The Best Exercises to Do in Your 40s, 50s, 60s, and Beyond
Everyone wants to age gracefully—and we know how to do it. Follow along with Live Well for beauty tips, exercise routines, and lifestyle changes to make as the years go by. Together, they'll make aging simple, which gives you more time to embrace each moment.
Exercise is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle, whatever your age, but the workout that felt amazing at 25 might not be as effective, enjoyable, or safe a few decades later. And if you're already in the thick of these years but are having a difficult time learning where to start, don't fret. "It is never too late to start exercising," says Dr. Pradeep Raju, a board-certified physician specializing in primary care sports medicine and the supervising physician of Injury Express. "Always start with organized and reasonable goals, and continue to improve on them." The more you move, the better you'll feel and the healthier you'll be overall—no matter how old you are.
Here, the best exercise types for your 40s, 50s, and 60s; they'll set you on your way to meeting your fitness goals at every stage.
Towards the latter part of your 30s, most people start to notice a significant decrease in strength. "In our mid to late 30s, we start losing muscle mass," explains Dr. Todd Peterson, a Chicago-based chiropractor and rehab specialist. That's why strength and resistance training is critical in your 40s. "Incorporating resistance work will help slow the natural loss of muscle mass, which helps keep your metabolism up," adds Dr. Peterson.
Things like weight lifting and bodyweight exercises (think push-ups or squats) are great for building muscle. Just make sure not to push yourself too hard; you want the exercises to feel challenging (feeling a little sore is good!), but you don't want to injure yourself. If you're just getting started with a regular fitness routine, modified exercises can help you build strength while minimizing your risk of injury. For example, "modify pushups to be angled against a wall or kitchen counter," notes Dr. Peterson. "Pull-ups can be modified with suspension training systems that can often go over a door in your home."
Once you enter your 50s, it's important to understand your body's changes—and how that may affect your workouts. "After the age of 50, the joints begin to wear down and chances of osteoarthritis increase," notes Dr. Raju. "Because of this, the chance of injury can increase." Enter cardio—you'll want to find an exercise method that gets your blood pumping without putting too much strain on the joints. "Swimming is great and keeps your heart rate up while limiting the impact on your joints," notes Dr. Raju. "Using the elliptical is helpful; it engages your arms and legs while limiting joint impact and increasing your heart rate." He also recommends recumbent biking for the same reason. "Plus, it increases muscular strength, works on joint range of motion, and allows for high or low intensity dependent on the setting," he adds.
Pro tip: How often and how intensely you exercise is just as important as the type of workout you incorporate into your routine in your 50s. "Healing time and recovery time slows down as we age. The intensity and frequency of these exercises need to be altered accordingly to account for that," says Dr. Raju.
As you move into your 60s, you want to stay fit and active. But as you age, it's important to take a simpler approach. "Walking is great for getting out of the house and moving all joints in the body," says Dr. Raju. "It can improve cardiac health, increase bone health, improve balance, and boost energy. Also, with the technology of step trackers, daily goals are easy to monitor."
In addition to walking on a regular basis, exercises that focus on improving balance can also be helpful in your 60s. "One of the main problems that robs us of our independence as we age is becoming a fall risk," says Dr. Peterson. "Any single leg activities can help improve balance, but specific exercise routines like tai chi and yoga have also been shown to improve this."