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These Easy + Effective Exercises Are the Best Bets for Women Over 50

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Does fitting exercise into your life feels like one more thing to add to your never-ending to-do list? Or maybe you’ve fallen away from a routine and can’t seem to find a groove again. Whatever obstacle is standing in your way, we’ve rounded up the best exercises for women over 50 that are easy, effective and fast. The best part? You can do them from the comfort of home.

Why exercise is so important for women over 50

First, it’s good to remember an essential truth about incorporating a regular exercise into your life as you age: you’ll experience a host of whole-body benefits, says Soma Mandal, MD, a board-certified internist, women’s health specialist and author of the book Dear Menopause, I Do Not Fear You!

“For women over 50, engaging in regular exercise helps maintain weight, but also contributes to overall well-being,” Dr. Mandal says. “Regular exercise stimulates the production of natural endorphins in the body — endorphins are peptide that help relieve stress, improve mood, and make us feel relaxed and happy. Exercise also can help us with better sleep and help alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety.” 

If you’re perimenopausal or in menopause, consistent exercise can help alleviate symptoms such as hot flashes, insomnia and mood disturbances, Dr. Mandal adds.

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For National Academy of Sports Medicine-certified personal trainer Victoria Petrella, helping create workouts for women over 50 is a passion as much as it is a vocation.

“I recall working with a woman in her early 50s who was new to exercise and struggled with insomnia and stress from her demanding job,” says Petrella, a popular TikTok and Instagram influencer. “We introduced a combination of gentle yoga and walking, which not only improved her physical stamina but also helped her manage stress and sleep better. She felt rejuvenated and more energetic, which greatly improved her overall quality of life.”

The 4 Best Exercises for Women over 50:

Finding the right form of exercise specifically for you is key to creating (and sticking with!) a regular routine, says Dr. Mandal, who practices in New Providence, N.J. Here’s what she and Petrella recommend for women in their 50s and older: 

1. Walking, which is low impact, free and doesn’t require equipment or a gym fee. 

Aim for at least 30 minutes daily, five days a week, Dr. Mandal says.

The Win: A regular walking schedule is great for your heart – exercise helps to condition the heart, lowers blood pressure and improves blood circulation, she says. “It can also help to maintain healthy cholesterol ratios. Since the risk of heart disease increases with age, women over 50 should include exercise as a regular part of their lifestyle.” 

a group of women walking, which is a great exercise for women over 50

Walking boosts immune function, too, according to a 2019 study that reveals the compelling link between physical activity and the body’s defense system. It’s also a terrific way to stay connected with friends — you can plan a regular in-person meet-up or schedule a “walking” chat that allows you and a friend who may live elsewhere to talk as you both exercise. 

RELATED: Step Up Your Rucking Workout With These Routines Recommended by Fitness Pros 

Prefer solo walking excursions? Give yourself a break during the day and head out for a stroll while enjoying the sounds of nature or throw on headphones and listen to some tunes or a podcast as you navigate your neighborhood or take to a nearby trail. Walking in nature is a stressbuster, thanks to the fresh air and sunshine, Dr. Mandal says. And if you’re newer to a regular walking routine, she suggests starting with a short walk in your nearest park or green space and gradually increasing the duration and intensity as your fitness level improves. 

“If it’s feasible, walk or cycle to work,” she adds. “Not only is this a great way to incorporate exercise into your daily routine, but it’s also environmentally friendly.”

2. Strength training workouts are so great for women over 50. 

You can do this at home or at the gym — choose from a variety of options such as using your body weight (think pushups, pull-ups, planks), resistance tubing, which is inexpensive, lightweight tubing providing resistance when stretched (you can find these in nearly any sports goods store or online), free weights like barbells, dumbbells, medicine balls and kettlebells (you can always use soup cans from your pantry, too), and weight machines, which can be found at most fitness centers. 

“Exercises like squats, lunges and light weightlifting are incredibly effective,” Petrella says. “It’s essential to consider that while a balanced workout routine is ideal, if time is a constraint, focusing on the lower body can be highly beneficial.” The lower body muscles, such as the glutes, quadriceps and hamstrings are among the largest muscle groups in the body.

“By targeting these areas, women over 50 can achieve significant benefits in a shorter amount of time,” she says. “Exercises like squats, lunges and leg presses are excellent because they not only strengthen these major muscles but also engage the core and improve overall stability and balance.”

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Petrella recommends this Fitness Blender YouTube video, which provides a beginner-friendly strength training routine tailored for older adults. “It covers fundamental exercises with proper form and modifications to ensure safety and effectiveness,” she says.

