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  • Writer's pictureMark Edwards

The Ultimate Fitness Guide for Men Over 50 and Beyond - How To Get Fit Over 50 in 2024

Updated: May 9


Table of Contents



Introduction


How to get fit over 50 - can it be done? Absolutely. Let's talk about this.


As men age, it becomes more and more important for us to stay active and maintain physical fitness.


Unfortunately, while our physical fitness and activity levels may be more important, maintaining and improving them also can be much harder as we get older. We don't have the same energy levels that we did when we were younger and our bodies may not recover from intense exercise as quickly as a 30-year-old's body does. And a lot of older men have fallen off the fitness horse, sometimes for many years.


However, it's never too late. It's still more than possible to train and stay fit at 50+. It just might take more effort than it did when we were younger, but it is both possible and essential.


The phrase "Fit men over 50" isn't some sort of delusion. It can be a reality given time, commitment, effort, a good coach, and sensible nutrition.


An amazing example of this is a well-known expert on Paleo (or "Primal, as he calls it) nutrition, Mark Sisson. One look at this dude and you can see that getting and staying fit in our older years is very achievable.


As a coach who's personally dealt with hitting the milestones of 40 and 50, not only have I had to adjust my thinking and the way I approach lifestyle, nutrition, and training, but I've also had the experience of being coached by young guys who just don't get it.


Chronic conditions like joint pain become issues. Then there's longer recovery time, different fitness goals, lower levels of growth hormone, and a list of other things that go along with the aging process.


But fitness for men over 50 is achievable with the right mindset and a good coach.

If you're in your 40's, 50's, or 60's, you might have experienced this.


Are you ready for your next milestone? Do you welcome it as just another number that isn't even a little bump in the road? Or are you terrified about approaching 40, 50, or 60?


I've come up with my top essentials, in a realistic order of priority, for how to train and stay fit at 50+.


What are the 5 Essentials to Maintain Fitness and Health for Men Over 50?







"Only FIVE," you say? You might have seen lists all over the internet of 9 or 10 "essentials."

But if you cover these five, the rest either fall under the umbrella of these five, or they're merely inconsequential.


Let's start with the most important motivating force in anyone's life, regardless of their intent.


How to Get Fit Over 50




1. Identify Your Why.


You're not going anywhere without a solid WHY. It's important to stay motivated when trying to improve or maintain physical fitness, whether the goal is to build muscle, lose weight, or just be healthier in general.


Having realistic, tangible goals is the best way to get and stay motivated. If we set unrealistic or vague goals, we're more likely to get discouraged and give up.


But you can't identify core goals if you don't know why you're really trying to get fit and healthy in the first place. So start with your WHY. If you have a weak reason for starting a fitness or weight loss program, you won't be able to maintain it.


If your "why" is just based on what others think of you rather than having something strong and internal, you'll pack it in when things get tough. Some great examples of not-so-helpful "whys" are statements like these: "I want to have six-pack abs," "I want to lose stubborn belly fat," or "I have to watch my blood pressure."





What's wrong with wanting six-pack abs?


You might think that this "goal" is a solid why. But it's only the first step. Nobody, except physique competitors or models, actually "needs" a six-pack.


You can start from there, but then ask yourself WHY you want a six-pack. From there, keep asking yourself "why" until you drill down to your core reason. Maybe "fat loss" is your starting point. "I want to get rid of my middle-age spread."


Why?


"Because I don't feel good when I feel like I look fat. I'll feel better if I get rid of that spare tire around my waist."


Why?


"My wife will appreciate the way I look and that I'm taking better care of myself."

And so on. You get the point.


Even if you have the "willpower" to start exercising or dieting, it won't be enough when things get more challenging. Willpower won't cut it. Always start with WHY.


The same goes for any other reason. Drill down to why that thing is important to you. You might surprise yourself, but at the very least, you're going to be on firm footing when you start your journey.


This is a fundamental part of the process that I teach and coach in my nutrition and fitness coaching program.




2. Eat reasonable quantities of quality, whole food


These days, there's a fallacy circulating around the so-called "body positivity" community that says there's no such thing as a bad diet.

Well, garbage in, garbage out.


Eating healthy foods is important at any age, but it's especially important as we get older. We need to make sure we're getting enough nutrients to keep our bodies functioning optimally.


Eat a healthy diet.


There are a lot of approaches to this idea, from intermittent fasting to Paleo. But the long and short is that we want to incorporate more healthy foods and fewer "problematic" foods.



