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Should I Do Cardio or Weights After 50?

It’s the common dilemma isn't it? Choosing between cardio and weight training? Maybe you’re at a fitness crossroads. On one hand, there's cardio, the champion of heart health and stamina. Cardio is the heart's best friend, keeping things pumping and the energy flowing. It's the dependable buddy who always has your back when you need it. On the other hand, there's weight training, the muscle-building maestro that keeps you strong and helps fend off sneaky things like osteoporosis. Weights are the unsung heroes, building muscles and bones so you can stay strong and sassy, and ready to tackle everyday challenges.

an empty gym with equipment
Should I choose cardio or weights after 50?

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Keeping up with physical fitness after 50 isn’t just about fitting into those favorite jeans (although that's a nice perk), but more about feeling fantastic inside and out. Regular exercise helps keep your energy levels high, your mood lifted, and those pesky health issues at bay. Think of it as a way to stay best friends with your body; it's got your back, so why not treat it to a bit of movement love? Whether it's dancing at a birthday event or strolling leisurely in the park, finding what makes you smile and sweat is the key to rocking life after 50. Your body will thank you!

Cardio vs Weights

So here you are, standing between your good friend “cardio” and your other friend “weights”, trying to decide who gets your workout affection. It's a friendly battle because, truth be told, they both bring something awesome to the fitness table. The good news? You don't have to pick sides. It's more like having a great duo in your corner. Think of it as the Batman and Robin of your health journey! It's not about being a fitness guru; it's about being the CEO of your own well-being. Choosing the right mix is like giving your body a personalized self-care plan. It’s all about the right blend for your overall health and well-being.

When it comes to the question of prioritizing cardio or weight training, we acknowledge the answer may vary based on individual health conditions and goals. There are potential benefits of both cardio and weight training for this age group, the 50+ers. Let’s dig down and look at a number of important points when deciding how to go about our fitness. These points include cardiovascular health, strength and bone density, joint health and flexibility.

a woman over 50 on a treadmill at the gym
Cardio is the secret sauce for the heart.

Cardiovascular Health

Let's chat about cardio first, the good stuff that gives your heart a high-five! As we roll through our 50s (you’re maybe even rolling into your 60’s) keeping that heart in top-notch shape becomes a mission. Cardio exercises, which are basically anything that gets you moving and breathing a bit heavier, are the secret sauce for heart health. They help your heart pump more efficiently, keep the blood flowing smoothly, and basically make your heart thank you for the love. And here's the cool part: it's not just about the heart, it's a ripple effect. You'll notice more pep in your step, better mood vibes, and the stamina to rock your day. So, whether it's a brisk walk or some low-impact aerobics, just keep that heart smiling, it's your lifelong companion.

There are some exercises that are like a gentle hug for your joints but still pack a punch for your heart. The big three low-impact cardio exercises are known as walking, swimming, and cycling. First up, walking; it's easy, accessible, and you can do it practically anywhere. Next up, swimming; it’s kind to your joints while giving your heart a solid workout. Thirdly, there's cycling that lets you pedal your way to heart health without giving your joints a hard time. When it comes to joint-friendly cardio, these three activities save the day. If you're looking for a heart-happy workout, grab your walking shoes, swimsuit, or bike helmet.

This following list shows a total of 9 cardiovascular exercises that are great for individuals over 50 (including the big three exercises we’ve already covered).




An excellent low-impact exercise that can be easily incorporated into your daily routine.


​Gentle on the joints and provides a full-body workout, enhancing cardiovascular fitness.


Whether outdoors or on a stationary bike, cycling is easy on the joints and promotes heart health.

Elliptical Training

Offers a low-impact option that mimics running without the stress on the joints.


A fun way to get your heart pumping while also improving balance and coordination.

Water Aerobics

Low-impact exercises in the water can provide a great cardiovascular workout.


Using a rowing machine engages multiple muscle groups and boosts cardiovascular endurance.

Low-Impact Aerobics

Joining a class or following along with a video can be a great way to get your heart rate up without stressing your joints.

Tai Chi

Combines gentle movements and deep breathing, promoting cardiovascular health and overall well-being.

Let's back up the cardio talk with some solid evidence from experts and studies The American Heart Association's research crew, have done the heavy lifting and found that regular cardio exercises are like the VIP pass for heart health, especially as we age. They declare that activities like the list we just compiled not only keep your heart happy but also lower the risk of heart diseases. When science and experts give the green light to cardio for the 50-and-up crew, you know it's not just a trend, it's a heart-smart lifestyle.

a man over 50 in a gym doing curls with a dumbbell weight
Weight training is the guardian of your bones.

