Be fit when you’re over 50! Move more, sit less and other advice to embrace exercise and boost your health.

When you’re over age 50 and want to add more exercise to your life, it’s not uncommon to feel overwhelmed and perhaps even intimidated by the activity options.  

Maybe you’ve seen information suggesting you’re “too old” for certain types of physical activity. Or perhaps you’ve heard you should walk 10,000 steps a day and feel defeated before you even get started? The fact is, however, becoming more fit and active as an older adult can be a smoother journey than you might expect.

“We now understand more about the importance of movement to our overall health and how taking small steps to make healthy movement choices throughout our day can make a big impact,” says Patricia Hewston, a clinical researcher at the GERAS Centre for Aging Research, a Hamilton Health Sciences Centre affiliated with McMaster University.

An occupational therapist with a PhD in Rehabilitation Science, Dr. Hewston is an expert in mobility in aging and the types of exercise that help keep seniors healthy.

Advances in knowledge about healthy movement have sparked a new approach to physical fitness –embodied in the Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines, Canada’s first-ever integrated movement behaviour guidelines, which recommend the amount and intensity of physical activity, sleep and limits to sedentary time for different age groups.  

“One strength of the movement guidelines is their clear messages: move more, reduce our sedentary time and sleep well,” says Dr. Hewston.  

“Older adults often hesitate to start a new exercise program or to get back into exercising after time away. And traditional advice such as ‘take 10,000 steps a day’ can lead to an all-or-nothing mindset where you tell yourself that you can’t achieve that, so why bother to do anything? The new guidelines help you set smaller, more achievable goals.”

Working out after 50 is not impossible, here’s some great tips from Healthshots you can follow: 

  1. Indulge in 30-45 minutes of cardio daily: Walking, jogging, climbing the stairs or skipping – do what you like, but include cardio during the day. It’s the best way to keep the blood flowing and is the key to feeling energetic all day.
  2. Focus on spinal health, shoulder and knee and joint health: Spend 10-15 minutes a day focussing on these parts of your body. They say you’re only as old as your spine feels. Working on taking care of your joints, shoulder and spine is required. These are the parts we use for most of the movement and their fitness defines our fitness levels.
  3. Strength training: Try for 20-25 minutes of strength training up to three times a week. The single-most important thing to do post 50 is working on your muscles. As we age, our muscle mass reduces. Strength training improves bone density as well.
  4. Try walking outdoors: Walking outdoors is an easy way to get started because it doesn't require any special equipment or training,” says Dr. Hewston. “If you have joint pain, for example, you might try low-impact activities such as swimming or water aerobics.”


Think about putting on your dancing shoes!

Dr. Hewston knows a lot about the benefits of dancing as a form of exercise. She led development of a therapeutic mind-body program for adults 60 and older, called GERAS DANCE – “DANcing for cognition and exercise.” Applying the latest geriatric and rehabilitation science, the program has been shown to produce both physical and mental benefits for participants – helping prevent (and in some cases, reversing) declines in mobility and cognitive skills.

So, whether you decide to take a dance class, develop your own routine or start any type of exercise for the first time, it’s always a good idea to consult a health-care professional first to find out the safest ways for you to begin a new exercise program.