Working Out Over 50: The Do's and Don'ts
By Personal Trainer Daniel DeMoss
Working out has incredible benefits for our health, and I think by now we all know this. It improves your immunity, boosts your mood, it helps you sleep better, and much more.
But what about people over 50? Do the same benefits apply to them? And what about safety?
Whether we like it or not, with age, we lose strength, muscle mass, and bone density with age.
There are definitely risks. But, that doesn't mean they outweigh the benefits.
In this article, I will tell you all the do’s and don'ts of working out over 50 to make sure you reap all the benefits and avoid the risks.
What are the Benefits of Working Out for Over 50s?
Exercise is known to boost the immune system, something that is valuable for those over 50 as well. Not only that, but studies show exercise can reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease.1
Exercise has also been proven to improve mental health by boosting your mood and improving sleep.
However, especially for seniors, exercise plays a significant impact on memory. A recent study showed people who exercised regularly scored higher in the memory and quality of life index.2
Furthermore, exercise helps maintain a healthy bone density and muscle mass, thus reducing the risk of falling and fractures.
And let's not forget that exercise can also help with social engagement for those who work out at gyms or who go out to parks.
Do’s and Don’ts for Working Out When You’re Over 50
Do Warm Up and Stretch
Never forget to warm up before starting to exercise.
Even if you feel you're not planning on doing much, everything counts. Without a proper warm-up, the risk of injury is increased.
You can do a short low-impact steady-state cardio session on a stationary, recumbent bike, or even an elliptical.
If you plan on doing strength or resistance training, add a few dynamic stretches to warm-up the muscles you'll be working on.
You can also consider doing the first set of exercises without any weights.
In the end, don't skip over the cooldown. Stretch all the muscles you've worked. It will help prevent injury and soreness but it will also improve your flexibility.
Do Low-Impact Exercises
Opt for low-impact exercises that don't put a lot of pressure on your joints.
Aim for 30 minutes of cardiorespiratory endurance exercises each day. Things like walking, swimming, stationary cycling are great examples.
If you haven't exercised in a long time, or have other health issues that make you tire easily, do less than 30 minutes.
Adapt the exercises so that you elevate your heart rate enough for it to be healthy, but not so much that you feel like crashing afterward.
As for strength training, don't try to lift the maximum weight possible every time. Start lower and focus more on proper form.
Do Talk to Your Doctor About Your Exercise Regime
Whether you have or you don't have pre-existing medical conditions, it is always a good idea to talk to a doctor before starting an exercise regime.
Tell them what you plan on doing, and make sure none of those exercises put you at risk.
Do Consult a Qualified Personal Trainer
Finally, once you know you're allowed to exercise it can be beneficial to consult with a PT.
They will be able to help you choose the best exercises. They'll also make sure you're doing them correctly, with proper form, to minimize the risk of injury.
Don’t Push Yourself Beyond What You Can Do
Never push yourself beyond your limits. You're not in a competition after all! You're working out for your health.
“But how can I make progress if I don't push my limits?”, you're probably wondering. That's easy. Through consistency.
Show up every day or on the schedule suggested by your physical therapist and do the exercises to the best of your ability.
In time, your best will improve and what was once your maximum will feel very easy.
At that moment, increasing the intensity will come naturally, because you'll feel like your workouts aren't enough anymore.
However, if you push your limits too soon, you'll be at a higher risk of injury.
Don’t Forget About Strength and Resistance Training
Strength and resistance training are crucial for those working out over 50.
Strength training helps prevent bone loss, improves balance, and reduces the risk of falls and fractures.
You don't have to go all crazy and start lifting as heavy as possible to get these benefits. Start small, with calisthenics, resistance bands, and some light dumbbells.
Aim for 2-3 strength and resistance training workouts per week. Examples of simple exercises include squats, lunges that can be done with or without weights depending on your fitness level.
Don't forget about your back, your arms, and your core. Resistance bands are great in this regard, as they are also easy on the joints.
Don’t Keep Doing the Same Exercises
Do not stay stuck in the same exercise routine for weeks on end. Switch up the exercises from session to session, to constantly keep your body guessing.
You'll make progress faster, gain more strength and resistance, and you'll avoid hitting plateau.
Don’t Ignore If You’re Feeling Pain
Finally, if you're ever in any pain, don't ignore it!
Some exercises might come with a slight discomfort - after all, when you are working out, you are making an effort.
But if that mild discomfort ever turns into pain, stop what you're doing.
Maybe you're executing the exercise with improper form, maybe you're tired or maybe those exercises just aren't for you.
Ideally, consult with a PT to find out the cause.
Working out over 50 is not only possible, but it is also beneficial. Focus on low-impact exercises without ignoring strength and resistance training to get the best results.
Consult with a doctor and a physical therapist to minimize the risk of injury. Finally, don't push yourself too hard and especially don't ignore pain.
Remember, you're doing this for your health.
If you're wondering how to work out from the comfort of your home, our website is dedicated to this specific topic.
Check it out for reviews on the best adjustable dumbbells, that will help you get the most out of your strength training routine without taking up all the space in your home.
We also provide advice on how to work out more effectively, so that you can get the best results in no time.
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1) Woolcott JC, Ashe MC, Miller WC, et al Does physical activity reduce seniors' need for healthcare?: a study of 24 281 Canadians British Journal of Sports Medicine 2010;44:902-904.
2) A.P.A.Albuquerque, F.Borges-Silva, Gomes da Silva Borges, A. Pinto Pereira E.H.M.Dantas Physical activity: Relationship to quality of life and memory in older people Science & Sports Volume 32, Issue 5, October 2017