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Our Guide to Exercising Over 50

Let’s be honest, starting a new fitness routine at any age can be intimidating. But because Orangetheory was created with all ages and fitness levels in mind, rest assured it’s never too late to reap those anti-aging benefits from this science-backed workout.
Our Guide to Exercising Over 50

Fact: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fewer than 25% of Americans over 50 exercise on a regular basis. Why?

Maybe they think they’re too old.

Maybe they’re intimidated by a gym setting.

Maybe they’re not seeing anyone who looks like them when they take a class.

Regardless of the reason, consider this: Had Ellen Latham put away her workout gear when she turned 50, almost a million people wouldn’t be as fit as they are today.

That’s because Ellen, the founder of Orangetheory Fitness, started the company when she was in her early 50s. Now she’s in her 60s and continues to participate in classes three times a week and works directly with the fitness team designing every workout.

As we navigate our 50s and beyond, embracing fitness can feel like a daunting prospect. But maintaining an active lifestyle is more important than ever during these golden years. This comprehensive guide is your ticket to staying vigorous, vital and full of life as you step over the threshold of 50 and march forward with confidence.

Why Exercising is Essential When Aging

The vitality of physical activity as we age cannot be overstated. Regular exercise contributes to cognitive sharpness, putting a check on the age-related decline and even warding off dementia. It bolsters bone density, crucial in the fight against osteoporosis, and enhances coordination, reducing fall risks. Engaging in exercise potentially lengthens life expectancy and preserves independence, allowing you to enjoy the fruits of your labor well into retirement. As always, it is wise to have a conversation with a healthcare professional before diving into a new exercise regime.

Take for example functional strength, like the use of free weights. That translates to carrying groceries or grandkids. In an Orangetheory class, the treadmill was incorporated to build endurance, and the often-derided rowing machines are all about building core strength. Every exercise comes with options that allow members to adapt it to their abilities based on data from our heart rate monitors that report on your current heart rate zone.

Other reasons abound why exercise is an integral part of healthy aging, including these from the American Heart Association:

  • Helps prevent bone loss.
  • Helps lower blood pressure.
  • Reduces the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
  • Increases muscle strength, balance, confidence.

Study after study, as well as thousands of letters from grateful Orangetheory members, support Ellen’s mission of exercise for everyone. What’s not to like about something that is scientifically proven to improve your flexibility, your outlook, your strength, your life?

Workouts For Men and Women Over 50

Fitness knows no gender borders, and while men and women over 50 may have different physical compositions and requirements, everyone can benefit from tailored workouts. For men, focusing on cardiovascular health and muscle retention is vital, while women often place emphasis on weight-bearing exercises for bone strength. Both can enjoy a mix of strength training, flexibility exercises and cardio to stay in shipshape.

Shedding Belly Fat After 50

Individuals over 50 often encounter difficulties in maintaining a slim waistline due to slower metabolism and changes in body composition, including increased abdominal fat. Targeted exercises can help combat this belly fat, enhancing core strength and improving overall fitness.

  • Planks: Planks are a core-strengthening exercise that involves maintaining a push-up-like position for extended periods. This exercise is crucial for this age group as it helps to tighten and tone the abdominal muscles while also improving posture and reducing back pain.
  • Russian Twists: Performed by sitting on the floor and twisting the torso from side to side with or without weights, Russian twists specifically target the oblique muscles. They are beneficial for individuals over 50 as they help to sculpt the waistline, enhance core stability and improve rotational flexibility.
  • Bicycle Crunches: This exercise mimics the motion of cycling while lying on the back and is effective in engaging the entire abdominal region, including the deep core muscles. Bicycle crunches are especially relevant for those over 50, as they not only aid in reducing belly fat but also promote better balance and coordination.

Incorporating these exercises into a regular fitness routine can help those over 50 tackle the challenge of a widening waistline, leading to a stronger, more toned midsection.

Toning Arms Over 50

A common concern for women over 50 is the battle with flabby arms. Exercises like tricep dips, bicep curls, and arm circles can be superbly effective for arm toning. Dedicating time to these focused movements can yield results that boost confidence and improve overall arm aesthetics and function.

  • Tricep Dips: This exercise targets the triceps muscles at the back of the upper arm and involves lowering and raising the body using the arms while seated on a bench or chair.
  • Bicep Curls: Focused on the biceps muscles at the front of the upper arm, bicep curls are performed by lifting weights in a curling motion towards the shoulders.
  • Arm Circles: Arm circles involve rotating the arms in circular motions, which helps tone the shoulders, triceps and biceps, and can be done with or without weights for added resistance.

Weight Training at 50

Lifting weights isn't the sole province of the tough and buff; it's an age-defying tool for preserving muscle mass and fortitude over 50. Weight training can ramp up metabolism, encourage fat loss and reinforce joints. Engaging in regular resistance exercises gives the body the strength to support a dynamic and full lifestyle well past the half-century mark.

Check out our Strength 50 workout that promotes muscle growth and strength.

Final Thoughts on Maintaining Fitness Over 50

Staying fit over 50 isn't just about adding years to life—it's about adding life to those years. It's about embracing a sustainable, energetic lifestyle that enables you to pursue your passions and maintain your independence.

In Phoenix, Orangetheory Fitness coach Holly Holland just turned 50 herself. What tends to keep her contemporaries from taking classes, she said, is fear.

“They’re intimidated; afraid they’ll stand out like a sore thumb if they don’t do something right,” she said.

“The thing is, there is no wrong. It’s not too late to start because we are at all levels. If I could get one message out, it would be that anybody can do this. We make it work. You have a room full of people supporting you.”

U.S. Air Force veteran Leslie Bryant initially went to Orangetheory when her psychologist suggested it for depression. The classes have worked for that, boosting her confidence and raising her fitness level.

“The fitness coaches really work with you,” said the 58-year-old member of Orangetheory Houston. “I have two bad knees and two herniated discs so I’m considered 40 percent disabled and they give options for all of my workouts, so I don’t injure myself.”

Grant Johnson, a 60-year-old member in Mission Viejo, California, likes that Orangetheory gives him extra stamina for playing tennis.

“Look,” he said, “you can get in shape at age 15, 50, 75. I've never been out of shape, but because of Orangetheory, I’m quicker. I can generate more power when I play.”

Then there’s Mike Chaplick, a Glendale-Thunderbird in Phoenix member who was born in 1940 (you do the math). When he first started Orangetheory (with the encouragement of his granddaughter), his treadmill pace was 1.6 miles an hour. He’s sped up to 2.3 and, Holly said, “He’s not even holding onto the bar.”

He also participated in the studio’s quarterly “Orange Everest,” in which the treadmill incline is increased by one percent every minute till it reaches 15, then decreases one percent till it’s back to one.

While the number of over-50 members grows, so does the number of coaches in that category. As she neared her own birthday, Holly started checking to see how many others there were in the network.

“We had no idea there were so many of us,” she said.

That’s encouraging to Ellen.

“Coaches over 50 bring life experience and maturity,” she said. “They also are fit examples of what is possible at any age.”

Jeri McCormick, a coach at Birmingham Studio in Michigan, turns 54 on October 7.

“While looking good always motivates people, how you feel and the quality of your life is what makes fitness even more important as we age,” she said. “The more you move, the more energy you have to move.”

And for members of all ages, Holly offered this reminder: “It’s never too late to start. Your future self will thank you.”  So find an Orangetheory Fitness studio near you and take that first step.


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