A healthy diet means eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. It also means limiting processed foods, sugary drinks, and unhealthy fats.


We want to view food on a continuum. Eat more of this, eat less of that. This way, we don't end up with an "all or nothing" attitude when it comes to our nutrition.


And we never end up banning entire food groups. Some people do very well by excluding certain food groups, but it's never a good starting point.


If you find that certain areas of your diet are lacking, or seem to be, get your blood work done to find out whether you've got any nutrient deficiencies. Then you can address any gaps in your nutrition with certain foods and/or supplementation. A good multivitamin is an excellent backup considering most of us lack something in our diets.


Practice Flexible Eating

Also, just because you had a "not optimal" snack (for example, an order of fries) doesn't mean that the whole week is shot and that you should just say "to hell with it, let's binge."


Gradually move towards more healthy foods while moving away from and reducing the choices that you know aren't helping you reach your goal.


"Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat."


This is a statement on basic nutrition that is the nutritional foundation of CrossFit®.

Regardless of whether or not you like, agree with, or are familiar with CrossFit®, you can see that there's nothing extreme here. This is basically saying "make whole foods the mainstay of your everyday life."


If you can use this simple idea as a general yardstick and adjust it as needed, depending on your lifestyle and preferences, you'll be on the road to a better outcome.


"Why don't you give me some recipes, coach?"


If you Google the question "how to stay fit or lose weight over 40/50", you'll see search results that include recipes and meal plans for breakfast, lunch, and supper.


It might seem to be a good start, but in reality, that's a great way to avoid doing what's necessary.


Recipes Aren't the Answer.


You need to assess the quality and quantity of the food you consume every day and start making changes.


Instead of adding things, start with assessing things that you can reduce or replace with better alternatives.


Searching for recipes or meal plans at the outset of trying to get fitter is usually an avoidance tactic that often ends in frustration and failure, and then the old chestnut "I tried to lose weight but couldn't."


Let's not do that.

Why is protein so critical?


Protein is vital because as we age, we lose muscle mass. Not just a little, either. Without adequate protein, your body is going to look like it's shrinking.


And guess what? It is.


After age 30, men will lose 3% to 8% of their muscle mass every decade, and 30% over a lifetime. After age 60, muscle loss increases dramatically. This process is called sarcopenia. And it WILL happen to you if you put off getting active until it's too late.


Adequate protein is essential for mitigating the loss of muscle mass, whether it's through protein-rich meals or a combination of high-quality protein-rich food sources and supplementation using a good whey protein powder or a plant-based protein powder.


Maintaining muscle mass is critical, and eating enough protein is a big part of accomplishing that. And with that, we get to EXERCISE.





3. Get regular exercise


Exercise is important for everyone, but it's especially important as we age. Regular exercise can help reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. It can also help improve mental health, cognitive function, and bone health.


Exercise is one of the primary preventive things you can do to prevent not only physical decline but cognitive decline. As men age, it becomes more critical to preserve muscle mass by moving heavy objects regularly (more on that later).


The best exercises for you will depend on your fitness level and goals. But even if you're just starting out, it's important to find an activity that you enjoy and can stick with long-term.


If you're an older guy and you haven't exercised in a long time, or worse, never did, you're probably thinking "there isn't any exercise activity that I enjoy, Mark."


That's the numb, lazy part of your brain talking to you. You can't know whether you'll enjoy something if you haven't given it a fighting chance.


Start with your why. And then you won't use that sorry excuse.

Then there's the opposite approach. Some guys want to do TOO MUCH, overcompensating for years of inactivity. That's a recipe for injury.


Take the middle road. Start off slowly and build up from there.


Try different things. Some people prefer to exercise on their own, while others prefer group fitness. There are many different types of exercise classes and programs available, so there's sure to be something that appeals to you and suits you.


Above all, be accountable.


Take ownership.






Small group fitness/training classes can be one way forward to maintain accountability. You didn't show up for the workout yesterday? Well, your friends in your training group are going to ask you why.


If you hire a trainer, that's another way to move forward and build accountability.


You're not going to cancel a session at the last minute if it costs you a hundred bucks.




Man swinging a kettlebell


Q: What Kind of Exercise Program Should a 50-Year-old Man Do?


A: Lifting weights. Resistance training. Move heavy things.


There's no doubt about it: if you're over 40 or 50, the training regime for older men needs to incorporate resistance training (Learn more HERE).



Done correctly, any guy over 40 or 50 can pack on lean muscle and look better, and have better body composition than he did at 30.


However, there are some pretty big caveats. Be aware.


