Best Exercise for Women Over 50: This is What I Do and Why

I am, by nature, a reluctant exerciser. I strongly believe most of us are.

But there’s no doubt that regular exercise is an important component of ageing well, and so it’s worth exploring what might suit you when it comes to the best exercise for you if you’re 50 and over.

The best exercise regime for women over 50 will include:

  • weight and resistance training – ideally three times a week
  • mobility and stretching to maintain flexibility
  • cardiovascular work, such as walking, running or cycling at a pace where you can comfortably speak

Always consult a qualified trainer to assist and guide you.

I have tried many different types of exercise over the years – I even qualified to teach step aerobics in my 30s, remember that?!

What I’ve discovered is that too much of any of the above and not enough of the others doesn’t work for me. I become bored, or more commonly I’ll develop a twinge or a stubborn ache from overuse (except for stretching too often which, frankly, I’ll never be guilty of).

Walking in Inverness, Scotland – my happy place

Before I get into the details please bear in mind that a healthy lifestyle at any age is one that balances physical activity, and good nutrition together with rest and recovery. At the age of 50 plus we are far from being ‘over the hill’, but let’s not kid ourselves that we still have the stamina we had in our 20s.

We should maintain sensible goals when it comes to physical activity as we age. You may well find that as your fitness improves you’ll want to do more and more, but the body isn’t a machine and it should be rested just as diligently as it is worked. This article on Medium struck a chord with me recently; exercise is the key to a better quality of life but it shouldn’t take over that life.

You see, I’ve always been the type of person to push and challenge myself hard, particularly once I’ve got the bit between my teeth for something.

Exercise is evidently something that we should all be doing to improve our health, but I’ve found time and time again that if I don’t have adequate rest after a hard workout then I become grumpy and snappy. In other words, I need my recovery time!

How much should a 50 year old woman exercise?

Regular exercise plays a vital role as we head towards menopause and emerge from the other side.

Engaging in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week, such as brisk walking, cycling or swimming, is a great goal to aim for. This can be spread out over several days to help spread the load, and avoid an ‘overuse’ injury or sprain. I’d also advise doing a variety of exercise to vary intensity and avoid boredom.

Strength training exercises that target major muscle groups, should also be incorporated in your weekly routine. Prioritising exercises that improve bone density, like weight-bearing activities like jogging or tennis, is beneficial for maintaining bone health and reducing the risk of osteoporosis. However, it’s important to listen to your body and adjust the intensity and duration of workouts accordingly. Consulting a certified fitness trainer will provide tailored advice to ensure safe and beneficial exercise routines.

Strong legs have even been linked to better brain health in later life, so if you have a family history of dementia as I do then doing plenty of squats and work on the leg press machine in the gym could be potentially invaluable.

Incorporating stretching exercises into the routine can enhance flexibility, which is crucial for maintaining mobility and preventing injury. I’ve often thought a sudden twinge was an injury, but on taking professional advice I’ve found it was simply a stiff muscle that needed stretching! I love Doc Jord’s Instagram account for his straightforward tips to help gently mobilise the body.

Stretching and mobility after 50

Additionally, consider some low-impact exercise like cycling or using an elliptical machine, to minimise joint stress while still providing cardiovascular benefits. I tend to use either an elliptical machine in the gym, or else I’ll go for a walk or a run outside (definitely my preferred option if the sun shining) or on the treadmill.

As you continue on your fitness journey you may hear the term ‘LISS’ which stands for ‘low impact, steady state’ – this is relatively easy aerobic work that shouldn’t have you gasping for breath, but is very beneficial for cardiovascular health.

Variety is key when it comes to exercise. Engaging in a mix of aerobic activities, strength training, and flexibility exercises ensures a solid, balanced fitness regime. It also helps prevent monotony and keeps your motivation levels high.

Finding activities that provide you with some challenge but also align with your personal interests and tastes will increase the likelihood of long-term commitment, and even enjoyment!

Can you reshape your body at 50?

We can definitely reshape our bodies once we reach 50 and over.

