How To Regain Muscle Tone After 50 – Tips For Men & Women

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Written by Penny Cooper

For most, getting toned is super challenging. However, getting that muscle tone in later years is even more difficult.

But with the right guidance, it’s possible to regain muscle tone after 50.

I’m living proof that it’s possible although keeping the midriff under control is still an ongoing battle but more about that later.

Tips For Regaining Muscle Tone After 50

Unlike other types of exercises, resistance or weight training substantially lowers and can reverse the decline of muscle mass, strength and bone density – a result of getting older.

And it can be a part of a complete plan to get fit over 50.

But before you start with resistance training lifting, check with your medical practitioner, especially if you have back, hip, knee or other joint pain.

Resistance Work

Resistance training is the bread and butter of your goal to get a toned body in mid-years. It works by regularly opposing the action of a muscle with weight or with your own body as the form of resistance through a series of movements.

Lifting Weights at my Age?

Weightlifting is typically seen as something for the young, but this is more of a skewed perspective and it simply shouldn’t be the case.

Mature woman head & shoulder with weights in park

Those above the age of 50 can still lift weights. According to the National Strength and Conditioning Association, older adults should perform strength training exercises two or three times a week.

Older adults should focus on working the major muscle groups first of all. Those should be both antagonistic pairs – those groups that oppose the other – for example, the biceps and triceps.

Muscle fatigue can be longer lasting when you’re getting on, so resting them is important. Best to rotate the body areas. Depending on how much muscle strength a body has, it wouldn’t be a good idea, for instance, to do squats and lunges every day or even every other day.

6-Pack Abs

An area of the body often overlooked is the core. Who doesn’t want a firm midriff?  I’ve been asked before by some of my older clients “can I get a 6-pack at my age“. They’ve mostly been men – who think women are the vainer sex?

I believe, what they mean is “can I show off a visible identification of all the complex muscles that make up the core”, often simply called the abs.

As I was eager to encourage I would be positive and say that it was possible with a bit of work – maybe I should have said “quite a bit of work” and depending on several factors.

The core doesn’t only refer to the abs but a whole range of major and minor muscles such as the pelvic floor muscles,  obliques, diaphragm, gluteus maximus and trapezoids.

They have the job of stabilizing the spine and providing support for our day to day normal and maybe not so normal activities. They manage the forces external and within the body preventing us from the all too common joint pain and back and neck pain.

So although very beneficial at any time, as we age those preventative measures become even more important.

The Workout Plan

The content of any workout plan will depend on each person’s level of fitness and ambition.

A simple weekly fitness plan overlaid on a woman with very toned arm muscles

Ideally, a weekly schedule plan should be sprinkled with 30 mins plus of cardiovascular work here and there and be brisk enough that it gets the heart pumping.

A session of resistance would normally involve repetitions (reps) of a specific movement done multiple times (sets) with a rest in between. Each rep should be done slowly with the fullest of movement.

I like to do something every day even if it is very light and low impact – some days you just don’t feel like it and other times it was just a late night.

Morning workouts are my preference. You feel so good about yourself and the breakfast that follows tastes great.

Check Your Nutrition

At 50, the body tends to digest food differently, unlike when you were young. Your body’s metabolism slows down and loses muscle mass, which leads to weight loss.

By putting a little more effort and thought into what you put in your mouth, you can quickly regain muscle mass.

As you age, it may get challenging for your body to use and take in minerals and vitamins, such as vitamins B12 and D, iron, calcium and iron.

These nutrients are important in retaining and even regaining muscle toning after 50.

Use these tips to ensure you eat healthily:

  • Eat enough proteins.
  • Increase vitamin D intake.
  • Maintain calories in.

Eat Enough Proteins

Proteins help keep your muscles strong, enabling you to maintain the mobility and balance to continue living independently even as you age.

According to an article published in the Journal of Gerontology, older men need to eat more protein during each meal than younger men, although oddly, it’s not the case for women.

The reason for this is that older adults have a lower response rate to amino acids when they consume a similar protein intake as younger adults.

Protein foods, nuts, salmon, cheese, egg on board with white background

To confirm this, a study conducted by the University of Arkansas found that older adults’ lower response rate to protein can be overcome by consuming more of the stuff – that means proportionately more lean meat, fish, eggs, etc.

Apart from increasing the number of proteins you consume, it’s essential to eat the right proteins, particularly the amino acid leucine, important in the production of, as well as a factor in minimizing the deterioration of muscle tissue.

The body doesn’t make leucine so it needs to be part of the diet.

Good sources of leucine are:

  • Meat.
  • Eggs.
  • Fish.
  • Soybeans.
  • Nuts.
  • Seeds.

Walking to Help Toning

One of the best ways to regain or maintain muscle tone in midlife is by spending a few minutes getting active in your day. Besides if you want to show off your toned legs, arms and abs you’ll need to maintain a lean subcutaneous layer of fat.

You can do so by walking. Walking is an excellent way to stay fit while not stressing your body too much.

I say “a few minutes a day” but about 20 to 30 minutes is adequate and walking should be done at a brisk pace, enough to raise your temperature and heart rate. Mix it with resistance training days or add it to your schedule during the week.

Benefits from Walking

  • When you’re older, it becomes easier for the body to retain weight, so walking helps you lose the extra pounds.
  • The more weight you lose, the healthier your body becomes since it’s under less stress to work optimally.
  • By tracking the weight you lose once you start walking, you can remain motivated to continue walking daily.
  • Walking is an excellent way to improve your heart health by lowering your risk of heart disease.
  • Walking daily helps your activity levels, which helps boost your immune system.
  • Moving your joints regularly, which includes walking, can help reduce the chance of arthritis developing and reduce joint pain.

Other Exercise

As mentioned before, walking is an effective, easy, accessible action you can take that has so many advantages for health but mixing it up with other forms of movement can result in even better results of strong and toned muscles.

To add a bit of variety try other cardio-based activities like swimming, cycling, dancing; bodyweight exercise workouts, more reflective exercises like pilates or yoga, mixing it all up with your strength/resistance workouts by lifting weights or doing bodyweight exercises.

Sleep & Muscle Growth

When we’re younger, we don’t focus on sleep as much as we should, But since we’re now in our 50s, sleep is even more important to get back into shape.

Research has found that having different sleep patterns can significantly affect health markers of various kinds.

This can ultimately lead to weight gain, high blood pressure and sometimes memory loss.

And most importantly int the context of toned muscles, sleep is the bedrock for cell growth and repair. It has also been shown to be much more effective in the vital repair of the proteins in DNA.

Insufficient sleep actually diminishes the amount of muscle but enough quality sleep has a positive effect on muscle mass and growth.

The Human Growth Hormone (HGH) is released in large quantities at night when we are sleeping. This hormone uses protein derived directly from the food we eat to create and repair muscle cells.

If you want to get toned muscles, ensure you sleep for at least eight hours a day.

Rest & Recovery Time

The one exercise mistake most people make is forgetting about their recovery time.

Exercising doesn’t build muscles; it wears them out.

However, once the exercise is over, the damage and inflammation trigger your hormonal signals, which tell the body to start repair.

Over the next few days with the proper sleep and rest, after exercising the body repairs the damaged tissues and builds muscles.

This ultimately makes the body stronger, enabling you to handle working out more in the future and getting even more toned.


Getting a toned body and even a 6-pack past 50 is possible; it may require some consistent hard work, dedication and maybe a few minor sacrifices but it’s worth it.

So, put that phone down now and get to work on those arms & abs!

More on getting fit after 50 here. And maybe, next, brain fitness could be something to look at.

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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