Cardio After 50 – It’s Time to Get Started Faint-hearted or Not  

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Written by Penny Cooper

Cardio after 50 is necessary for flexibility, burning calories, and building endurance. Flexibility exercises will help you remain agile by ensuring you can avoid injury and ensure a wide range of movement comfortably.

If you are 50 and above, starting exercises and getting fit is not a waste of time. There are still a lot of health benefits to be had.

Cardio exercises and physical activity in general help stave off or at least delays the onset of serious health issues like heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.

A regular cardio program can reduce high blood pressure and the chance of suffering from arthritis and osteoporosis.

Although you may feel less than sharp after a heavy dose of physical activity, long term, working out can help your brain stay in shape. You can improve your “brain fitness“.

Generally, men and women over 50 experience muscle loss, in fact, it begins at age 30. Muscle loss, in most cases, leads to decreased flexibility amongst other things

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that older adults should exercise for 150 minutes a week. Following this exercise routine recommendation will help lower the risk of diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.

Functional training is ideal for older adults because there is a direct relationship between this type of exercise and everyday activities.

Functional training not only has parallels with the a person’s movements occurring in general life, but it can also help prevent injury, help with recovery and improve athletic performance. The day to day activities will be a breeze..

Benefits of Cardio After 50 for Men and Women

Helps You to Maintain a Healthy Heart

The American Heart Association states that heart disease is the leading cause of death and illness in adults over 50.

Heart problems come in various forms, such as coronary artery disease, atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and stroke. 

The cardio exercises will help you combat the onset of heart disease. Regular cardio should ensure a healthy heart.

Optimizes Your Endurance

The human body declines after 30. For instance, one’s heart rate at 29 is not the same as at 60. Therefore, regular cardio exercise will help build endurance by increasing blood flow and oxygen levels.

One of the best things about cardio is its benefits after the exercise. The optimal oxygen levels will help to reduce breathlessness and fatigue.

Regular cardio exercise will also enhance your organs, including brain function.

Reduces Weight Gain

Cardio exercise is a component in helping to increase the basal metabolic rate (BMR). You will gain more lean muscle mass, which in turn requires more energy to burn.

Lean mass needs a lot of energy. Your metabolic rate will increase. A circle that is not a vicious one:).

Apart from cardio exercise after 50, the other components to successful weight loss are the correct balanced wholefood diet (lots of protein) and 2 or 3 strength training sessions a week.

Also, check out our article on the benefits of strength training in midlife. Lifting weights as part of an exercise program shouldn’t be overlooked.

Most women above 50 experience menopause. One characteristic of menopause is the body’s reduced hormone production.

The decline in hormone production often leads to weight gain, especially abdominal fat.

Cardio exercising and a healthy eating pattern can help women after 50 combat weight gain.

Encourages Longevity

If you keep your body in a good and healthy condition, you have a high chance of living longer. As we age, metabolism reduces, and the body begins to wear and slow.

Regular cardio exercise helps to reduce the metabolism slow down and encourage longevity.

The point is that continuing to adopt cardio exercise after you’re 50 will mean an all-round better quality of life in older age. More activity, more energy, more life!

Keeps Your Bones Strong

Individuals after 50 have a high chance of developing osteoporosis disease. The disease weakens the bone material, leading to a decrease in bone strength.

A decline in bone strength can easily lead to a fracture on the wrist, vertebra, or hip.

If you exercise, then your bones will be under pressure. Blood flow will increase, transporting nutrient-rich cell building and repair properties.

The pressure will stimulate them to become firm, dense, and have new tissue. Cardio exercises, as well as some weight training, are crucial for your bones’ health.

Reduce Chances of a Fall

The centers for disease control and prevention states falls are among the top causes of nonfatal and fatal injuries for individuals above 65.

The main reason is that older people experience a decline in body coordination.

However, cardio exercising can lessen the possibility of falling. Functional cardio exercising is activities that are done regularly and provides more strength, especially in the smaller stabilizing muscles.

In other words, cardio workouts in middle age, or before, is good for coordination

What is Cardio?

First of all, what defines cardio, cardiovascular often known as aerobic exercise?

In simple terms, cardio is a continuous form of steady movement that gets your heart rate up. Between 50 – 80% of your maximum which is widely defined as 220 minus your age.

So at 50 years of age, the maximum heart rate would be considered to be 170 and so the low end of aerobic activity, 50% would be a heart rate of 85 beats per minute.

During a vigorous cardio workout when you find it hard to speak coherently you’re likely to be the top end of effort and your heart rate will be 75% or more of max, about 130 beats per minute.

