A question like this can be difficult to answer because it's a bit like asking “what’s the best pair of shoes?” There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer. However, we can certainly narrow it down and find out what’s the best exercise FOR YOU. It really depends on your unique needs based on factors like fitness level, health condition, and specific age. The key is to find something that suits you personally. Let’s take a look at your options here in this article.
Table of Contents:
Best Exercise Over 50
First of all, it's awesome that you're thinking about staying active! The best exercise for someone over 50 depends on individual preferences, health conditions and fitness levels. Generally, activities that combine cardiovascular, strength, flexibility, and balance exercises are great. Let’s determine where you might be at based on a few criteria. Remember, this is a general guide, and individual preferences and health considerations should be considered. Seeking guidance from a healthcare professional or fitness expert is a wise move to customize a program that aligns with your individual needs and goals.
Here's a simple table that outlines different exercise recommendations based on varying fitness levels:
Walking is an excellent exercise for the 50+ crowd if you have a sedentary lifestyle, or are just getting back into fitness. It’s a low-impact exercise making it gentle on the joints and reducing the risk of injury. It's highly accessible, requiring only comfortable shoes and no special equipment or gym membership. It provides cardiovascular benefits contributing to improve heart health, and has known positive effects on mental health. It also increases joint mobility without putting undue stress on the body. Walking's adaptability enables people to adjust the intensity according to their fitness levels, rendering it a versatile and inclusive exercise option.
Cycling has become an attractive exercise for the 50+ group for several compelling reasons. First and foremost, it's a low-impact activity that places minimal stress on joints. This reduces the risk of injury, which is always a consideration for those with age-related joint issues. Pedalling promotes cardiovascular health which helps with heart and lung function. Spending time cycling keeps your joints flexible and your muscles strong. Cycling is versatile and allows for variations in intensity. You can ride leisurely, or increase to vigorous pedalling, then return to leisurely. Cycling regularly aids in weight management and has been associated with improved cognitive function. It's also a social and enjoyable activity, whether going solo or involved in group rides. This cultivates a feeling of community and overall well-being.
Yoga and Tai Chi stand out as healthy exercises for 50+ers because of their gentle and effective approach. Both practices emphasize slow and controlled movements that enhance flexibility, build strength and improve balance. It’s also well documented that they're beneficial for maintaining and improving joint health. The focus on controlling your breathing provides physical and mental benefits, such as reducing stress and promoting relaxation. Both these practices of yoga and tai chi can be modified to allow for various fitness levels and abilities. Individuals can progress at their own pace.
Let’s head into the pool. Water aerobics and swimming are highly beneficial exercises for middle age, offering both cardiovascular and strength benefits with minimal impact on joints. Water provides natural resistance, as the buoyancy of water reduces stress on the joints. These activities are particularly suitable for those with arthritis or similar joint concerns. Swimming allows you to tone up without the potential injuries that can be associated with weight-bearing exercises, especially if you’re just getting started after a long layoff from exercising. Then there is thee range of motion that comes with pool activities. Fluid movements that are used in water aerobics and swimming can improve your flexibility and range of motion. Both swimming and water aerobics support cardiovascular health by engaging your heart and lungs. Swimming, in particular, provides a comprehensive workout that enhances endurance. Besides the obvious physical benefits, spending time in the water can have therapeutic and calming effects as well. This contributes to having less stress.
Jogging can be a healthy and beneficial exercise for the 50 plus age group. It offers a high-impact workout that boosts overall cardiovascular fitness, as well as enhancing heart health. Jogging has long been considered to contribute positively to weight management and increased bone density, both important things to consider as we age. One of the great things about jogging is it can be adapted to varying fitness levels, allowing for a gradual progression in intensity, speed and distance.
Another highly beneficial exercise for the 50+er is strength training. Strength training uses weights, resistance bands, or your own bodyweight for exercising. There are so many advantages here for overall health and well-being. Engaging in regular strength exercises can boost metabolism, aid in weight management, and improve overall functional capacity. Workout routines help with the decrease of loss of muscle as we age. In fact, it promotes the development of increased lean muscle mass. Maintaining muscle mass becomes paramount for preserving mobility. One of the biggest unwelcome visitors of old age is declining muscle mass. It doesn't matter if you're male or female; the idea of dwindling muscles is upsetting. In fact, you can lose as much as 3 to 5% of your muscle mass per decade. And when muscle mass declines, other things start to go awry too. For starters, you're at a greater risk of fracturing hip bones, collarbones, legs, arms, and wrists when falling. This is thanks to increased weakness and declining mobility – both nasty side effects of declining muscle mass. Declining muscle mass is the result of a combination of things happening to and in your body.
