Getting Back in Shape – Introduction
How to Get Back in Shape After 50 – It’s Not Too Late!
“You don’t stop exercising because you grow old; you grow old because you stop exercising.” – Dr. Kenneth Cooper, the “father of aerobics.”
Exercise is often seen as a young person’s pastime.
It’s something you do in your 20s and 30s, do less of in your 40s, and give up entirely in your 50s and beyond.
This makes a certain amount of sense as the effects of aging start to catch up with you around this time.
And, after five decades, you’ve earned the right to start taking it easy, right?
However, your 50s is when your body actually needs exercise.
Up to that point (your 30s, actually), most people are naturally reasonably fit and strong, as things like muscle mass and aerobic fitness naturally peak at this time.
Unfortunately, after hitting any peak, the only way is down.
As your 30s become your 40s and 50s, your physical fitness starts to decline.
This downslide is slow at first but quickly gathers momentum.
By the seventh and eighth decades, many people are so weak and unfit that they cannot perform the activities of daily living, such as walking or climbing stairs, or even dressing themselves.
While aging is inevitable, the good news is that regular exercise can put the brakes on age-related physical decline and help delay the physical deterioration often associated with aging.
Even in your 50s and beyond, your body is incredibly adaptable and will respond positively to your workouts.
However, exercising in your 50s is a different undertaking from working out in your 20s and 30s.
So, this article reveals the steps you must take to get back in shape in your 50s.
But before we delve into HOW to get back in shape in your 50s, let’s take a look at why exercise is so beneficial for older adults.
The Benefits of Working Out in Your 50s
Some people in their 50s are resigned to being out of shape.
That’s especially true for those who have not exercised for several decades, or ever for that matter.
They think it’s too late to start working out or that exercise offers no benefit to older people.
In short, you too might not see the value and, therefore, the point.
With that in mind, and in an effort to convince you that it’s never too late to start, here is a list of 20 benefits of exercise for people in their 50s!
- Arthritis relief
- Better balance and coordination
- Blood pressure regulation
- Bone density improvement
- Cardiovascular health
- Cognitive function enhancement
- Diabetes management
- Enhanced mood and mental health
- Improved digestion
- Improved immune function
- Increased energy levels
- Increased longevity
- Lower risk of chronic diseases
- Lower risk of falls
- Metabolism boost
- Muscle mass preservation
- Pain management
- Reduced inflammation
- Reduced risk of cancer
- Weight management
As you can see, exercise is very beneficial for older adults.
It can help improve your lifespan, as well as your healthspan, which is how long you remain healthy into advanced age.
After all, what’s the point of a long life if you spend those extra years sick and incapacitated?
Exercise can delay or even prevent many of the illnesses associated with old age.
The trick is to start before you start to experience significant symptoms.
Think of exercise in your 50s like saving for your pension; it’s an investment in your future.
Now you know how beneficial exercise can be for older adults, let’s move on to how to get back in shape in your 50s.
A Step-by-Step Guide to Get Back In Shape
A lot of older exercisers make the mistake of trying to do too much too soon in an effort to get back in shape as fast as possible.
Don’t be one of them!
I’ve made that mistake too many times – and it is costly.
Trying to do too much too soon will result in severe soreness and tiredness.
You could even end up injured.
Needless to say, none of these things will help you create a new exercise habit.
Avoid these pitfalls by following these steps.
Step 1: Schedule a Medical Check-Up
Your 50s is when many of the chronic diseases associated with aging start to become apparent.
For example, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.
While neither of these things disqualifies you from exercising, they may determine the type of workout you should and shouldn’t do.
Therefore, before embarking on any new fitness journey, especially in your 50s or beyond, it’s crucial to consult with a healthcare provider.
They will undoubtedly be pleased to hear you plan to get back in shape but may want to offer some advice to make your return to fitness as safe as possible.
Step 2: Start with General Physical Activity
Once you have the okay from your doctor and before hitting the gym, you should begin by incorporating more general physical activity into your daily routine.
If you have been sedentary lately, formalized exercise could be too much for you.
You’ll gain many benefits just from sitting less and moving more.
This could be as simple as taking a walk, gardening, or even doing household chores.
The goal is to get up and start using your body.
Using a step counter, try to accumulate about 5000 steps per day.
These don’t have to be walking steps; most step counters also register general movements.
Gradually increase your levels of physical activity until you are hitting 8-10,000 steps per day.
This will go a long way to improving your fitness and health without resorting to formalized exercise.
Step 3: Set Realistic Goals
Why do you want to get back in shape?
Having a goal is like the carrot at the end of the stick; it will motivate you to keep moving onward and upward.
Exercising without goals means your efforts lack direction, and you are more likely to quit.
Whether it’s losing weight, building muscle, or improving cardiovascular health, having clear, achievable goals will keep you motivated and give you a roadmap for success.
Don’t just think of your goals but, instead, write them down.
This makes them real.
Good examples include:
- Lose 20 pounds
- Lower your blood pressure to within healthy parameters
- Be able to walk four miles without stopping
- Reduce your waist measurement to 34 inches
- Be able to pick up your 40-pound grandkid with ease
Step 4: Create a Balanced Routine
Fitness trainers love to argue over the merits of different types of exercise, trying to convince their audience which one is best.
