The best exercises for over 50 and out of shape
The best exercises for over over 50 and out of shape folks can be a very confusing topic if you’re searching for the answer on the internet. Let’s see if we can cut through some of that confusion.
Life over 50 is different than life at 20. As we age, we accumulate many years of valuable life experiences.
But you may have been so busy the last 20 or 30 years building a career, raising a family, and being involved in community and social activities, that regular exercise got neglected.
And once you get over 50, you start to notice the effects of that neglect.
You start feeling the effects of age-related wear and tear on your body. Injuries from the past are coming back to haunt you with chronic aches and pains, and new injuries are much harder to recover from. It takes longer and longer to get loosened up and get going in the morning.
Sarcopenia, or age-related muscle loss, is naturally causing you to lose strength and muscle mass every year. After age 30, you begin to lose as much as 3% to 5% per decade. Less muscle means greater weakness and less mobility, both of which may increase your risk of falls and fractures. (health.harvard.edu)
A strength training program specifically designed for people over 50 is the solution to all these problems. It’s essential to keep us at our highest possible level of pain-free function, and provides that feeling of achievement and self-mastery that comes from the process of successfully becoming strong and fit over 50.
This post will go over the best exercises for over 50 and out of shape people, and how to get started using them safely, even if you haven’t exercised in years.
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What are the health benefits of over 50s working out?
The health benefits of strength training, especially for people over 50, are too numerous to list here, but I’ll give you a few –
A properly designed strength training exercise routine for over 50:
- Improves glucose metabolism, which is important for combating diabetes;
- Increases resting metabolic rate, which is basically the amount of calories you burn at rest. Muscles are your calorie burning engines, and the bigger and stronger they are, the more calories they need, even when you’re resting, which leaves less calories left over to be stored as fat.
- Reduces pain and discomfort from arthritis;
- Improves bone mineral density, important for those at risk for osteoporosis;
- Has a beneficial effect on self-esteem;
- And strength training has even been shown in studies to improve executive cognitive function in seniors.
How do you start working out when you’re out of shape?
#1. Make a commitment
Commitment is the starting point of all worthwhile achievement, and making a decision is the starting point of commitment. If you want to get back in shape after 50, the first thing you need to do is decide you are going to get in shape, and then commit to that decision.
Once you make a committed decision, something special happens to you. You will find an inner drive taking hold of you, propelling you in the direction of your desired value.
Take a moment now to reflect on why you want to get in shape. What do you think being in shape will do for you? How will it improve the quality of your life? Why is it important to you?
Answering these questions will help you successfully make your way through the myriad of distractions we all deal with in day-to-day life and get your workouts done.
#2. Join a gym, or set one up at home
You can greatly increase your odds of getting to the gym and achieving your fitness goals by choosing your gym wisely. Getting there is half the battle; once you’re there, there’s nothing else to do but workout.
A primary consideration when choosing your gym is location. The more convenient it is for you to get there, the more likely you will be to stick with the program.
If you work, you could choose a gym that is near your place of business, or between work and home. This would allow you to work out before or after work without going out of your way. If you don’t work, or if you work from home, choosing a gym close to home is the obvious choice.
If you don’t have access to a well-equipped gym, a home gym is a good investment. As home gym workouts have risen in popularity, many good equipment options have become available.
At a minimum, you’ll need a set of adjustable dumbbells, an adjustable bench, a swiss ball, and a fitness step.
(Note: for more details on how to set up your home gym, what equipment you’ll need and where to get it, check out this article)
#3. Set an appointment – with yourself
Now that you’ve designed your workouts and chosen a gym, you need to figure out where you can squeeze that workout into your day. Then, you simply schedule your appointment – which is with yourself – to meet at your gym at the scheduled time.
Scheduling these workouts is no different than scheduling any other high priority task – dentist appointment, doctor appointment, business meeting, etc.- except that your workouts will be scheduled 2 times a week instead of occasionally. You should assign the same importance to them, and commit (there’s that word again!) to making a habit of keeping these appointments.
#4. Design your gym or home workout – best exercises for over 50 and out of shape
If you’re over 50 and out of shape, your body is not going to tolerate marathon 2 hour weightlifting sessions 6 days a week. And the good news is, you don’t need to work out like that, nor should you.
What you want to do instead is design a workout program that covers as many muscles in your body as possible with as few exercises as possible. This can be accomplished through strategic exercise selection.
When you’re first starting out, you can achieve a great full body workout consisting of only 5 exercises. You can do these 5 movements in a commercial gym or a properly equipped home gym setting.
Gym exercise routine – best exercises for over 50 and out of shape:
- Lower Body Push – Leg Press, lunges with dumbbells, leg extension
- Lower Body Flexion – Leg curl, seated calf raise, calf raise on leg press machine
- Upper Body Push – Chest press, dumbbell incline press, machine or dumbbell seated overhead press
- Upper Body Pull – Pulldown machine, seated machine or cable row, dumbbell row.
- Midsection – Abdominal machine, knee raises, back extension machine
Home exercise routine – best exercises for over 50 and out of shape:
- Lower Body Push – Wall squat with swiss ball, lunges with dumbbells
- Lower body flexion – Calf raise on fitness step, hip hinge with dumbbells
- Upper body push – Dumbbell chest press, pushup, seated dumbbell shoulder press
- Upper body pull – Dumbbell row, pullups on doorway pullup bar
- Midsection – Abdominal crunch, back extension on swiss ball
#5. Go through your first workout.
