Starting an Exercise Routine: Exercise for Beginners Over 50

For individuals turning 50 — or those who have seen 50 come and go already — it can be intimidating to start a fitness routine. Especially if you haven’t really been active before. You may find yourself asking, “is it too late to start?”

Luckily, it’s not.

Starting an exercise routine, regardless of age, helps support a healthy lifestyle and increase longevity.

Here are Just a Few Benefits of Physical Activity

Benefit #1: Weight Control

For those struggling to gain or lose weight, incorporating various exercises into our daily routine can help us overcome those obstacles.

Benefit #3: Combat Health Conditions

Diseases such as stroke, metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, depression, cancer, arthritis, and more may be mitigated with the inclusion of daily exercise.

Benefit #3: Improved Mood

This goes beyond the traditional “runner’s high.” When exercise is consistently performed, increases in the positivity hormones such as serotonin and dopamine are seen in the brain, boosting our moods.

Benefit #4: Energy Boosts

Even light activities such as walking have been shown to release chemicals to the brain that help to increase alertness and energy without the caffeine withdrawals.

Benefit #5: Better Sleep

In some cases, exercise may reduce insomnia by decreasing arousal, anxiety, and depressive symptoms as well as helping individuals fall asleep faster.

Now, all these benefits are great… but actually starting a new fitness routine can still be intimidating for those over 50.

Many are restricted from high-impact movements, while others are limited by mobility. However, we’ve gathered the best tips to use when starting to exercise for beginners over 50.

Top 3 Tips for Starting an Exercise Routine

Not knowing where to start is a common struggle for all fitness levels. But when we break it down, it’s really quite simple.

Try to move every day and don’t be afraid to add variety to your exercise routine. But, for those who need more detail and structure, check out the below strategies for starting an exercise routine over 50.

Tip #1: Aim for 5 Days of 30-Minute Moderate-Intensity Aerobic Activities

Aerobic activities include any activity that raises your heart rate for an extended period of time. And while 5 days may seem like a lot, it can be easy to accomplish when we get creative.

Now, if you weren’t physically active before, start slowly. Even 5 minutes of physical activity has health benefits. Then, slowly build up your activity as you progress.

Simple aerobic activities include:

  • Walking Fast Up & Down the Hallway or Stairs
  • Put on Your Favorite Music & Dance
  • Get Outside to Rake the Leaves, Mow the Lawn, & Sweep

Tip #2: Do Muscle-Strengthening Activities 3 Days a Week

By stimulating the growth of muscles and bones, we can help prevent or reduce chronic ailments such as osteoporosis or arthritis. As well, an increase in physical strength helps to promote increased mental and emotional health.

Begin by including the following exercises 3 days a week (e.g. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday):

Wall Pushups

Stand an arm’s length in front of a wall that doesn’t have any paintings, decorations, windows, or doors. Lean forward slightly and put your palms flat on the wall at the height and width of your shoulders.

Keep your feet planted and body rigid as you slowly bring your chest towards the wall. Gently push yourself back so that your arms are straight.

Repeat this movement 5 times.

Lying Hip Bridges on the Bed

Lie face-up on the bed, with your knees bent and feet flat on the mattress. Keep your arms at your side, palms down. Squeeze your backend (glute muscles) to lift your hips off the ground until your knees, hips, and shoulders form a straight line.

Hold your bridged position for a couple of seconds before easing back down.

Repeat this movement 5 times.

Sit to Stand with Overhead Reach

Sitting on the chair or couch, walk your feet forward until your hips are up to the edge of the chair. Then, slide your feet back until your toes are directly underneath your knees. Lean forward a little to bring nose over toes and push up with legs to a standing position.

Try to stand up without using your hands.

Once you’re fully standing, raise your arms up overhead — no need to arch your back. To sit, bend a little at the knees to push hips toward chair and lower the body to a seated position.

Repeat this exercise 5 times. 

Tip #3: Do Balance Exercises 2 Days a Week

Beyond the improved coordination and mental health benefits, performing balance exercises also helps to reduce the chances of falls in older and at-risk adults by more than 40%.

Start off simple, with assistance from a chair or railing… then progress towards these unassisted stances twice a week (e.g. Tuesdays and Thursdays):

Single Limb Stance

Stand next to a steady, solid chair (not one with wheels), and hold on to the backrest with one hand. Lift up your left foot and balance on your right foot.

Hold that position for as long as you can, then switch feet. The goal should be to stand on one foot without holding onto the chair and hold that pose for up to a minute.

Repeat two times per leg.

Walking Heel to Toe

Put your right foot in front of your left foot so that the heel of your right foot touches the top of the toes of your left foot. Put your weight on your heel, then shift it to your toes to bring the left foot forward.

While still touching heel-to-toe, repeat the step with your right foot.

Walk this way for 20 steps.

Clock Reach

Imagine that you are standing in the center of a clock with a chair in front of you. The number 12 is directly in front of you and the number 6 is directly behind you.

Hold the back of a chair if needed. Lift your right leg to point to the number 12 (straight ahead of you).

Next, point your leg towards the number three. Bring back to center and then lift towards the number 6. Bring back to center and finally cross your leg in front of your standing leg and point to the number 9.

Look straight ahead the whole time.

Repeat this exercise twice per side.

The Biggest Obstacle to Getting Started with an Exercise Routine: Motivation

Now that we have a plan, it’s time to make sure we can stick to it! While the strategies above can easily be incorporated into your daily routine as you see fit, staying consistent can be a challenge if we aren’t prepared for the obstacles to come.

Here are two tricks for getting and staying motivated and consistent with your new exercise routine.

Trick #1: Visualize Success

Find a comfortable, quiet, distraction-free place to sit and close your eyes before starting.

First, identify the goal you want to visualize — whether it is the activity you will be doing or the outcome you want to achieve by doing it — then free your mind of any other intruding thoughts. All of your focus is on the activity or achievement.

Picture every detail — what you’re wearing, how you’re feeling, what you’re hearing, smelling, seeing, or tasting. Visualize each step in the process as you slowly breathe deeper and deeper, fully relaxing, and revitalizing your body for the activity to come.

Trick #2: Celebrate Your Achievements

Every time you complete an activity, congratulate yourself. With every positive experience you give yourself, it compounds your desire to continue the activity. Think of it as self-actualized positive reinforcement.

Give yourself something great to celebrate your accomplishments… no matter how small.

With practice and consistency, those over 50 can finally experience the benefits of exercises… because, after all, it’s never too late to start.

Photo of author

Stevie Compango, CNSC, CPT

Stevie is Certified Nutrition Specialist and Certified Personal Trainer for the past 10 years. He specializes in mobility and chronic pain management. His methods have helped thousands of clients improve the quality of their life through movement.

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