“Every day you either get better or you get worse. You never stay the same.”
– Coach Bo Schembechler
In early March, it finally happened. I got down on the floor to give my dog a belly rub – and I couldn’t get back up. I had to call my son for help. Well, that was embarrassing. And, it was the tipping point I needed to create a plan to get back into traveling shape. When the world reopens, I’ll be ready. In this post, I’ll explain what body areas I need to improve now, and I’ll share my own Travel Exercises for Women Over 50 and Out of Shape routine. Let my journey give you food for thought. There’s no time like the present to begin.
Being In Shape Pays Off
In case you need a little motivation, here’s a great story. Back in February, there was an interesting Washington Post article about a break-in at the home of an 82-year old woman in Rochester, New York. The would-be thief probably thought she would be an easy target.
Instead, the intruder got the surprise of his life when he confronted her; she quickly grabbed a broom and repeatedly and forcefully struck the man with it, causing him to give up and run out the door. He picked the wrong house that day; this petite senior was a power lifter, regularly lifting massive amounts of weight at the gym. She had much more strength and courage than he expected. Being in better shape, especially through strength training, can benefit us in ways we can’t even imagine yet.
Why is Exercise for a Woman Over 50 Important?
Even if you aren’t a power lifter, you’ve probably noticed that by age 50, serious changes are happening inside our bodies. This hormonal milestone affects our sleep, our mindset, our risk for fractures and more. Taking better care of our bodies now is essential. Exercise is one way to do that. According to the Mayo Clinic, it offers many benefits: preventing weight gain, reducing the risk of cancer, strengthening your bones, reducing the risk of other diseases, and boosting your mood. Walking with a friend (although maintaining a safe distance apart now) is a nice way to get exercise in on a regular basis.
What Impact Does Being Out of Shape Have On Daily Life?
Without regular workouts, our muscles become weaker. As we age, certain medical issues can make that weakness more pronounced. If you have arthritis like I do, opening lids on food containers can be a struggle. My wrists are not strong enough for me to lift or carry moderately heavy items. Getting out of shape has made it worse.
And, I’m not alone. “Beginning about age 30, men and women lose muscle mass at about the rate of 10 percent per decade until about 50, when that loss accelerates to 15 percent per decade,” according to the Post article above. For me, strength training is very important. I know I need to improve my strength in my arms, my legs and my core.
What Muscles Are Used to Get Up Off the Floor?
According to an article in Prevention, you need “musculoskeletal fitness” to get down and up off the floor; muscle strength, coordination and flexibility are essential. You’ll rely on your core, back, thighs and knees to execute this move.
How Do You Increase Body Strength?
Weight bearing exercises help increase strength, but remember to start off slowly with lighter weights. Starting with your own body weight is a good way to begin. Doing a push-up against the wall or holding your body in a plank position does not require any weight but your own.
When you’re ready to add weight, you can start by holding cans of food or filled water bottles while you exercise. Or, consider buying hand weights, a kettle ball or even a weighted exercise bar (by itself at first, and then with weights added later). Strength training also helps your body burn calories all day long.
What Exercises Help Improve Coordination?
Have you ever seen a person having to walk a straight line with one foot in front of the other? Or standing on one foot? You might recognize it from the movies as tests the police use to see whether a person’s coordination is impaired.
Beyond walking the line (as Johnny Cash would say), Tai Chi and Yoga are two other forms of exercise that can help you improve coordination and balance. I’ve tried both and I prefer yoga.
How Do You Improve Your Flexibility?
If you answered stretching, 10 points for you! Stretching is when you loosen up tight muscles so they are able to function to the best of their ability. Although there is a lot of debate about the value of stretching as it relates to peak performance, it does help warm up your muscles. When you are out of shape, taking time to do this for a few minutes before and after you exercise just makes sense.
Two Ways to Stretch
Did you know there are two kinds of stretching? Dynamic stretching means taking a group of muscles through a range of motion, and it’s what you want to do before exercising, while static stretching is what you do to relax those muscles after working out. Animals are always good role models for how to relax and stretch.
Marching in place while raising your knees up high or alternating stepping one foot forward at a time into a lunge position are examples of dynamic stretching. These two moves would be perfect to warm your muscles up before going for a run (if that is the cardio part of your exercise routine).
After vigorous exercise, try lying on the floor on your back for a few moments. Stretch one leg out straight and pull your other bent knee toward your chest. Hold and then switch legs for this move. This hamstring stretch is a good static stretching exercise because as you hold your muscles in one position, it helps release the tension in them while you cool down and relax.
Stamina and Endurance Keeps You Moving Longer
Stamina is your body’s ability to keep moving with plenty of energy for a sustained period of time. A year ago in March, I went on a trip out West with my older son. He loves to hike and Zion National Park is his favorite place. Emerald Pools was the first trail we did together and the gentle slope of the less than one-mile walk was an easy beginning to our day.
