Embarking on a new journey to fitness for women over 50 is an exciting challenge and an important first step in prioritizing your health and wellbeing. But, if it’s been a while since your last gym session or workout class, it’s totally normal to feel nervous or a little unsure about where to start. Cue–our guide to fitness for women over 50.
When it comes to exercise, it’s important to find an activity you enjoy that also works around your lifestyle. While investing in the best running shoes for women is a must for the keen runners among us, if you find yourself dreading hitting the pavements every week, then it's okay to move onto another activity and try something new.
As we age, our bodies change, and so your fitness routine at 50 might look totally different from how you were working out in your 20s. Previously, you might have loved working up a sweat with high-intensity workouts that pushed you to your limits. While you can still do HIIT workouts at 50, you should also be focusing on low-impact, strengthening workouts to support joints and combat the natural loss of bone density. These will also help improve your biological age.
It's important to find an exercise regime you love. If you don't, you’ll struggle to create a routine and find workout motivation to keep you going through the weeks and months ahead. Luckily, there are so many other activities out there to help you discover what fitness routine is right for you. From Pilates for beginners to walking for weight loss, you’ll soon find an activity you enjoy spending your time and energy on that will also improve your physical fitness. Because, while exercise should be challenging it should also be fun!
To help you on your fitness journey, we spoke to top health and fitness experts who shared with us the top workouts for women over 50. There’s something for everyone, whether you’re kickstarting your fitness journey, looking for motivation to get back on track or want to try something totally new.
Now all that's left to do is charge up your fitness tracker, lace up your trainers, and get moving!
Fitness for women over 50
1. Strength training
What is it? Whether you do it at home or in the gym, strength training is any workout that focuses on strengthening your muscles. You can perform these exercises using your own body weight, resistance bands or dumbbells.
What are the benefits? You might not have realized the importance of strength training for women, but specifically for women over 50 strength training can prevent injury and maintain bone density, says Greta Goodman, Trainer at F45 Wimbledon.
“In my opinion increasing bone density is a hugely under-valued benefit of strength training. By adding more weight to the skeleton the bones are stimulated to strengthen–helping to reduce the risk of conditions such as osteoporosis, osteopenia and injuries such as fractures," Greta explains.
"It's estimated that more than half of women aged 50 and older have a low bone mass. Low bone density is more common in women due to them generally having smaller bones and losing oestrogen during the menopause. So strength training is hugely beneficial, particularly for us women at every stage of life!”
How do I start? You can start from the comfort of your own home with at–home workout videos using your own body weight or household items to add some extra resistance. If you decide to sign up for a class or head to the gym, Greta advises finding a trainer who can support you on your journey.
“If you’re new to strength training your coach can guide you through the process, meet you where you’re at and help support you to get to where you want to be,” Greta says.
“Starting anything new can feel daunting at times or when we go to start something new, we might feel an overwhelming sense of not feeling ‘ready’. Often taking the first step is the hardest. Take the first step, go at your own pace and, most importantly, enjoy the journey!" Greta says.
What is it? Pilates is a low-impact exercise that builds strength, and improves flexibility, posture and balance. There are four main types of Pilates, including Mat Pilates, Reformer Pilates, Classical Pilates and Contemporary Pilates. All types combine a series of strengthening exercises but use different sequences and equipment to engage different parts of the body. Don't be fooled though, it's not all about stretching and you will certainly feel the burn!
What are the benefits? As we age, we naturally lose muscle but, a regular Pilates routine can help combat this. Combining aerobic exercises with resistance training, Pilates will help strengthen muscles and mobilize joints, says Pilates teacher Lotty Somers.
"It’s a great way to mobilize our joints, so we are able to work them through a full range of motion and move freely without tension," Lotty adds.
Pilates is also great for keeping the brain active, improving concentration and coordination. As we learn new movements and motor patterns, we're training our mind to be present and to focus, adds Talia Williams, Director of Teacher Training at East River Pilates
Then you've got the incredible mental and emotional wellbeing benefits. Being mindful as you move, staying present in the moment and working on your mind–body connection can help reduce stress and anxiety, and improve sleep and confidence.
How do I start? YouTube is full of Pilates workouts to kickstart your practice, all you need to do is roll out your yoga mat and get moving. Many Pilates studios also offer online Pilates classes, so you can learn the basics at home before taking a beginners class with others. If you want to get right to it and start at a studio, begin with a Mat Pilates class or beginners Reformer Pilates class. The benefit of in-person classes is the one-on-one support and advice you'll get from your teacher, who will help you nail each move and keep your posture in check.
3. Nordic Walking
What is it? Nordic walking is less about speed and more about technique. By using a set of walking poles, you'll put your upper body muscles to work as well as your legs, giving you a total body workout.
What are the benefits? Nordic walking will help you lose weight and build strength, all while enjoying the beauty of the outdoors. For women over 50, it's particularly great as the walking poles take some weight off of your knees and lower joints, putting less pressure on your body as you walk.
