If you have never exercised before, it can seem scary to start doing it after 50. However, that’s the healthiest thing you can do for your body and mind. But where to start?
The main pillars of exercise for women over 50 are cardio, strength training, and balance training. You should combine all three to get the best results. For cardio, you should jog, walk or swim; for strength training, you can try pushups or squats and yoga for balance.
However, there’s more to it than that. Naturally, there are more exercises you should try, as well as some safety precautions to understand. If you want to learn about all of this and more, read on.
Three Main Types of Workout
To get the most benefits from exercise, you have to understand how it works.
For one, there’s cardio training, which is also called aerobic or cardiovascular training. It gets your heart beating faster and helps you burn calories. This type of exercise is important for keeping your organs healthy, and it helps you build stamina for other exercises.
Strength training, at the same time, seems like something only bodybuilders should do, but it is, in fact, important for everyone. Since muscles and bones deteriorate as you age, you need to keep that strength through exercise.
Finally, balance and stretching help you be better prepared for other types of exercise. They can help you prevent injuries and boost your mental health.
When you combine all three of these, you get a complete routine that can keep your body and mind healthy and strong for years. Together, they can help you boost your lean muscle mass and reduce belly fat, which is all related to longevity.
Cardio is a form of exercise that serves the health of your heart and lungs. As such, it should definitely be a part of your exercise routine. As a recommendation from most health experts, people are supposed to do cardio for at least 150 minutes per week if doing it at a lower intensity or for 75 minutes if doing it at a higher intensity.
Lower intensity workouts could be walking or light jogging. However, for higher intensities, you can choose shorter bursts of high-intensity interval training. In general, the higher intensity is better as it allows you to reduce fat sooner and build stamina faster.
At the same time, women over 50 should be careful with cardio.
While it’s generally healthy for you, it could also cause your cortisol levels to rise if you do it for more than an hour at a time. Cortisol leads to weight gain, and it’s generally not good for your body. However, if you do a shorter amount of it, you could get all the benefits and none of the pitfalls.
If your health allows it, it’s best to do cardio with weight as it will help keep bone density reduction at bay. Cardio could also cause some injuries, which is not favorable.
Some cardio that you could do with weights — and thus boost your efficiency — is tennis (you carry the racket, which is normally heavy), you can run or walk with weights, etc. If you can’t carry any weight because it’s risky for your health, you should try swimming or riding a bike.
To add to your activity levels each week, make sure that you utilize your non-exercise time. Garden, clean your home, play with your children, grandchildren, or pets, etc. Anything you can do to be a bit more active will add both to your mental and physical health.
Best Cardio Workouts for Women Over 50
Here are some exercises you can try.
Walking is relatively simple and straightforward — it’s something we do every day anyway, so it works as a form of exercise as well. You can do it slowly, as you’d normally do, or try a brisker pace, which would allow you to burn more calories and get more benefits.
If you haven’t exercised in a while, start with a slower pace and build to something bigger. This is the easiest way to get started. A walk could be a pleasant part of your day — you can do it with a friend, a partner, someone from your family, or even your pet. Try to add more uphills and difficult terrains as you improve your stamina.
Jogging is another step up from walking. While you shouldn’t do a lot of it, it can be useful in smaller, 20-minute bursts, for example. Make sure that you are staying safe and that you don’t hurt yourself as well.
Jogging is good because it gives you a chance to spend some time outdoors, just like walking. In general, aim for 50 minutes a week of jogging. That way, you can both lose weight, feel amazing, and get your stamina up.
There’s also a test that can help you determine how far along in your training you are — if you can talk while running, it means you’re on a good track.
Swimming seems deceptively easy and simple, but it’s actually one of the best exercises for women over 50, and if you have a chance to do it, you definitely should. It doesn’t put any strain on your joints, which is important when you get older. In fact, it doesn’t put any strain on your body, and it gives you the utmost support.
At the same time, swimming isn’t just cardio — it’s a workout for your entire body, and it can help you build muscles, especially in your upper body and core. Swimming is also a balance exercise, especially because it affects your core in a positive way, so you will be at a lower risk of injuries when you do other forms of exercise.
Muscle Strength Training
While weight lifting is traditionally avoided by women in favor of cardio or balance exercises, it’s one of the best things you can do for your body. Of course, the strength wouldn’t be just for the sake of strength. It would be for the sake of keeping your muscles strong for regular tasks. As we age, our muscle strength deteriorates too.
So, in old age, tasks that used to be easy can become difficult.
After menopause, estrogen levels drop, and you see the results of your exercise less and less. So, you need to switch up your routine — workout less, but at a higher intensity. Muscle loss starts around the age of thirty, so you have to start, including strength training early on.
Here are some exercises for beginners: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WIHy-ZnSndA
So, if you have already done strength training before, you should change your routine to include more sets of exercises — instead of two sets, do four. Try compound exercises that will work on several of your muscle groups and try to do three days of strength training with rest periods between them. Try to also shift the tempo — do some exercises slower while some faster.
Best Muscle Strength Training Workouts for Women Over 50
Here are some of the exercises you can try.