Strength training boasts so many benefits for women over 50

The Win: Strength training helps maintain muscle mass and bone density, which naturally diminish with age, as well as improve balance, Dr. Mandal says. “I always recommend regular weight-bearing exercise for women over 50 to help maintain strong bones, since menopause increases the risk of osteoporosis,” she says, citing this study on exercise effects on bone mineral density in older adults. These activities help manage weight, reduce the risk of osteoporosis, and can even alleviate symptoms of arthritis by strengthening the muscles around the joints, Petrella adds. 

You’ll likely start to notice improvement in your strength with just two to three 20- or 30-minute strength training sessions a week. “It’s well-documented that strength training can significantly impact muscle mass and bone density, particularly in older adults,” she says. “According to a recent study, performing a single set of 12 to 15 repetitions with the appropriate weight can effectively build muscle in most people, comparable to performing multiple sets of the same exercise. This approach can be particularly beneficial for women over 50, as it allows them to gain strength and improve bone health efficiently, without spending excessive time on lengthy workout sessions.”

3. Yoga and/or pilates workouts for women over 50

Both yoga and pilates are low-impact, popular forms of exercise for older adults that provide both physical and mental benefits, according to this study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. While yoga typically involves your body holding one position and flowing into others, the practice of Pilates involves getting into a position and challenging your core muscles by moving your arms and legs; the latter can be done on a mat or on a machine called a reformer.

RELATED: How Yoga Helped One Woman Naturally Reduce Her ‘Bad’ Cholesterol Levels

You can find instructor-taught yoga and Pilates classes in your community or by searching online, where you’ll discover free resources like this beginner Pilates video and this one for starting a yoga practice.  

The Win: You’ll experience improved core strength and flexibility, as well as less stress and improved mood and focus with either of these forms of movement. 

“Yoga is a fantastic option,” Petrella points out. “One of my clients found that regular yoga practice helped alleviate her menopause symptoms significantly, enhancing her sleep patterns and reducing her anxiety levels.”

When completed on a regular basis, these kinds of physical activities not only help your body feel longer and leaner (and be less prone to injuries), they also can help reduce the risk of dementia, Dr. Mandal says. In one study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health focused on Pilates and post-menopausal women, the practice was found to help improve functional abilities and minimize the rate of age-related cognitive decline

“These exercises can also help lower the risk of Type 2 diabetes, hypertension and certain types of cancer,” Dr. Mandal adds.

4. Tai chi, a gentle form of exercise that has been described as “meditation in motion.” 

Originating in China as a martial art, tai chi has shown to have value in treating or preventing many health problems, according to growing evidence including findings in this study that looked at patients with chronic heart failure. That’s why it’s one of the best exercises for women over 50.

A tai chi class usually features a warm-up – easy motions such as shoulder circles, turning your head from side to side, or rocking back and forth to loosen your muscles and joints while focusing on your breath and body. You’ll also go through “tai chi forms,” which are sets of movements, as well as breath and energy work – the idea is to help relax the mind and mobilize the body’s energy. 

A group of three multi-ethnic seniors taking an exercise class in the park. They are practicing tai chi, standing with their hands raised. The focus is on  the Africam-American woman with braided hair standing in the foreground.

The Win: This kind of mind-body exercise packs a powerful punch by helping you build strength, flexibility and balance as well as lower blood pressure and manage depression. Depending upon the speed and size of the movements, tai chi can provide some aerobic benefits, too. 

Incorporating a routine such as this can also help maintain a healthy gut, Dr. Mandal said. “While there is a lack of direct scientific research that shows a specific connection between tai chi and the gut-brain axis, tai chi does reduce stress and anxiety and improves immune system function. And by reducing stress, and improving the immune system function, tai chi can help maintain a healthy gut-brain axis.” Watch this YouTube video for beginner tips on practicing tai chi.

The best exercises for women over 50: how to stick with it

When it comes to the best exercises for women over 50, here are a few tips from Victoria Petrella for finding a routine and staying on track with it:

Start slowly: Begin with lighter exercises and gradually increase intensity to prevent injuries.

Consistency is key: Set a routine that is easy to follow. Even 10 minutes a day can make a difference.

Find enjoyable activities: Choose exercises that you enjoy to ensure you stick with them long-term. Whether it’s swimming, walking or group fitness classes, enjoying your workout makes consistency much easier.

Ready for more workout routines? Keep reading!

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This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

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