Over 50, our muscles recover much more slowly from heavy strength sessions. Our joints recover much more slowly. What does that mean? It means that a program suitable for a 25-year-old guy IS NOT suitable for a 50 or 60 year old guy.


If you try to train like you're 25, you'll accumulate fatigue, you won't recover well enough to get stronger, and then you'll get injured. We want to AVOID injury and train sensibly for our age bracket.


Three strength sessions a week is a good guideline that can be adjusted for individuality. One of those days could be a "heavy" day (and the word "heavy" is relative) with two lighter, higher-volume days. A fourth day each week could be devoted to light cardio or even a short HIIT session, leaving 3 to 4 days each week to do ACTIVE recovery.


There's more.


Regular cardio and HIIT training, while useful components of any fitness program, should NOT be the centerpieces of an effective fitness and strength program for older guys. Focusing solely on these activities is not going to serve you well as you age. You want to build strength. You want to build muscle. You want to be mobile and strong as you age.


Yes, cardiovascular health is important. No doubt about that.


But as you get beyond your 50's and 60's, although your heart and lungs may be healthy, you won't be able to climb a flight of stairs or lift a heavy bag of groceries, much less move a sofa if you've focused solely on cardiovascular fitness.


The inability to perform daily tasks is the very definition of decrepitude. Let's stave that off.



Accept the fact that full-body strength training is going to be your friend.

The human body is an amazing machine and can do so much more than we imagine.


Full-body workouts will save you time and have a far greater beneficial effect on muscle mass, weight loss, and jacking up your metabolism than a long, 2-hour soul-crushing HIIT workout once a week.


Full body strength training will enable you to hit all major muscle groups while being time-efficient.


To do this, your full-body workout routine must include weight training (whether it's in conjunction with HIIT workouts or on its own). That could mean powerlifting, weightlifting, bodybuilding, or functional fitness programming along the lines of CrossFit or OPEX methods.


This can involve barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, and other straightforward training implements like medicine balls and sandbags. And we don't overlook body weight training.


Choose the flavor that suits you best.


Then focus on the core strength training movements that are the most time efficient. Most of us can't and don't want to spend three hours in the gym several times per week.


Those movements should include the following:

  • Deadlifts

  • Squats (choose a variation that suits your skill and mobility level)

  • Overhead presses

  • Bench Presses

  • Pulling Movements (examples such as pullups, barbell/dumbbell rows, Concept 2 rowing machine, etc.)

  • Bodyweight exercises (situps, pushups, air squats, pullups)


Notice several things about the above list. We can separate the movements into pushing and pulling movements. We can also separate them into upper body and lower body movements.


The way you choose to view these movements really depends on how you want to structure your programming.


Regardless of the approach, a basic, solid strength training program incorporating cardio and mobility exercises (sometimes mischaracterized as "flexibility exercises") is going to serve you well.


Keep it simple.


You don't have to spend all of your free time in the gym (unless you really want to, of course!)




Q: What's Another Advantage of Full Body Strength Training?


A: Time Efficiency


Time efficiency means doing deadlift variations, squat variations, and pressing variations. And don't forget pullups. These movements form the core of efficient, effective strength training, over and above isolation movements.


There's a time and place for isolation movements (like bicep curls and leg curls), but first, make enough time to do the big movements.


Free weights are your friends.


Do pushing and pulling exercises, ie full-body strength training. Incorporate some cardio and you'll lose weight and build muscle. That's the way forward.


Don't get bogged down in minutiae.


There are LOTS of different protocols, some involving periodization, some not. For guys who are not deep into the weeds on this stuff, my advice is to keep things as simple as possible.

Avoid complicating things at the outset.


Find out HERE how to build a minimalist home gym setup.


"I've been deskbound a long time and my body is stiff as a board. How do you expect me to do this stuff?"


Baby steps. Everyone starts from the beginning. EVERYONE.


Everyone who has a sensible exercise routine will do mobility exercises/movements, strength training, occasionally some sort of high intensity interval training (HIIT workout), and some aerobic training for cardiovascular fitness.


I want to emphasize again that without strength training, men WILL lose a significant amount of muscle mass as they age. I can't repeat this enough. Sarcopenia is very real, and as you age, without moving heavy things, you WILL experience it. It WILL have a negative effect on your life.


And then there's bone density. Decreasing bone density tends to affect older women more, but sedentary men will also develop weak bones over time.

Going for a morning jog is NOT going to do the job.


Golfing on Sundays won't cut it either. Playing Sunday soccer with the other weekend warriors is also not going to keep your muscle mass from wasting away.


