As we age, maintaining an elite level, or even a normal level of fitness becomes increasingly difficult. For those over 50, regular exercise is essential to counteract the natural loss of muscle mass, mobility, and speed. But what are the best exercises for mid-life trainees you ask? Here we highlight some of the most essential and best exercises for people over 50.
The Best Exercises for People Over 50
1. Strength Training
This is absolutely the most important thing anyone of any age can do for their health. To paraphrase Dr. Doug Mcguff, author of Body By Science, "maintaining skeletal muscle is the best way to prevent almost all injury and physical ailments."
Contrary to popular belief, strength training is not just for bodybuilders or men. Lifting weights, especially following the principles of high intensity training, helps combat the natural loss of muscle mass that occurs as we age for men and women. It also strengthens bones and improves balance, reducing the risk of falls.
Ladies, if you are older lifting weights may actually be more important for you and help you stay strong and lean. Cardio burns calories, but it is the weight lifting that keeps you looking young and sexy.
If you are new to weight lifting, try the super-slow method of training, which we cover in this post here. It is easy on the joints and is the best way to fully exhaust your muscles.
2. Walking and Sprinting
If you stop walking, running, and jumping you will literally lose the ability to do so. After 50 your muscles shrink and tendons shorten, which make moving the body extra important.
While strength training is our preferred method for working the cardiovascular system and musculature, running and walking are essential for burning extra calories and helping with exercise recovery on your non-workout days.
Walking is a low-impact exercise that can be easily incorporated into your daily routine. It helps to improve cardiovascular health, maintain a healthy weight, and strengthens bones.
Most people in their 50s, including you we assume, have accumulated a lot of responsibility and stress. Your 50s tend to be a period of maximum work progression, adult/college age children, etc. Walking helps boost your mood and mental well-being by helping to turn off the world, even if only for a few minutes.
Ignore the 10,000 steps non-sense and simply aim for at least 30 minutes per day, either in one go or spread out throughout the day.
But again, only after you have lifted some heavy weight first!
3. Stretching and Joint Mobility
Look, I am only 40 and even I already have days where putting my socks on can be a challenge. I know that is embarrassing, but my hips and hamstrings are so tight in the morning now that my feet seem like they are 20 feet away.
As we mentioned above, your muscles and tendons will tighten and shorten with age, so to combat this we recommend daily stretching or yoga. You don't have to sit in the floor listening to spa music for an hour to get a great stretch.
Simple stretches like touching your toes and moving your joints through their full range of motion like arm circles throughout the day are sufficient to stay nimble and pain free. If you need a program recommendation for the full body, check out Steve Maxwell's Encyclopedia of Joint Mobility video series. They are short, simple, and easy to follow.
4. Swimming and Pool Workouts
Swimming is a great full-body workout that is easy on the joints, making it ideal for those with arthritis or joint pain. It also helps to improve heart health, lung capacity, and muscle strength.
Former MMA great and 50+ athlete Bas Rutten uses pool training to supplement his strength training routine due to a bicep tear he suffered in his late 40s. If you like more intense workouts, give something like this a try.
Remember, it's always important to talk to your doctor before starting a new exercise program, especially if you have any chronic health conditions or haven't been active for a while.
To conclude, staying active as you age doesn't mean you have to run marathons or join a Crossfit "Box". The most effective exercises for people over 50 are those that you enjoy, work every muscle, and is something you can stick with into your 60s, 70s, and 80s. Whether it's walking, swimming, or high intensity strength training, the key is to move your body as often as possible and to stimulate as much muscle as possible.