To do a squat, you have to stand with your core engaged and your feet slightly apart. Start by bending your knees and pushing your hips backward. The movement is similar to trying to sit on a chair. Carry your weight in your heels and raise yourself back up. Repeat this movement for at least ten times.
If you want to make it harder, you should carry dumbbells.
You can do this exercise with a chair, too, by squatting over the chair but not actually sitting down. Raise yourself up and repeat this several times.
Squats are great because they can help you tone your legs and glutes, but also give your balance a boost. This way, you would be killing two birds with one stone. This exercise can also improve your bone density, which is crucial after 50. It can help you prevent falls and injuries.
Pushups are another common and popular exercise that involves several muscle groups. They can improve your posture, help you with balance, and make your core and arms stronger.
Start with a modified pushup which would involve you kneeling on the mat with hands below your shoulders and an angled back. Tighten your core and then lower yourself to the floor. Your neck should stay long and your gaze to the front. Then press up and down.
Once you get stronger, you should try a real push up. It’s a bit harder, but it works well, and it will help you become even stronger.
Planks are excellent for your entire body, and it’s one of the most recommended exercises for everyone. It’s quite simple too, so you don’t need a trainer, and you can do it at home.
To start, place your forearms on the mat and keep your elbows under your body. Raise your body up and form a straight line with your body. Your entire core should be engaged, and you should hold that form for 30 seconds.
At the start, you may experience some pain in your lower back nearing the end of those thirty seconds, and if that happens, you should place your knees on the floor.
This exercise is important because your core gets weaker as you age, especially if you lead a sedentary life. This makes every movement a strain on your back. However, if you practice this workout daily, your core will get more engaged, and you’ll be able to stay strong for a lot longer.
As we age, we lose muscle in our biceps too, and we end up with those flabs on our upper arms. This is not only bad aesthetically, but it also limits your mobility and range of motion.
For this exercise, you would need resistance bands — which are an excellent investment for all sorts of exercise, not just this one — and place one under your foot. Hold each end of the band with each of your hands and pull up and down. You should pull up for 2 seconds and then release for three. Move your arms while keeping your entire body engaged, but don’t move anything but your arms. Repeat several times and then switch the band to the other foot.
Balance and Flexibility
Balance and flexibility are some of the most important parts of your exercise routine. It allows you to move freely with a full range of motion and prevents injuries too. It will improve your other workouts — for example, you’ll be able to do a lot more strength training if you also practice some balance and flexibility.
If you can move without pain, everything becomes easier.
Some of the best exercises that enable this are yoga, pilates, tai chi, stretching, etc. Even the best athletes stretch before exercise to warm their bodies up and make everything more enjoyable.
You can also do some exercises in the water as it also boosts your mobility, but the chances of injury are minimal. You should take a few moments before and after any activity to stretch for a little bit.
At your age, you should include yoga, pilates, or tai chi in your regular exercise routine — for example, one session a week. If you haven’t exercised in a while and you feel like your mobility has decreased, these lessons can help you get back your youthful movements and grace.
However, don’t just do balance and flexibility training as it won’t be effective for you. You need to do equal parts of balance and strength training to achieve strength and stability, which is the paramount as you age.
Try to do an exercise that will boost your flexibility every morning.
A ten-minute yoga session in your bedroom, for instance, will prepare you for the day. Remember to also stretch before exercising and throughout the day. Most yoga asanas are pretty easy to do, even in an office setting—for instance, cat-cow asana on your chair.
Before doing any of these exercises on your own, take a few beginner classes that will teach you proper form, and then you can do them at home without a problem. The form is important because it can help you be efficient and avoid any injuries.
Best Balance and Flexibility Workouts for Women Over 50
Here are some forms of balance and flexibility exercises you can do.
Yoga is one of the most popular exercise options for people over 50, mostly because it offers so many benefits for your physical and mental health. As a bonus, everyone can get started with yoga no matter their age, weight, or how much they have exercised in the past. There are numerous yoga classes for beginners that can help you learn the best practices.
According to research, yoga can help you reduce the deterioration of a part of our DNA that is responsible for aging. Of course, it works best with a healthy lifestyle and meditation, but yoga is one of the main parts of it.
Yoga also reduces stress and helps you get back to your glow. At the same time, you get many of the benefits that were already mentioned — better strength, flexibility, range of motion, etc.
Yoga is excellent if you are stiff or prone to injury because it doesn’t put a strain on your body, and it’s easy on the bones and joints.
The first step to getting into a yoga routine is to find a form of yoga that works for you.
There are different types of yoga — some of them are gentler and slower, while some are more rhythmic and require a quick shift between asanas.
It’s important to know that breathing is one of the main elements of yoga. For example, you could take Hatha yoga, which is slower, and you have to learn breathing techniques. If you want something more dynamic, try Vinyasa yoga, which resembles a cardio exercise.
Before taking a class, you can try doing some yoga at home. Check for lessons on YouTube and follow the movements as the teacher does them. It can help you understand what yoga is and whether you enjoy it. Here is a 20-minute video session for beginners: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v7AYKMP6rOE
If you want to add mental health benefits to your yoga sessions, take ten minutes before each session and meditate. Take a break when you need to during your sessions. Yoga is all about being comfortable in your own skin, and it’s not about “feeling the burn.” As with any exercise, though, you have to be consistent.