Don't Be a Weekend Warrior


Being a weekend warrior is a pretty bad idea, but worse when we're over 50. All the weekend warrior mentality seems to accomplish is an endless cycle of injuries. Yes, let's have fun, but condition your body first. So aerobic fitness and weekend sports are only a small part of the equation. Those things aren't good enough to build a foundation of functional strength.



We want to gradually build a foundation of life-long fitness and health that involves the entire body.


Are you pushing 50? Maybe you're heading into your 60's like me. Injuries become a VERY BIG DEAL because older guys recover from injury much more slowly than a 25-year-old. Be patient and cautious.




Sleeping guy in his bedroom


4. Get enough quality sleep


Sleep is one aspect that is usually not given enough, if any, attention.


Getting enough sleep is crucial for our overall health, and it becomes even more important as we age. Poor sleep can lead to a number of health problems, including obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. It can also impact our mental health, cognitive function, and immune system.


With adequate sleep, you'll have an easier time losing weight, burning fat, and controlling your appetite. With better sleep, you'll also have a reduced risk of diabetes and other metabolic disorders.


Aim to get 7-8 hours of sleep each night. If you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, there are a few things you can do to improve your sleep hygiene:


  1. Establish a regular sleep schedule

  2. Avoid caffeine after 4 pm and alcohol before bed

  3. Create a relaxing bedtime routine

  4. Keep your bedroom dark, quiet, and cool

  5. Limit screen time before bed.

  6. Get at least 10 minutes of bright sunlight first thing in the morning after rising. This resets your circadian clock.


Unfortunately, most people these days pretty much violate all of these essentials. Sleep schedules vary wildly, people often over-consume caffeine right up until dinner and then consume alcohol either with dinner or after dinner, lots of people are working from home, so far too many people get inadequate, lousy sleep.


Address the 6 points to improve sleep hygiene and you'll have taken a huge step in the right direction.


One little "hack" that I've used for about 6 years is a sleep app. I use Sleep Cycle. It tracks sound and body movement to wake you only when you're in a light sleep, near the end of the night.


Being jarred awake by a standard alarm clock while in deep sleep is going to leave you feeling groggy and exhausted when waking.


Sleep Cycle addresses this.




5. Manage Stress Levels


Stress can have a negative impact on our health at any age, but it's especially important to manage our stress levels as we get older. Stress can lead to a number of health problems, including heart disease, high blood pressure, and anxiety.

There are a number of things you can do to manage your stress levels:


  • Get regular exercise, centered on weight training or strength training

  • Practice relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation

  • Spend time with friends and family

  • Take breaks throughout the day

  • Avoid smoking and alcohol consumption


Managing stress, in some ways, is not so very different from improving sleep hygiene. That's why I've put stress management as the last essential.


Very often, if we can deal with the five items on the stress management list, stress levels decrease significantly.


We don't get stressed in a vacuum. Stress didn't just drop out of the sky one day. "Oh jeez, here's stress! Where did that come from?"


Our other habits bring this on: poor nutrition, lack of exercise, and other influences.




red wine

Isn't a Glass of Wine Healthy?


So you might believe that having a couple of drinks every evening is "de-stressing" you, but in reality that alcohol is making it far more difficult for you to sleep.


And then that cascades through your entire system. Not to mention adding perhaps an extra 1000 calories to your daily intake, depending on how much you drink.


Do that every evening for a few years and it becomes a challenge to undo.


In fact, there is NO HEALTH BENEFIT to drinking alcohol. Dr. Andrew Huberman explains it very well.


Booze is NOT reducing your stress. It might seem to be while you're drinking, but the cascade of after-effects is disastrous over the long term.


Where Should I Go From Here?


Work on ONE THING at a time to make the process manageable.


Getting regular exercise, eating healthy foods, and getting enough sleep are all important for maintaining our physical fitness as we age. It's also important to manage our stress levels and stay motivated.


Taking ownership is the foundation of motivation and progress.


Setting realistic, solid goals is essential. If we set unrealistic goals and lack a good WHY, we're more likely to get discouraged and give up.


The importance of strength training as we age cannot be overstated. Check out my men's fitness guide for more info.


Book a coaching call with me and let's discuss your goals and create a personal plan for your nutrition and fitness!


If you enjoyed this article, please share it with someone who might benefit.



Disclaimer: All information provided on this website is for informational purposes only. No information provided is to be construed as medical advice. If you have medical issues, always consult your doctor.

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