Strength and Bone Density

Let’s address the importance of maintaining muscle mass and bone density after 50. Your muscles and bones need your support (no pun intended). It’s at this stage of life that our bodies start losing some muscle and bone density. Keeping up with exercises that make your muscles work (like lifting weights or doing resistance training), is like giving them a pep talk. Then there's bone density, which is like the fortress protecting your bones from becoming all fragile. Weight-bearing exercises, think walking, jogging or running, keep those bones sturdy.

Alright, let's talk about weight training, the unsung hero in the battle against muscle loss and osteoporosis, especially when the 50+ candles are on the cake. As we age, there's this sneaky thing called muscle loss that likes to creep in. Weight training, though, helps build and maintain muscle mass, making sure you keep that strength and agility. We’re sure by now you’ve heard all about osteoporosis, that bone-thinning villain. Weight training is like the guardian of your bones, that sends a message to "keep those bones dense and sturdy!" We recently wrote a popular article titled Does it take longer to build muscle after 50? The pressure and resistance from lifting weights stimulate bone growth, making them tougher than ever. It's not about crazy heavy lifting, it's about giving your muscles and bones a friendly workout so they can keep staying strong. So, grab those dumbbells or use your body weight, and let's keep aging like fine wine, with strength and resilience!

The following table shows examples of weight-bearing exercises suitable for the 50+ crowd, focusing on both resistance training and bodyweight exercises:



Resistance Training

1. Squats

​Bodyweight squats or with added resistance using dumbbells.

2. Lunges

Forward or reverse lunges with or without weights.

3. Bicep Curls

Use light dumbbells for bicep curls to strengthen arm muscles.

4. Chest Press

Seated or standing chest press with resistance bands or weights.

5. Leg Press

Leg press machine or resistance bands for seated leg press.

Bodyweight Exercises

1. Push-ups

Wall push-ups or modified push-ups on knees for upper body.

2. Bodyweight Squats

Simple squats without added weights for lower body strength.

3. Planks

Front or side planks to engage core muscles and improve stability.

4. Step-Ups

Step up onto a sturdy platform to work on leg strength.

5. Tricep Dips

Use a sturdy chair for tricep dips to strengthen arm muscles.

Joint Health and Flexibility

As we age, our joints can face challenges. One major concern is the gradual wear and tear on cartilage, the cushioning tissue between joints, which may lead to conditions like osteoarthritis. This can result in stiffness, pain, and reduced range of motion. Additionally, as we get older, our muscles and tendons may naturally lose some elasticity, making it harder to maintain flexibility. Sedentary lifestyles can exacerbate these issues, as regular movement is crucial for joint health. Engaging in exercises that promote flexibility and strengthen the muscles surrounding joints becomes vital. Proper nutrition, including adequate intake of joint-supporting nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D, also plays a role. Addressing these concerns through a combination of physical activity, a balanced diet, and lifestyle adjustments can contribute to maintaining joint health and flexibility as we age.

Stretching routines and flexibility exercises and wonderful for your body, especially as you get older. These types of exercises keep your muscles, joints, and tendons happy and healthy. When you stretch every day, it's like giving your body a daily tune-up, making sure everything stays flexible and ready for action. This not only prevents injuries by keeping your muscles and joints in top-notch condition but also improves your overall mobility. Here's a link to a great article on stretching. Imagine reaching for things without the fear of tearing something or being able to tie your shoelaces without any acrobatics. Flexibility exercises are no doubt the secret weapon against stiffness and discomfort, helping you move smoothly and comfortably through life.

a trophy and winner announcement

And The Winner Is...

Our final answer - some of each. Here's why; think of your body like a symphony. This is where cardio and weight training are the conductor and musicians working in harmony. Cardio, like running or cycling, conducts the rhythm of your heart and lungs, promoting endurance and cardiovascular health. On the other side, weight training, such as lifting weights, takes the lead in sculpting and strengthening your muscles.

Now, the magic happens when these two elements come together. It's like the perfect composition where each instrument complements the other. Cardio enhances your stamina and burns calories, while weight training builds lean muscle mass, boosting your metabolism. This balanced approach isn't just a fitness symphony; it's a holistic health masterpiece. It improves not only your physical health but also your mental well-being, creating a melody of vitality and strength. So, when cardio and weight training join forces, they create a symphony that resonates with overall health and well-rounded fitness.

*And always remember, it's always a good idea to consult with a healthcare professional or fitness expert before starting a new exercise routine, especially for older adults. They can provide personalized recommendations based on individual health conditions and fitness levels.

Life can be amazing ...especially when you're physically able to enjoy it. Make this the healthiest time of your life! There’s no reason you should spend it in pain, discomfort, and declining health.


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