Tai Chi is a Chinese practice that involves both movement and meditation. It’s been around for centuries, and it can help you find your balance and relax your body while keeping your strength. Tai Chi is similar to yoga in that it’s not something that you can win — it’s something to practice gracefully, with peace in your mind.
The movements in tai chi are slow, graceful, and not straining for your bones and joints. Breathing is a big part of tai chi too.
You can expect that tai chi will provide plenty of benefits — stress relief and balance being the most important ones. You’ll shift your weight from one side of the body to the other, and that’s how you’ll become more graceful, flexible, and balanced. It’s good cardio, while also being a strength and stretching exercise. Here is a video you can watch to get a feeling of what Tai Chi is like: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cEOS2zoyQw4
Tai Chi is good for chronic pain as well.
Your mental health will also benefit from tai chi — you’ll notice stress reduction, less anxiety, better response to stressful situations, improved focus, memory, and a generally improved life quality.
Pilates can be done whether you have exercised a lot in the past or not. You won’t need a ton of equipment, and you can do it at home after learning the basic principles. It won’t strain your muscles or your heart, and it’s perfectly safe for anyone over 50.
Pilates is an invigorating exercise that — just like yoga or tai chi — involves plenty of breathing and keeping your body focused. The movements in pilates are very smooth, slow, and flowing, which will allow you to get into it pretty easily, without unnecessary stress to your body.
It’s a good place to start because it keeps the focus on your core mostly, so it will strengthen that part of the body. As you probably know, your core is responsible for the efficiency of strength training and many other forms of training. At the same time, core strength is essential for a good life quality later on.
Pilates also makes you more flexible and decreases your risk of injury. In general, it boosts your entire body, helping you move more gracefully and swiftly, improving all your other workouts.
Why Is Exercise Important After 50?
As we age, staying active becomes even more important. Physically, the benefits are endless — you can boost your range of motion, strength, independence, balance, etc. But you can also experience mental health benefits like improved mood, less stress, more energy, a better quality of life, etc.
Exercise can even reduce pain and help you return your youthful glow. Starting is challenging, of course, but once you do, you’ll inevitably notice how good it feels. Don’t let any present health conditions stop you. Just modify how you exercise.
If you have never exercised before, it can be even more daunting. However, don’t let the fear of something new discourage you. If you don’t know where to start — head to the nearest gym and ask. There are professionals there that can help you form a routine that works for you.
Remember — you are never too frail, too old or too ill to start.
The most important is to find the type of physical activity that will best suit your condition. When in doubt, get professional medical advice.
Regular exercise will decrease your stress levels and make you happier while giving a boost to your health. It can also be fun. Get a friend to do it with you, run with your grandchildren or children, get a puppy and run with them every day. Imagine how relaxing it would be to run early in the morning, in nature, while listening to music.
Your metabolism starts slowing down when you’re 30, so weight gain is hard to avoid. With exercise, you can increase your muscle mass and thus give your metabolism a boost. Muscles spend more calories than fat. You will also spend more calories, making it harder to gain weight.
You’ll be less likely to get a chronic disease, or you’ll decrease any effects of chronic disease that you already have. You’ll improve your blood pressure and heart health in general, boost your immunity, keep your bones and joints healthy, etc.
If you have sleep problems, exercise will be able to fix them. It’s not just that you’ll be able to fall asleep faster, but that your sleep will be deeper and more nourishing.
Safety Precautions Before Starting to Exercise For Women Over 50
While exercise is one of the best things you can do for yourself, you should also be aware of your limitations. No person is the same as the other — so just because an exercise works for your friend, it doesn’t mean that it will work for you.
Your exercise routine will depend on your current health, whether you’ve exercised before, whether you have any injuries that may prevent you from performing, whether you need medication, etc. So, some of the activities mentioned above may not be appropriate for you.
It’s important to see your doctor before starting with your workouts.
Ask them specifically about each exercise you plan on doing. They can tell you if there is something you should avoid. Describe your condition to a trainer and ask them for help. They can suggest useful modifications to an exercise that you want to do.
Remember to put your focus on strength training and balance training, with just enough cardio to condition your body. Take breaks when you need them and have rest days between exercises. Drink plenty of water while you exercise and eat healthy food that can nourish your body. Always have a few minutes to warm up.
Another thing you have to do if you have never exercised before is to start slow and gentle. Then, as you feel yourself get stronger, boost your routine.
With strength training, remember to learn proper form. If you do, you’ll decrease your risk of injury and allow yourself to exercise efficiently.
When you combine all of these exercises and form a proper schedule, you can achieve a lot. Try to establish a plan with a professional trainer. An expert should also show you proper form before you can start working out on your own.
For some, it might be easier to workout at home, but some prefer the gym since that puts them in the right mindset. Find a solution that’s the most appropriate for you and then follow through. The key to succeeding is consistency. While exercising, focus less on weight or any other visible results and more on how you feel.
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