general gaming, have positive effects on brain health. Memory testing and training games may not be able to reverse the effects of aging on the brain, but they may slow the progression. Some research-based brain-related exercises include
- Jigsaw puzzles are good for your brainpower since they challenge your visual-spatial working memory. There is evidence that they have a beneficial effect on brain function. Depending on your preference and level of convenience, you may play a wide variety of puzzles on an electronic device or with a real puzzle. The complexity of the puzzles varies accordingly.
- Play crossword: Word games are a terrific choice for seniors looking to boost cognitive function and vocabulary. A study published discovered a potential link between crossword puzzle solving and delayed, accelerated memory loss in dementia patients. Books containing word searches are readily accessible, in addition to word search applications for smartphones and online word searches like the USA Today Daily Word Search.
- Learn something new: Pruning is a natural process in the aging brain; it reduces the speed of neural electrical activity in the 30s and 40s and deteriorates the protective myelin layer around brain cells. Like exercise, learning new abilities can stimulate development by halting the pruning, stalling, and atrophying process.
- Dance: Dancing has long been known for its positive effects on the body, but recent studies have shown encouraging signs that it may also positively affect the mind. Researchers discovered that dancing regularly lowered the risk of dementia by 76%, twice that of reading. One area of cognition that gets a boost from dancing is spatial memory.
8. Maintaining the Hearing Ability
An increasing amount of scholarly literature indicates a potential correlation between physical activity and hearing impairment. At the same time, many pieces of research suggest that hearing can be maintained with exercise. For example, aerobic exercise is widely believed to substantially affect cardiovascular health. What is less well known, though, is that improved hearing is also associated with better cardiovascular health.
According to new studies, hearing sensitivity might improve along with cardiovascular health. This suggests that the likelihood of a person’s ability to preserve their hearing increases with age if they are not prone to hearing loss due to genetics and have adequate cardiovascular health.
To sum up, the following are a few auditory-specific hearing exercises:
- Use electronic gadgets like laptops or tape players to simulate an atmosphere with background noise.
- After turning them on, scatter these noisemakers around the room.
- Get someone else to read out loud from a magazine or book.
- Try tuning out everything else and paying close attention to what your friend is saying.
Locate the Origin of Sounds in Your Environment
- Engage in this exercise whenever you hear a noise, such as a bird chirping or a car horn.
- Focus if you can pinpoint where the noise is coming from in your immediate environment.
- Doing this practice may improve your ability to determine the source and distance of sounds.
9. Swimming and Water-Based Exercise
If exercise makes you uncomfortable, you may be hesitant about trying it; then there are alternative methods to keep you active. Workouts performed in water are perfect for anyone over 50 because they are easy on the joints and still allow for the development of muscle strength. Also, strength training with water is more effective than with weights because of its resistance.
According to an article in the American Journal of Cardiology, researchers found that swimming greatly improved cardiovascular health and reduced blood pressure. In another research, it was found that women can lower their risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) by 30–40% only by swimming for 30 minutes every day.
Swimming has benefits for memory and brain functioning. According to some studies, it may also aid in forming new brain connections, leading to better learning.
Staying Motivated: Tips for Consistency and Enjoyment
Exercising safely after age 50 is important since doing so can improve your physical, mental, and emotional health. No matter your level of athletic experience, following these safety guidelines will allow you to get the most out of your workouts while reducing the likelihood of harm.
Consult Your Doctor First
Before beginning any new fitness program, consult your physician or physical therapist. Your doctor can provide personalised advice and suggestions based on your condition and past medical history. It is specially important for people with chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart problems etc.
Scheduling the Exercises
Maintaining a regular workout routine, whether a strength-training regimen or something else entirely, is no easy feat. The best is to plan your strength training sessions for when you’re most energized rather than when you’re usually sluggish.
Perform a Warm-up and Cool-down
You may avoid injuring or damaging your muscles by warming up and cooling down correctly.
A good warm-up involves a slow heart rate increase and dynamic stretching to prepare muscles and the cardiovascular system for exercise. A cool-down routine includes light jogging, low-impact activities, and static stretching exercises to lengthen muscles and prepare the cardiovascular system for exercise.
Listen to Your Body
It is important to consider how your body feels before, during, and after exercise to spot any discomfort. If you experience scorching or intense pain, stop exercising immediately and give your body a few days to recover; this is unnatural. Get medical help immediately if you’ve been in discomfort for a few days.
Drinking plenty of water while exercising is important, particularly in hotter temperatures and higher intensities. Drink enough water to keep your energy up for longer workouts, control your core temperature, and avoid muscular cramps. Try to drink a cup of water every fifteen minutes you work out.
As we enter our golden years, there will be no slacking off. This is the perfect moment to commit to new fitness objectives wholeheartedly. Being physically active is more than simply being fit; for people over 50, it’s about making the most of every day.
The exercises we’ve covered here are more than just routines; they’re the foundation for a happier, healthier life. And most importantly, Prime with time!
Stop putting off things and start living your best life right now!