"It’s ideal because the poles reduce pressure on lower body joints," says Gill Stewart from Nordic Walking UK. "You can add muscle groups and really work them without the discomfort of something like jogging. We call it ‘upping the gears’. The poles help to move you forward–it feels easier and people can last longer."
It will also help improve your cardiovascular fitness, without the risks that come with high-intensity cardio and the pressure it can put on your body, says personal trainer Luke Worthington.
How do I start? Invest in a pair of the best women’s walking shoes, grab yourself a set of walking poles and get walking in your local park! It’s as simple as that.
Teaming up with family and friends or joining a walking club can make Nordic walking even more fun, as you take on the challenge with other like-minded people. Gill advises going slow at first, mastering the technique of using walking poles and then building up your distance as you get more confident.
"Once you have learned the technique, start at 30 minutes, until you feel comfortable–and don’t fret if you don’t have miles of open country. Some Nordic walkers are strictly urban, using only streets and local parks," Gill adds.
Remember to always plan your route before you set out and share it with family or friends, check the weather in advance and always walk in daylight. Pack plenty of water and snacks, and rest as and when you need to on your walk.
4. Pole dancing
What is it? It's not the most traditional workout, but pole dancing really is an intense full-body sweat, combining dance and acrobatics to help you strengthen and tone, improve flexibility and feel amazing.
What are the benefits? Pole dancing is a total confidence booster that will push you out of your comfort zone. As you get older, taking on a new challenge is as important for your mental wellbeing as it is for your physical health.
"Pole dancing is space for you to explore movement as well as become comfortable in your own skin," explains says Dalijah Franklin, teacher at Body & Pole., "Being confident isn’t just a feeling when you pole dance. You will exude it in your day-to-day life, too. My self-esteem and how I view my body have changed since I started pole dancing 14 years ago. I appreciate my body for how far it has come and the strength it has gained from pole dancing."
You might feel a little self-conscious at the beginning, and that's okay. The more you practice, the more confident you'll feel and the stronger you'll become.
Dalijah describes her student's biggest challenge as embracing the idea they can feel great and step out of their comfort zone. "It's okay to want to feel sexy and confident without being demonized or judged for it," she adds. "The more people that try poling and start normalizing it, the more society will adapt to it and realize this is a great workout for anyone and everyone who wants to try it."
How do I start? If you're nervous about taking your first class, start by trying pole dancing workout videos on YouTube. The no-equipment routines will help you master some of the basic moves you'll learn in class, and improve your flexibility. When you're ready, sign up for a class or encourage a friend to try a workout with you. And remember, everyone in the class is there to workout, have fun and feel great.
"Pole is challenging but it's the journey of a lifetime and one you will not regret. If you're waiting for a sign to pole dance, this is your sign!" Dalijah adds.
What is it? Spinning is low-impact, but it's one of the best workouts for a full-body sweat. Every time you hop on a spin bike, you can expect to push yourself further. Whether you spin at home or in a studio, you can expect to feel the benefits of spinning instantly after your first class. "It's low impact which makes it accessible to all and easy to start as a beginner," says Boom Cycle co-founder Hilary Rowland.
What are the benefits? For women over 50 wanting to improve their cardiovascular fitness, spin is a must-try. Because it's low-impact in nature, you won't risk putting any extra pressure on your joints. Instead, you'll build lower body strength, promote better circulation and neurogenesis and support your heart, lungs and immune system, Hilary says.
Indoor and group spinning workouts can also be incredibly empowering for women and create a great sense of community. "The feeling of being in a room surrounded by like-minded individuals with no competition or numbers–just fun, great beats and lots of sweat does wonders for boosting endorphins," says Hilary.
"Spinning is a great workout to help combat depression and mitigate the effects of stress, improve memory and thinking and even improve confidence and self-esteem," Hilary adds.
How do I start? Sign up for a spin class at your local gym or spin studio, and get ready to fall in love with this workout. Most studios will provide you with clip-in spinning shoes, the shoes that clip onto the bike making the process of spinning to the beat totally seamless. Remember to take things easy as a beginner, forget about everyone else in the room and just focus on the instructor.
"At Boom Cycle, we encourage riders to take things at their own pace and will never, ever call anyone out negatively during a ride. It's about having a good time and enjoying your ride," Hilary explains.
If you're ready to invest, you can also purchase your own spin bike and take your home workouts to the next level. Whether it's a Peleton or an Apex, having at home is incredibly convenient and means you can hop on it anytime without having to book in for a class. You can take part in live classes or catch up with on-demand access, and keep track of every ride to monitor your progress.
If you have a pre-existing health condition or are concerned about starting a new fitness regime, you should always speak to your doctor for further advice on what is best for you.
Ciara is the health editor at woman&home.com, covering all things health & wellbeing from running to sleep to relationships. She's always on the lookout for new health trends, innovative fitness gadgets and must-read wellness books. Outside of her day-to-day, she's a qualified meditation teacher with the British School of Meditation, and all about bettering that mind-body connection. In her spare time, you’ll find her trying out new fitness classes, hiking up a mountain, or in a beer garden because life is all about balance…
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