Some say that cardio is all you need, while others will tell you it’s strength training, yoga, or CrossFit.
The truth is that all kinds of exercise are beneficial, and most 50-year-olds to get back in shape need a balanced, varied workout routine.
As such, your workout routine should include varying amounts of the following forms of exercise:
- Cardio – for your heart, lungs, and circulatory system.
- Strength training – for your muscles and joints.
- Core training – for a stronger, healthier spine.
- Stability training – for healthier, stronger joints.
- Balance training – for fall prevention.
- Flexibility and mobility – for joint and muscle health and improved functionality.
While that might look like a daunting list, many of these fitness components overlap and can be trained simultaneously.
For example, single-leg strength training exercises that take your joints through a large range of motion will simultaneously address points 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6.
Step 5: Choose Activities You Enjoy
Your workout doesn’t have to be an activity or workout filled with misery to be healthy.
In fact, you’re much more likely to stick with your new workout routine if you enjoy it.
The good news is there are dozens, if not hundreds, of different ways to work out, so you should be able to find something you really enjoy.
If you dread your workouts, it won’t be long before you start skipping them.
The best type of workout is the one you’ll stick with.
Whether it’s swimming, cycling, lifting weights, or yoga, choose activities that you enjoy, making your fitness journey more sustainable.
Step 6: Rest and Recover
What exercise takes out of your body, rest and recovery put back in.
Your body adapts and gets fitter between workouts.
Not paying enough attention to rest and recovery will undermine your progress.
To that end, make sure your workout schedule includes rest days and easy days and that you prioritize getting enough sleep.
If you often feel tired, it’s a good indicator that you are either over-exercising or under-recovering.
Fix this imbalance, and your progress will come faster and easier.
Step 7: Fix Your Diet
You are what you eat, or so the saying goes.
Your diet should support your workouts and exercise goals while contributing to better health.
I’m not talking about fad weight loss diets that only last a few weeks, but what you eat on a daily basis.
It’s beyond the scope of this article to tell you what to eat, but general guidelines for a healthy diet include:
- A balanced intake of protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats
- A focus on whole, unprocessed foods
- Adequate hydration
- Moderate portions
- A variety of fruits and vegetables
You could argue that nutrition should be the number one foundation for getting back into shape, and I would agree.
But in my own fat-to-fit journey at 56 – I noticed that it was not till I got moving that I even wanted to eat higher-quality foods.
However, if you are looking for more details on how to clean up your diet and drop 20 pounds without suffering – I’ve got you covered.
Step 8: Stay Consistent
Rome wasn’t built in a day.
In the same way, you won’t get back in shape overnight.
Instead, it will take several months of sustained effort to benefit from your new fitness regimen.
You need to make exercise part of your lifestyle, and consistency is key to any successful fitness program.
So, don’t come out all guns blazing just to run out of ammo after a few short weeks.
Instead, conserve your resources and plan on exercising little and often.
All those completed workouts will add up over time.
In contrast, a couple of big workouts followed by a long break will do no good at all.
Step 9: Reap the Rewards
As the weeks pass, you’ll start to see your body change in response to your workouts.
Not only will you get fitter and stronger, but you’ll also experience improvements in your mental health, energy levels, and overall well-being.
These changes tend to be most noticeable at the start of your fitness journey as your body adapts to your new workout habit.
However, you cannot store fitness and health and will lose these benefits if you stop working out.
So, do your best not to miss workouts so you can continue to enjoy all the benefits of getting back in shape in your 50s.
How to Get Back In Shape – Wrapping Up
George Burns had it right: “You can’t help getting older, but you don’t have to get old.”
This isn’t just a clever saying; it’s your playbook for your 50s and beyond.
Aging is unavoidable, but the decline isn’t.
Your 50s are not a stop sign; they’re a green light to invest in your health like never before.
This guide has given you the steps to kickstart or reignite your fitness journey.
From that first medical check-up to setting achievable goals and finding workouts you actually enjoy, each step is a milestone on your road to better health.
And let’s not forget the importance of diet and consistency.
These aren’t just checkboxes; they’re your daily commitments to living better and longer.
So, what’s the takeaway?
Your 50s are a launching pad, not a time to wind down.
Exercise is your best bet for turning the years ahead into some of the most vibrant of your life.
Your body is ready to respond; all it needs is the signal to go.
Make the choice to stay active, and watch how life rewards you.
Age might be a number, but quality of life is a choice.
Make it a good one.
Change your body, change your life.
That’s my experience after turning 50 and my wise-cracking neighbor let me know that I was now on the “dark side”, as he referred to it.
For the next five years, I continued to decrease in strength and increase in girth, till I was busting out of my clothing.
If you’ve never had that experience, that’s great, but if you have – it’s not too late – do not give up.
By the time I was 55, I had already hit my all-time high numbers on the scale.
Fortunately, I had an epiphany one summer evening in a deli at midnight while foraging for another blueberry muffin.
Six months later – I was down 75 pounds – and as my body changed, so too did my life.