Afterwards, we headed to his bucket list hike, Angel’s Landing. This switchback trail takes 4-5 hours to get to the top. I told him to go on ahead after the first mile; I did not have the stamina to keep up the pace or to handle the incline. When I saw this picture he took near the top, I realized I would not have had the strength to pull myself up the trail using the chain link fence either.
I was really tired at the end of the day. My fitness level is not what it was in my 20s. I’ve learned from hiking with my son that I need to build my cardiovascular endurance so I don’t get winded so easily. I need both my heart and my lungs to properly fill my body with oxygen so I can keep going at a good pace.
Exercise History: Then and Now
I’ve always had good intentions about exercise. Since my early 20’s, I’ve spent good money on gym memberships, and over the years, I’ve bought quite a number of exercise DVD’s too. Sadly, my gym membership lapsed and the DVD’s are gathering dust in my bookcase. And that was before COVID-19. Sound familiar?
I’m now exercising daily for 15-20 minutes indoors, and doing at least 15+ minutes outdoors too when I walk my dog. Our outdoor time provides a change of scenery and a good cardio workout (when she’s not distracted by smells or other dogs), and helps me burn more calories. I started slowly and built up my indoor exercise routine which has made it easier to turn into a permanent habit.
My Travel Exercise for Women Over 50 and Out of Shape Plan
After trying a number of YouTube videos and reading some of the fitness books I already had, I decided that my fitness routine should include stretching as well as exercises that target my arms, my core, my knees, and thighs.
When planning my fitness routine, I realized pretty quickly that I do better with exercises in small time increments; variety also ensures lots of muscles get a regular workout. I generally do 15-minutes indoors in the morning, and then another 15-minutes later in the day, either as a break from being on the computer in the afternoon or right before bed (because it helps me unwind and use up energy so I can fall asleep quickly).
I started with just a yoga mat and a water bottle.You can use canned goods or full water bottles for weights. After a few weeks, I purchased sets of two hand weights (in 2-, 3- and 5-pound increments) when they went on sale. In the beginning, I needed help keeping my balance. I quickly learned that it was safer and easier to put one hand on the back of a straight back chair to steady myself for longer exercises.
After working out indoors, getting your cardio outside can be fun. When the weather is nice, you can try hiking, running, kayaking, paddle boarding or biking. Or just put on your favorite music and dance up a storm!
Technology Can Provide Extra Motivation
I recently found my Fitbit (any wearable device that tracks your movement will do) and I love that the app motivates me. It shows me how many steps I’ve taken so far, and when I record it, it reminds me how much water I’ve had to drink each day. By glancing at the app throughout the day, it reminds me to take a break and get up to exercise. It even records my nightly sleep patterns showing how often I am still or restless.
My Daily Plan
My plan of exercise for women over 50 and out of shape is now a habit. For my indoor workout, I rely on YouTube videos (for now). I cleared a space in my living room, and I put my yoga mat on the floor with hand weights to the side. After stretching, on alternate days, I focus on either my upper or lower body so I’ve included a sample day outline for each. Click on the title for the link to the video. Most routines include cool-down stretches.
Listen to the introduction on each video the first time, and then going forward, refer to the timestamp noted below for the beginning of each workout. I’ve also included a quick reference summary list including more favorite videos at the end of the post.
A Word of Caution
I am not a fitness expert. I am just an ordinary, out of shape woman over 50 and I wanted to change. This post is about my journey. If it inspires you – Please consult with your own doctor and get their guidelines before beginning any exercise plan.
UPPER BODY DAY
Stretching Exercises: 5 minutes
Lazy Dancer: Follow Along Barre for Beginners
Alessia Lugoboni, a former Royal New Zealand Ballet dancer, leads you through gentle stretches to classical music. Her enthusiasm and graceful motions are wonderful and relaxing to watch. Although tutus are not required, a straight back chair nearby is recommended if you need help with your balance. Alessia’s voice reminds me of my second grade ballet instructor so this is a fun flashback to the past. (I usually stop at timestamp 03:45.)
Arm Exercises With Weights: 5 minutes
Annie Taylor Efremsky: 5 Minute Arm Workout (2016) Annie, a fitness instructor (and former news anchor) won my loyalty when she announced right at the start that we would only be doing 5-minutes of arm exercises, and that 2-lb weighted dumbbells are “good enough.” Her workouts are designed to get you arms with that “long, lean look” and you’ll feel your chest muscles improving too. After reaching 5 million views, she created a 2020 updated version of her original workout which is a minute longer. (The original 2016 workout starts at timestamp 01:30.)