I remember from many years ago – an effective cardio workout, one which you can maintain will allow you to speak but not sing.

How to Start Cardio After 50

See a Doctor

The first step to starting cardio exercises around middle age is to check with your medical practitioner especially if its been a while since you did any cardio.

The doctor will evaluate your physical fitness level. Some physical or medical conditions may lead to some adjustments in the exercise routine.

For example, if you have arthritis, the doctor may recommend low-impact cardio exercise, like walking, biking, or swimming. High-impact activities like running may not be good for your joints.

Check our best cardio machines for low-impact workouts and aerobic exercise.

Go For Enjoyable and Familiar Exercises

If your physician gives you an ok, you can start training. The best exercises, to begin with, are enjoyable and familiar activities. The activities could include dancing, heavy gardening, water aerobics, cycling, swimming or jogging. And let’s not overlook walking or hiking.

A brisk regular walk has many benefits.

walking scree

Gardening might not be seen as much of an aerobic exercise, but far from it. Depending on the type of work in the garden – so this is seasonal – I may substitute ‘digging the beds’ for a strength training session with weights.

Similarly, I might forego a brisk walk across the fields and for cardio workouts instead, mow the lawn – that’s if I had a big lawn and no sit on mower.

Start Slow

If you plan to start exercising for the first time, you should start slow. Beginning less often and for smaller time slices will ensure that you can build the necessary momentum for more intensity. It will also ensure that you can increase activity as time goes by.

If you start at a high pace, there is a high chance that you will get sore or even damage muscles or tendons. This can incapacitate you for a time, shrinking any motivation that you had. Or even keep you from exercising for a long time. Take one step at a time.

Don’t Ignore Recovery

Recovery involves taking care of your body before and after the cardio exercise. It includes things like nutrition and hydrating the body. Warm-up exercises are important.

Warm-ups and cool-downs can help prevent injury and make your muscles sing.

You can also choose between cold or heat therapy, compression, massage, or foam rolling for fitness and muscle recovery. The fitness recovery will keep your body in good form. It will also ensure you can continue with your exercise schedule.

A good massage is always nice but is not practical every time you work out. Self-massage tools may help if you feel tightness in a particular area of the body.

Take Time Off

Rest is crucial for cardio training. Take a day off. However, if you take longer breaks, like two weeks, you may need to start from scratch. The more you age, the quicker you lose your endurance.

Try to avoid long breaks of sedentary behavior. Just 15 minutes of cardio-orientated stretching will help.

You will need to start again and at a slower pace. Thus, ensure to regulate the number of days you choose to take a break.

Give your body time to rebuild and repair muscle tissue.

Types of Cardio Workouts for Men and Women After 50 

The best kind of exercise to begin with after 50 is the simple and fun ones. You can always choose balance exercises and aerobics. Aerobic exercises include swimming, dancing, biking, hiking, or walking.

dancing couple in kitchen proving cardio after 50 needn't be dull

 Aerobics ensures that your body is familiar with the physical stress resulting from training. For balance exercise, you can choose Pilates or yoga.

The recommended amount of time you are required to spend on fitness is 150 minutes a week. But, as a first-timer, you can choose to start with 10 minutes a day.

Then proceed to 30 minutes a day as your fitness improves.

A List of Cardio Exercises

There are some cardio activities where having others in a group is better when teams are needed and there are some activities that you can choose either. We’ve come up with some ideas

Team Work

  • An organized sport or game – basketball, soccer, touch football
  • Dancing – okay on your own – better with someone
  • Volleyball, beach volleyball
  • Fitness classes – by definition, done with others and guided
    Water aerobics
    Tai Chi
    Step aerobics
    HIIT – high intensity interval training
    Functional fitness
    Zumba – is that still a thing?
    Walks & hiking groups
    Belly dancing

You’re on Your Own

  • Swimming
  • Hiking / Walking
  • Rowing, canoeing, kayaking
  • Cycling – inside or out
  • Crosstraining
  • Jump rope
  • Trampolining
  • Baseball cage, golf range
  • Cross country skiing, snowshoeing
  • Online unstreamed workout videos

Some other ‘at home’ fitness ideas can be found here.

Concluding Cardio After 50

It is never too late to start your fitness journey. The big 50 should not act as a limitation to being your optimal self. You only need to take the first step for a successful fitness journey.

Cardio exercises will ensure your body’s flexibility and longevity and further provide health benefits.

For more on life after 50, you might like this.

Photo of author
Penny is a Personal Trainer currently training as a wellness coach. She gained a BA in English at Edinburgh University. Redundancy from retail management hastened a move to helping people get fit and writing about all things fitness in middle age.

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