While it may be true that the body undergoes certain physiological changes with age, such as decreased muscle mass and hormonal shifts, it’s still possible to improve overall fitness, strength, and body composition through various means.

My challenge was always the dreaded ‘love handles’, or ‘muffin top’ to give it a less kind description!

I never thought that stubborn fat would shift. But it did.

It’s not easy, but the process listed below definitely works.

These are the key steps, and each one is vital:

  • Regular Activity: Engaging in a combination of cardiovascular exercise, strength training, and flexibility exercises can help improve muscle tone, increase metabolism, and enhance overall body composition.
  • Strength Training: Incorporating resistance training exercises, such as weightlifting or using resistance bands, can help build and maintain muscle mass, increase bone density, and improve strength. Strong muscles also support better posture and help reduce the risk of injuries.
  • Balanced Diet: A healthy, balanced diet is crucial for overall well-being and body reshaping. Focus on consuming nutrient-dense foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats, while limiting processed foods, sugary snacks, and excessive calorie intake. Adequate protein intake is particularly important for muscle maintenance and recovery.
  • Hydration: Drinking enough water throughout the day is essential for maintaining optimal bodily functions and supporting overall health. Staying hydrated can also help control appetite and support weight management efforts.
  • Rest and Recovery: Adequate rest and recovery are crucial for allowing the body to repair and rebuild after exercise. It’s important to listen to the body and avoid overtraining, as recovery becomes increasingly important with age.
  • Consistency and Patience: Reshaping the body takes time, and results may not happen overnight. It’s important to stay consistent with your new healthy habits and trust that the process will work. Celebrate small achievements along the way, as they can provide motivation to continue moving forwards towards the new version of you.
Reshaping your body after 50

Why exercise after 50?

Let me give you my reason before I give you all the sensible and proven ones:

I just feel great.

I’m not grouchy. I love my life again. I’m simply a better, happier version of me – without all the wobbly bits and back at the same weight I was when I got married in 1997.

But let’s look the well-documented reasons why exercise after 50 is so important for us after 50:

  • Reduced risk of chronic diseases: Regular exercise lowers the risk of developing chronic conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and other serious conditions.
  • Improved cardiovascular health: Exercise strengthens the heart muscle, improves circulation, and lowers blood pressure, reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
  • Better bone density: Weight-bearing exercises like walking, jogging, and weightlifting help maintain bone density, reducing the risk of osteoporosis and fractures.
  • Increased muscle strength: Strength training exercises promote muscle growth, improving strength, balance, and stability, which are crucial for preventing falls and maintaining independence.
  • Weight management: Regular exercise helps manage weight by burning calories and increasing metabolism. It also preserves muscle mass, which tends to decrease with age, aiding in weight control. Excess belly fat is a known risk factor for women in middle to later life.
  • Improved mood: Exercise releases endorphins, natural mood-boosting chemicals that reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. It also promotes better sleep and improves cognitive function.
  • Superior joint flexibility and mobility: Stretching exercises improve flexibility, reducing joint stiffness and improving range of motion, making daily activities easier and reducing the risk of injuries.
  • Reduced menopausal symptoms: Exercise can alleviate symptoms such as hot flashes, mood swings, and sleep disturbances commonly experienced during menopause.
  • Lowered risk of cognitive decline: Regular physical activity has been linked to a reduced risk of cognitive decline and dementia in older adults.
  • Social engagement and overall quality of life: Participating in exercise classes or group activities promotes social interaction and can enhance overall well-being and life satisfaction.

In summary…

I turned to exercise to help me get through the grieving process after losing my Dad, but also I really, really wanted to lose the 10kgs I’d put on over a ten year period.

The weight did come off, but what I actually gained was something far more worthwhile : an incredible energy-boost that not only helped me get through my workouts but also made sure I got more done during the course of a normal day.

I lost the 10kgs, but ended up feeling 25 years younger.

It’s the best investment of my time to date!

NB Always consult with a healthcare professional or a certified fitness trainer to develop an appropriate exercise program based on individual needs and abilities.

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