Resistance bands are great for enhancing a host of exercises and movements, which is excellent news for those getting back into fitness after a few years of minimal activity. They are considered to be an excellent exercise tool for the 50+ age group due to their versatility and gentle resistance. Resistance bands are known to build and tone muscles without putting undue stress on joints. It’s a safe and low-impact method to engage in strength training. The controlled resistance by properly using bands allows for gradual progression minimizing the risk of injury. Some of the benefits of having resistance bands are that they’re portable and lightweight. You can use them at home or when you’re traveling, they take up minimal space in your suitcase. The right exercises can target specific muscle groups aiding in overall functional fitness. Integrating resistance bands into a fitness routine provides the 50+er with a practical way to enhance their strength.
Moderately intensive cycling strikes a balance between cardiovascular benefits and joint-friendly activity. Again, this proves to be an excellent way to exercise for middle-aged individuals. With it’s low-impact nature it does not place excessive stress on your joints, making it suitable for those with arthritis or joint concerns. And at a moderate intensity, cycling ensures an aerobic exercise that improves cardiovascular fitness and weight management. It engages many major muscle groups, and promotes endurance. Whether heading outdoors or using a stationary bike, cycling offers an efficient way for the 50+er to stay active.
If you have good joint health and a good fitness level, running may be for you. Yes, it’s more on the high-impact side and can be a beneficial exercise for the 50 plus age group. Hundreds of thousands of middle-aged people find running a good fit. It’s an intense cardiovascular workout that improves heart health, enhances your lung capacity, and boosts your overall cardiovascular fitness. Running engages multiple muscle groups, promoting strength and endurance. Some of the mental health benefits of running include reducing stress and improving mood, through the release of endorphins.
HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) can offer unique benefits for the middle-aged, but it's crucial to approach it with caution. It has to align with your fitness level. HIIT involves short bursts of intense exercise followed by periods of rest or lower-intensity activity. This form of training can be extremely time-efficient. There are so many benefits; improvement of cardiovascular health and boosting metabolism, just to name a few. For the 50+er incorporating HIIT routines in your workouts may provide a challenging yet adaptable way to improve cardiovascular endurance and muscle strength. However, it's essential to start at a comfortable level. Once you’re comfortable, you can progress gradually. Take into consideration your existing health condition. It’s advisable to ensure a safe and effective workout routine by consulting with a healthcare professional or fitness expert to tailor HIIT exercises to your individual needs.
Weightlifting is a highly beneficial exercise for older individuals, offering a multitude of advantages for overall health and well-being. As we age, maintaining muscle mass becomes crucial for preserving mobility and preventing further loss of muscle strength. If you do weightlifting for no other reason than to improve your quality of life, you will still be doing a great thing. It provides so many health benefits that it’s hard not to enjoy your life more once you’re familiar with it and use it to your advantage.
For the 50+ crowd seeking a holistic approach to fitness and well-being, advanced yoga and pilates can be exceptionally beneficial. These practices emphasize controlled movements for both flexibility and your core. These are crucial elements for maintaining overall physical function. Advanced yoga incorporates poses that enhance balance, flexibility, and muscle strength. Pilates focuses on core stability and controlled movements. Both practices also emphasize mindfulness and breath control, contributing to stress reduction and promoting mental well-being.
Advanced resistance training. This can be profoundly beneficial for the middle-aged looking to elevate their fitness levels. Strength and resistance training promotes the development of lean muscle mass and strengthens various muscle groups. Maintaining muscle becomes increasingly important as you age. Advanced resistance training can address age-related muscle loss, enhance bone density, and improve balance, reducing the risk of injury as you continue to age. Tailored to individual capabilities, intensive strength training can be adapted to varying degrees of fitness levels, offering a customizable means for the 50+ age group to enhance their overall strength, functional capacity, and quality of life.
Develop Healthy Habits
With all this information in mind, it’s reasonable to think that you need to make it a habit if you want to keep up with your exercise routines long-term. Being consistent and forcing yourself to practice even when you don’t want to is a good step in the right direction. Sure, it sounds uncomfortable to “force” yourself to do anything, but it’s really just a short-term struggle you will have with your mind. As soon as your mind is on board, a habit can formed (we wrote an article on this). Then exercise routines will just be part of your day, like eating and breathing.
Aging isn’t about “getting old.” Healthy aging, in our opinion, is about staying physically active, finding new things to enjoy, and connecting with family and friends. For many people, growing older brings fear and anxiety that stem from misconceptions. The reality is that you are more potent and resilient than you realize. With the right approach, you can maintain your emotional and physical health; and thrive, whatever the circumstances or your age.
Our recommended book: Life After 50: Strength Training