Exercise and Weight Loss for Women Over 50

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Exercise and weight loss seem to go together like birds of a feather. however, exercise is so much more than a way to lose weight or get in shape.

Our bodies are not just a vehicle for walking our brains around. They are intricate, complex, amazing beings that love to move and feel energetic. Let’s normalize that!

Exercise is probably the most important thing you can do for your brain as well as your body. But what you are thinking “exercise” is may look a lot different than what I am thinking.

But here’s what we probably agree on.

We all know that exercise is good for us. We know it’s something we “should” do.

Here’s where we might disagree.

Most of us think of exercise as a tool for weight loss or getting in shape. And we think the harder it is, the better.

How you exercise is important to you overall health, not just to your waistline.

picture of Sara the author standing in front of window facing away from the camera.
My normal body at 60.

The Benefits of Exercise After 50

Most of you know that exercise strengthens your muscles and bones and reduces the risk of disease. However, exercise also helps with your brain and emotions.

Exercise improves your mood, your self-confidence, and your outlook on life.

I look at exercise as one of the most important things that anyone can do for their overall physical and mental health! It is THAT important.

In contrast, living a sedentary life has many poor consequences. The less you move, the less you want to move. You feel sluggish, not just in your body but in your mind.

Being sedentary is as harmful as other health risks. You need to move and move more.

Exercise is critical to your wellbeing.

However, exercise isn’t always a way to speed weight loss. And exercising is never a substitute for good nutrition. It’s tempting to think that if you just work out hard enough, you’ll have that hard body.

For us women, a hard body is the exception, not the rule. We’re made to be somewhat soft and curvy.

Some kinds of exercise can even slow down your weight loss efforts.

Graphic for pinterest. Picture of women exercising. Words: What you need to know about exercising after age 50

Exercise and Weight Loss for Women Over 50

So, I want to talk to you about how exercise affects and doesn’t affect weight loss in women.

We’ve all been told that exercise and eating less go hand in hand to lose weight.

When I did Weight Watchers, years ago, I got extra points for exercise. Anyone that’s ever been told to lose weight has also been told to exercise.

You have to EARN those calories! Or you have to BURN them off.

How many times have you eaten a snack and told yourself that you would “work it off” later?

That is an ineffective, useless thing to tell yourself. Take exercise out to the calorie/diet equation all together.

But exercise is not to be discarded. Just don’t use it to punish yourself for eating or to earn the right of eating!

Exercise supposedly does two things: burns calories and builds muscles. However, exercise and working out, don’t affect our weight nearly as much as we’ve believed.

In fact, some studies show that intense exercise can be associated with weight gain. While we burn more calories, it sets us up for being hungrier. Or that whole, I exercised, “so I can eat more” thing

Here’s the thing. Like diets, a lot of what you’ve been told about exercise isn’t true either.

When you think about exercise as something to help with your health, energy, and weight loss, what do you think it needs to be?

  • Hard workouts at the gym?
  • Running? Maybe even training for a marathon?
  • Heavy weights?
  • A personal trainer?
  • Blood pumping cardio?

I’m fortunate in that I didn’t want to do any of those things! Well, except maybe for the cardio back in the day. Otherwise, I’ve always gone with a much gentler approach.

I want to share with you some information from the biggest study that focused on 35,000+ women for over 14 years, The Women’s Health Study.

The bottom line is, that once you are overweight, exercise isn’t correlated to weight loss or even to preventing weight gain. For women of normal weight, daily exercise can keep weight stable.

I am NOT saying exercise isn’t helpful! I love to exercise and move my body. However, your nutrition is still the major part of the weight loss equation.

This is important, because for too long, many women avoid exercising because they think it has to be hard or uncomfortable to do any good. That simply isn’t true.

Reasons for Women to Exercise After 50

Moving your body in any way that feels good to you, is good for your body. When you remove trying to lose weight from WHY you exercise, you can design your exercise to fit your goals and lifestyle.

For me, I want to:

  • Feel great
  • Sleep well
  • Have energy
  • Be able to play with and pick up my grandchildren
  • Go for walks
  • Hike in the mountains
  • Ride my bike
  • Reduce stress
  • Avoid the pain from sitting or being on the computer for hours

That list makes me WANT to exercise! It truly provides my motivation to get off the couch and move my body almost every day.

When you create the right kind of goals, the exercise you pick becomes way more enjoyable and useful.

What Kind of Exercise is Best for Women Over 50?

In general, we all need three types of movement:

  • Cardio
  • Strength
  • Flexibility

It’s great for your body to do these kinds of movements every single day! When you aren’t using heavy weights or doing endurance workouts, you can exercise every day and it feels great.

Exercise definitely helps you tone your muscles. Exercise can reduce stress, which is very helpful for weight loss. And exercise can keep your body functional for a long time.