Ok, it’s day one of your new program. You’ve joined the gym or bought the equipment you need for your home gym, and now you’re standing in the workout area, ready to go.
So what do you do now?
Before starting your workout, you should perform a 5 to 10 minute warm-up. This will increase your internal temperature a little and prepare your body for the workout, like warming up a car before driving on a cold day.
If you’re training in a gym, you can use a bike or treadmill for 3-5 minutes for your lower body, and perform a few upper body pushes and pulls with light dumbbells for your upper body. If you’re training at home, walk outside or march in place for 3-5 minutes, then do your upper body pushes and pulls with light dumbbells.
Just be sure not to turn your warm-up into a workout of its own – do just enough so that you feel loosened up enough that you won’t injure yourself, and save your strength for the actual workout.
Now you will move to your strength training exercise routine as outlined above. Pick one exercise from each category, and perform one set of each exercise to a point of muscular fatigue where you can’t continue anymore. Perform each repetition slowly and smoothly without using momentum.
Go through each of the 5 movements in this fashion, choosing one exercise for each movement. Once you get the hang of things, you should be done in under 20 minutes.
(Note: If you’d like my help setting up a personalized routine for you and getting started efficiently, no matter where you live, click here to learn more.)
How do you increase body strength?
To reach your ultimate fitness destination you need to make small, progressive steps every workout. A simple way to do this is to use a “rep range”.
A rep range is a minimum-to-maximum range of repetitions you set for each exercise. The rep range I recommend for lower body and midsection exercises is 9 to 12, while the rep range for upper body exercises is 7-10.
Your goal when you’re just starting out is to find an amount of resistance on each exercise where you can perform at least the minimum number of reps in the range – if you can’t, it’s too heavy. And if you can perform the top number of repetitions in the range (or more), that’s your signal to increase the resistance on your next workout, to bring you back into the range.
This system enables you to make consistent, measurable progress continuously, right from your first workout, in the most time-efficient way possible.
How often should you exercise after age 50?
Starting out, you will be working out 2 days a week, with a minimum of 2 rest days in between each workout. You can work out on the same days of the week, every week; or you can work out every third day, whichever day of the week that falls on.
Using the rep range system, you will be able to increase your reps and weights on each exercise for several months. Many of my Tele-Coaching clients are shocked at the amount of weight they end up using on some exercises, which far exceeds what they thought would even be possible for them.
How can I reshape my body after 50? (build muscle, lose fat)
Reshaping your body after 50 requires a combination of losing excess body fat and consistent strength training to build muscle.
Losing excess body fat is much easier today than it used to be due to the invention of calorie counting apps. In order to lose unwanted body fat to reshape your body, you need to reduce your total daily calories a little; and to do that, you need to figure out how many calories you’re consuming now.
This is pretty easy to do nowadays by using a calorie counting app, like Lose It or My Fitness Pal. Once you see exactly what you really eat in a day you can take steps to decrease your intake a little to lose that extra stored body fat.
Of course, always check in with your doctor before reducing your food intake.
The other step in this equation is to build some new muscle.
Can you build muscle mass after age 50?
Building muscle after 50 is not only possible, it’s something we should all be striving for in our exercise programs.
The physiological process of muscular hypertrophy over 50 is the same as any other age, and for both men and women. It’s not like there’s some magical deadline, after which Mother Nature doesn’t let you build muscle anymore.
And the cool thing is you can build functional muscle mass after age 50 without crazy, complex, dangerous exercises, or spending all day in the gym, by following the exercise routines discussed in this post.
Should anyone age 50 or older avoid exercise?
While the exercises listed here are all safe exercises if done properly, all forms of exercise pose some inherent risk. The exercise programs described in this post are not intended as a substitute for any exercise routine or dietary regimen that may have been prescribed by your doctor.
As with all exercise programs, you should get your doctor’s approval before beginning.
Summary: The best exercises for over 50 and out of shape
- A strength training program specifically designed for people over 50 is essential to keep us at our highest possible level of pain-free function, and provides that feeling of achievement and self-mastery that comes from the process of successfully becoming strong and fit over 50.
- If you want to get back in shape after 50, the first thing you need to do is decide you are going to get in shape, and then commit to that decision.
- A primary consideration when choosing your gym is location. The more convenient it is for you to get there, the more likely you will be to stick with the program.
- If you don’t have access to a well-equipped gym, a home gym is a good investment. As home gym workouts have risen in popularity, many good equipment options have become available.
- Before starting your workout, you should perform a 5 to 10 minute warm-up.
- When you’re first starting out, you can achieve a great full body workout consisting of only 5 exercises: lower body push, lower body flexion, upper body push, upper body pull, midsection.
- Pick one exercise from each category, and perform one set of each exercise to a point of muscular fatigue where you can’t continue anymore.
- The rep range I recommend for lower body and midsection exercises is 9 to 12, while the rep range for upper body exercises is 7-10.
- Reshaping your body after 50 requires a combination of losing excess body fat and consistent strength training to build muscle.
- As with all exercise programs, you should get your doctor’s approval before beginning.