Abdominal and Core Exercises: 5 -10 minutes
Denise Austin – 7-Minute 6-pack Abs Workout
Denise Austin, powerhouse fitness guru for over 30 years, has more videos than most instructors. I became a fan of this already well-known expert back in the 90s when I was pregnant with my first child. Denise, now 63, is still going strong. She has an active membership site featuring workouts and products. In this quick video, you’ll need a yoga mat as she leads you through a wide range of standing and floor exercises. (Her workout starts at timestamp 00:20.)
Cardio Exercises: 10 – 15 minutes
Fabulous50s: 10-minute Indoor Workout
Schellea Fowler is a friendly, upbeat Australian Lifestyle and Wellness Entrepreneur in her 50s. Watching her videos, you feel like you’re exercising with an enthusiastic friend. This 10-minute low impact, fat burning routine is great for beginners because it’s a whole body workout and includes standing ab exercises which are easier to do. Schellea’s favorite motivational phrase is “there’s no good reason not to exercise because you’ll never be younger than you are today.” (The 10-minute workout starts at timestamp 00:28.)
LOWER BODY DAY
Stretching Exercises: 5 minutes
Alicia Jones Healthy Living: Stretching & Strengthening Workout for Women Over 50
Alicia Jones is a Canadian with over 15 years of experience as a certified health and fitness expert. She specializes in women over 50 so the exercises are gentle. Grab your hand weights for this one. She starts all her exercises with a benefit to motivate you. (Workout timestamp 1:05 – 06:40 for the basic stretch; she adds weights at 06:45.)
Leg Exercises: 10 minutes
Fabulous50s: 5-minute Thighs and Butt
Lifestyle and Fitness Entrepreneur, Schellea Fowler, has a broad range of videos but this is the one I do most often to strengthen my knees and upper thighs. I really like the video because it was filmed outdoors and so your mind has something else to focus on while you do a series of deep squats. The calming ocean waves crashing on the shore behind her are fun to watch. (The workout starts at timestamp 00:21.)
Cardio Exercises: 10-15 minutes
Fabulous50s: 15-Minute Fat Burning Indoor Workout
Lifestyle and Wellness Entrepreneur, Schellea Fowler’s 15-minute low-impact, whole body workout is the one that most helped me improve my balance. The video starts with arm exercises and includes legs, core and thighs with 30-second intervals of walking in between to give you a cardio boost. I could tell I had gotten much stronger when I was finally able to hold the standing single leg lifts on both sides easily. (The 15-minute workout starts at timestamp 00:48.)
Summary of YouTube Videos
Favorite Videos: STRETCHING
Ballet Based Movement: Ballet for Over 50 and Beginners
Elizabeth and Susan, a mother-daughter-duo from the UK, demonstrate ballet-based stretches and movement exercises using chairs. The idea for this business began when 74-year old Elizabeth (mum) started experiencing balance and mobility issues. Luckily her daughter, Susan, an amateur dancer, stepped in and taught her gentle moves that made a big difference. The workout is set to a lovely classical music track. (Their workout starts at timestamp 00:30.)
Lazy Dancer: Follow Along Barre for Beginners
Alessia Lugoboni’s music, gracefulness and enthusiasm is wonderful and relaxing. As a former Royal New Zealand Ballet dancer, you know you are learning barre exercises from the best. Although tutus are not required, a straight back chair nearby is recommended if you need help with your balance. (I usually stop at timestamp 3:45.)
Alicia Jones Healthy Living: Stretching & Strengthening Workout for Women Over 50
Certified health and fitness instructor Alicia Jones has created this gentle warm-up and exercise routine specifically for women in their 50s. (Begin your workout at timestamp 01:05 – 06:40 for the basic stretch; she adds weights at 06:45.)
Favorite Videos: ARMS (with weights)
Lean Healthy Ageless – Strong & Toned Arms for Women Over 50
Speaker, Author and Health Coach (and former nurse), Danna Demetre wants to help women be the best they can be. In this video, she shares the routine she does in her home gym to keep her arms toned and lean. Clearly, age doesn’t matter to this 66-year old; Danna also shares that she plays tennis regularly. (Her workout starts at timestamp 03:05.)
Annie Taylor Efremsky: 5-Minute Arm Workout (2016)
Annie, a fitness instructor (and former news anchor) won my loyalty when she announced right at the start that we would only be doing 5-minutes of arm exercises, and that 2-lb weighted dumbbells are “good enough.” Her workouts are designed to get you arms with that “long, lean look” and you’ll feel your chest muscles improving too. After reaching 5 million views, she created a 2020 updated version of her original workout which is a minute longer. (The original 2016 workout starts at timestamp 1:30.)