I love to walk every day, whether it’s outside in my neighborhood or inside to a video. To get my strength and flexibility, I do fusion workouts that combine ballet, Pilates, and yoga.

Efficient woman that I am, I find the fusion workouts much easier than any of those genres on their own. And they make me feel amazing!

Walking is something we can do every day. Then add some stretching or strength during the day as well. Your body will look better and most importantly feel better.

The point is that I want you to move every day and find ways to move that feel good, restore your health, and give you energy.

Of course, if for some reason you shouldn’t, don’t. Such as if your doctor says it is not okay right now.

But for most of you reading here, you can move more than you currently do.

Experiment and find your sweet spot of what kinds of exercise you like and how often you need to do it.

How Much Should You Exercise?

I aim for exercising in some way, 5 or 6 days a week and for length of time, I aim for 30 to 60 minutes. Sometimes I rest. Sometimes I just do 20 minutes.

Most of the time, I really look forward to it—though on some days I have to overcome my inertia.

Walking is something I enjoy and most days have me doing at least 30 minutes of walking.

Then during the week I work in upper body, lower body, abs, and stretching. I’m a big fan of online workouts that combine as many of those things as possible!

I absolutely depend on online workouts to keep a ton of variety in my life. I share my favorites in my post, How to Get Fit Without a Gym and The Best Workouts for Weight loss.

How Should Women Exercise if They Are Out of Shape?

When you do any workout, be sure and modify for your fitness level. Any movement is better than none. You don’t have to push yourself past your comfort zone to get benefits from exercise.

Set an easy goal to start, maybe walk 10 minutes a day. Then increase it by five minutes a day when you feel ready.

Look on youtube for short “beginner” workouts. As much as I love to workout, I often have to modify to workout safely.

One of the keys to exercising on a consistent basis is not to overdo it and hurt yourself! So here are the ways you can modify your workouts.

Use the lightest weights or no weights while you are learning movements

Recently, I was doing a workout with 2-pound weights. The idea was to hold them while doing a stretchy, strength, cardio workout. However, even two pounds was too much because of how quick the workout was.

So, I ditched the weights and did the workout a few times without the weights so my body could learn the movements and I could do the workout without worry of stressing my shoulder.

What surprised me was that I got a much better workout without the weights! I was able to move to tempo and stretch my arms fully. It felt so good.

More is not always better. It’s better to start with lighter weights that are easy than to use heavier weights that might cause damage. You get a better workout because you can do the movements in a perfectly controlled manner. That is way better for you than struggling with heavier weights.

Eventually, I was able to put the weights back in and do the workout with them.

Go slower if that feels better

Sometimes movements just feel too fast for me. It’s fine to slow things down and do movements at a speed that is comfortable for you.

I do this all the time when I just need to go a little slower. As long as you are moving, you are getting the benefits of your workout

Going slower also allows you to do the movement correctly. If a workout is going too fast for me, I simply slow my pace down to a level that I can move with control.

Start with 10 minutes and add time each day

You don’t have to start with 30 to 60 minutes a day. Do the first 10 minutes of a workout video or pick one that is just 15 minutes. Go for a 10 to 15-minute walk and gradually add more time each week.

Another way to get started is to do two shorter workouts each day. We all need to move more, and it can feel great to do one workout earlier in the day and one later in the day.

I love a short 15-minute relaxing workout before bed. It helps me relax and sleep better.

There is no right time of day—pick what works best for you.

Pick a workout length that feels doable.

I often will start a workout telling myself I only need to do 15 or 20 minutes. Usually by the time I reach that point, I don’t want to quit and I go on. But if that is enough, I honor my promise to myself and stop.

I use that for walking. I set a time goal for walking. If I’m going to walk for half an hour, I go 15 minutes and then I turn around and do 15 minutes back.

How Do I Find the Perfect Workout for Me?

Experiment with different kinds of exercise. There are so many to choose from.

I like working out at home to online videos and walking outside. These provide all the benefits and also give me the strength to do occasional long hikes or bike rides.

If you love water, consider swimming or water aerobics.

Dancing, yoga, Pilates, Barre, and any workout that combines these can be fun too.

Yard work and housework counts as well.

Picture of author Sara jumping on jump pad.
Playing with the grandkids counts too!
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I'm a certified life and weight loss coach who helps women feel better and get the most out of their lives! The process of life coaching teaches you to love yourself and gain self confidence in a safe effective way.

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Hi, I'm Sara Garska and I'm so happy you're here! Big changes can happen with a shift in thinking. Over time, you transform your life into the one you always dreamed of having. As a certified life and weight loss coach, I can help you create a life you love. Click here to schedule a free 50-minute coaching session.