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Exercises for staying healthy and active after 50

Last updated 22nd January 2024

5 min read

Choosing to stay active in your 50s is one of the best ways to stay healthy and happy in later life.

Even gentle exercises after the age of 50 can have a positive impact on your health. They can help you stay mobile, reduce tiredness and improve your mental health.

In this guide, we explain some of the best exercises for staying healthy after 50. We also explore the benefits of an active lifestyle, and how to keep up the motivation...

The best exercises for the over 50s

There are plenty of exercises that are suitable for people over 50, from walking to dancing. Here’s what some of these exercises involve, how you can get started, and the pros and cons...

1. Walking

Walking is a low-intensity exercise that you can do on a daily basis. It strengthens your muscles and improves your cardiovascular system( opens in a new tab). And all you need is a reliable pair of shoes!

If you’d like to see the benefits of walking, watch Gary and Liz’s story.

Walking is low-impact, but it's still important to build up your stamina slowly.

2. Water exercises

Water exercises are very popular with people over 50. The buoyancy of the water puts less stress on your joints( opens in a new tab) than some other forms of exercise.

This makes it ideal if you have conditions such as arthritis( opens in a new tab) and osteoporosis. This is because water exercises like swimming are known to improve bone mineral density( opens in a new tab).

A great place to start is an aqua aerobics class, which will take you through all kinds of water exercises. You can find a class near you here( opens in a new tab).

If you'd like to see more of the benefits of swimming, take a look at Jim's story...

3. Simple weight training

Simple weight training can help to build muscle and prevent muscle atrophy( opens in a new tab). This can help you keep your mobility and fitness in later years.

It’s also cheap, since it can be done at home. You’ll only need a pair of lightweight dumbbells or your own body. It’s often best to stick to lightweight training, as heavier wight training comes with more risks.

Some lightweight training exercises include calf raises, tricep dips and lunges. You can do all of these in your own home. Dr Rangan Chaterjee has a simple how-to guide and video you can watch here(opens in a new tab).

4. Stretching exercises

Stretching exercises can help to improve your flexibility, maintain your posture( opens in a new tab), and make you more coordinated.

It's important to not overstretch, as this can cause injuries( opens in a new tab) and issues for your flexibility.

Gentle yoga or pilates classes can be great ways to learn how to stretch properly. There are also lots of guided stretch routines on YouTube. Just remember not to push yourself too far!

5. Chair exercises

Chair exercises can be ideal for people over 50. They’re low-impact and help to improve posture, lubricate joints and enhance flexibility( opens in a new tab).

Exercising from a chair can also mean less risk of injury compared to other activities. Some chair exercises include ankle and wrist rolls, seated torso twists and heel slides. To help, you can watch this step-by-step guide( opens in a new tab) from the NHS.

6. Dance exercises

Dance-based exercises can have lots of benefits( opens in a new tab) for people over 50. They can strengthen muscles, improve balance and reduce stress.

As with stretching exercises, it’s important to properly warm up and cool down.

Many communities have some form of dance-based exercise class. You could try ballroom, Latin, ballet or seated dancing, so why not have a look in your local area. Read 5 ways to start dancing after 50 to find out more.

How to get motivated to exercise

There are lots of benefits to exercising after 50. But change to your routine can be challenging.

You may find there are days where it’s hard to commit to being active. So here are some ways to stay motivated and get the most out of exercising...

Find an exercise you love to do

One of the most important things to remember when picking your exercise? Choose something you genuinely love to do.

Loving your new activity means you’ll enjoy the process and engage with it more. This means you’ll see more health benefits. Plus, you’ll be more likely to keep it up in the long run.

Make it a social habit

Meeting a friend or group to exercise with can make you more motivated( opens in a new tab). You can encourage each other and enjoy each other’s company while you work out.

This can be useful if you’re just starting out. You can also bond with other beginners and have more experienced people around to offer guidance.

Set achievable goals

Having goals can give you something to aim for and help you to track progress. This can give you a sense of accomplishment as you improve your fitness. But it’s important to make these goals realistic for your level and ability.

For example, if you want to start walking, maybe try to walk half a mile every day for the first month. This will build up your base fitness. Then you can slowly increase the amount of exercise you do when you're ready.

By making exercise a long-term lifestyle change, you can work towards your exercise goals bit by bit. This can make improving your health, stamina or balance easier.

Health benefits of exercise for the over 50s

Exercise can benefit mental and physical health for people over 50 in lots of ways...

Reduce risks of certain illnesses

Exercise has been linked( opens in a new tab) to reducing the risk of illnesses such as cancer, heart disease( opens in a new tab) and diabetes. As people get older, the risk of these can increase. So exercising can be a good way to increase your life expectancy.

Improves mental health

Exercise also improves your mental health and cognitive functions( opens in a new tab). This can help to reduce depression, improve sleep, and reduce stress and anxiety.

Exercising outside and with a group can also help with loneliness. It can help you to make new friends with like-minded people.

Overall improved physical health

Exercising can strengthen( opens in a new tab) your muscles, bones and cardiovascular system. This helps protect against potential diseases. It also means your mobility and strength is improved, which could help you live longer.

Promotes good balance

Good balance helps us live day-to-day life with ease. Yoga and stretching can be good for strengthening muscles( opens in a new tab) and improving coordination.

Speak to your doctor

Starting a new exercise routine can be a fantastic way to step out of your comfort zone, make new friends and improve your health. But it's always best to ask your doctor if it's safe for you to start an exercise regimen. They can also help you decide what kind of exercise is safe for you.

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