Denise Austin – Arm & Shoulders Workout Level 1
As a fitness expert for over 30 years, Denise Austin designed these upper-body strength training exercises to help you build muscle and tone your arms, shoulders, back, chest and abdominals while burning calories. She also created Level 2 and Level 3 arm & shoulder routines. (Level 1 workout starts immediately)
Favorite Videos: ABDOMINALS & CORE
Fabulous50s – Lose Belly Fat Sitting Down Ab Workout
Schellea Fowler, a lifestyle and wellness entrepreneur, knows that core exercises for women over 50 are very important for posture and movement. If you are just starting to work out, these muscles might be weak. Don’t worry! You can do abdominal exercises sitting down. In this 15-minute routine, she shows you how to do an ab workout in a chair. (The workout starts at timestamp 00:56.)
Denise Austin – 7-Minute 6-Pack Abs Workout
Well-known fitness expert Denise Austin starts this routine with standing abdominal exercises, but luckily, the last half are done on the floor. How can you not be impressed with her incredibly toned abdominal muscles? She is her own best testimonial as to why exercise can change your body for the better. You’ll want to grab your yoga mat and water bottle. (Her workout starts at timestamp 00:20.)
Jillian Michaels –Standing Abs Workout
Hard core fitness trainer Jillian Michaels (originally known for her drill-sergeant style on the television show, the Biggest Loser) has created a brief video here. When you’re ready to take it up a notch for serious results, Jillian shows you how to do five different exercises, and then tells you to do 10 reps of each, three times. You have to pause the video after each exercise as she only does one of each. Wouldn’t it be nice to have core muscles look that good? (Her workout starts at timestamp 00:17.)
Favorite Videos: LEGS & THIGHS
Fabulous50s – 5-Minute Thighs and Butt
Lifestyle and Fitness Entrepreneur, Schellea Fowler, has a broad range of videos but this 5-minute routine is the one I do most often to strengthen my knees and upper thighs. I really like the video because it was filmed outdoors and so your mind has something else to focus on while you do a series of deep squats. The calming ocean waves crashing on the shore behind her are fun to watch. (The workout starts at timestamp 00:21.)
Alicia Jones Health Living – Toned Thighs and Strong Hips Leg Workout
Certified health and fitness instructor Alicia Jones has both a blog and videos on her site that target women in their 50s. She goes through this routine and explains how it helps you develop toned thighs and strong hips. (Her workout starts at timestamp 01:05.)
Denise Austin – Barre Workout to Tone Thighs
As a fitness expert for over 30 years, Denise Austin has an extensive collection of workouts. In this more recently created video, she leads you in a barre workout to tone the sides, front and back of your thighs as well as your “booty.” This sequence is filmed outdoors which is a nice touch. Grab a chair for balance because you’ll see her using one too. (This workout starts at timestamp 00:15.)
Favorite Videos: FULL BODY WITH CARDIO
Fabulous50s – 15-minute Fat Burning Indoor Workout
Lifestyle and Wellness Entrepreneur, Schellea Fowler’s 15-minute low impact, whole body workout is the one that most helped me to improve my balance. The video starts with arm exercises and includes legs, core and thighs with 30-second intervals of walking in between to give you a cardio boost. I could tell I had gotten much stronger when I was finally able to hold the standing single leg lifts on both sides easily. (The 15-minute workout starts at timestamp 00:48.)
Flipping 50’s – 10-Minute Full Body Workout
Deborah Atkinson, known as a “hormone balancing fitness expert”, is an author with several media channels under her brand (Flipping 50) including YouTube, a podcast and a TV channel. In this 10-minute full body workout, she adds cardio by using a kettle ball to get your heart pumping. (This workout starts at timestamp 02:15.)
Fabulous50s – 10-minute Indoor Workout
Schellea Fowler, Australian Lifestyle and Wellness Entrepreneur in her 50s makes you feel like you’re exercising with an enthusiastic friend. Her 10-minute low impact, fat burning routine is great for beginners because it’s a whole body workout and includes standing ab exercises which are easier to do. Schellea’s favorite motivational phrase is “there’s no good reason not to exercise because you’ll never be younger than you are today.” (The 10-minute workout starts at timestamp 00:28.)
Creating a plan of Exercise for Women Over 50 and Out of Shape is not that hard thanks to technology. Starting a daily exercise program is a good idea because it’s one thing you can control, especially during these uncertain times. The short-term payoff is that it will help you tone up, build strength, reduce anxiety and elevate your mood thanks to the endorphins released. Over the long-term, regular exercise can help with weight loss and improve your body image. It can also reduce your risk for serious health issues and become a healthy habit.
Although I started exercising because I couldn’t get off the floor easily, a daily routine has brought me the strength, flexibility, and coordination to do that finally. I also learned that squats are one of the best exercises women over 50 can do to build up our knees and upper leg muscles, as well as preserve our ability to move independently longer. Working out is helping me build stamina and endurance, and I believe, ensuring that my future travel will be more enjoyable. If I can do it, you can too.
What’s your favorite exercise? I’d love to hear from you. Please share it in the comments below.