Fitness Over Fifty: Five Exercises Everyone Fifty+ Should be Doing

Empty Nest Blessed by Suzy Mighell
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Fitness over fifty is a whole different ballgame than fitness before fifty! Even if we were in pretty good shape before hitting the mid-century mark, our risk for injury, especially when not properly warmed up, increases dramatically. As empty nesters, those kids we used as excuses (“I’m just too busy!”) have moved out of the house, and if you’re like me, you’ve realized it’s time to take health and fitness seriously. That means more time for warm-ups, followed by stretching, then the actual workout, which should conclude with a cool downNot really a fan of exercise, I’ve always preferred cardio to strength training overall. It just seems more like you actually accomplish something – right? Unfortunately, the experts say just the opposite: the older we get, the more important strength training becomes. Strength training rebuilds muscle, recharges metabolism, and reduces fat and resting blood pressure, among other benefits. Today, I’m sharing the basics of my strength training routine. I  do these five simple bodyweight exercises about three times a week. (After warming up and stretching, of course!)

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1. Plank

In the pushup position, rest your forearms on the ground. Squeeze abs and glutes (but keep breathing!). Hold that position. Gradually increase your time. (I try to do a minute.)

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Okay, I look ridiculous in these photos! Um, if it looks like this exercise is hard, that’s because it is. (But it works!)

2. Dead Bug

I learned this exercise when I had to have physical therapy for a strain in my lower back. I honestly think it’s the best core exercise out there because it protects your lower back – something not necessarily true of other ab exercises. (Even the Arthritis Foundation recommends it!) Start by lying on your back with your hands toward the ceiling and your feet knees and hips at a 90-degree angle. Press your lower back down into the floor with all your might (this will make you tighten your glutes and rotate your pelvis upwards). Extend one leg, straightening the knee and hip and extending your leg just above the ground while moving the opposite arm towards your head (second photo). Focus on pressing your lower back into the floor the entire time. I do it for five minutes straight, but I had to work up to that! For a demonstration of this exercise, click here.

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3. Squats

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, and your feet pointed either straight ahead or slightly turned out. With a straight back, squat down as far as you can without losing your balance, sticking your bottom out. (Think sitting in a chair.) Pause for a second at the bottom of the squat, then tighten your glutes, abs, and thighs and lift until back in a standing position. I do about twenty.

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4. Lunges

With your chin up, shoulders back, and a straight back, engage your abs. Step forward with one leg, lowering your body until your knees are both bent at a 90-degree angle, and your front knee is over your shoe. Your back knee will be pointing down, and you will be on your back toe. Push back up to the starting position. Alternate legs and work your way up to about ten reps per leg. Variations include the reverse lunge (the same except you step backward), and the walking lunge (walk forward as you lunge). I do ten on each leg.

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5. Superman

This lower back and glute strengthening exercise is one of my favorites. Lie face down with your arms and legs extended. Engage your core muscles and lift your arms and legs straight up simultaneously. Hold for up to five seconds and lower back down. Try to work up to ten reps. I’ve named a variation on this exercise the “swimmy.” (!) Start in the lifted position and alternate opposite arms and legs up and down. Work up to doing this for one minute.

Be sure to check with your doctor before starting any exercise program. I am not an exercise pro! I’m just a midlifer like you who is working toward fitness over fifty. I want to be healthy and strong enough to do everything I want to do, from carrying groceries to paddle boarding when we’re on vacation.

I’ve linked my outfit from the top of this post below. My Zella High Waist crop leggings are just the best. They have a unique, ultra lightweight, fabric that makes them ideal for a hot place like Dallas. The Zella Twisty Turn tee I’m wearing is currently sold out, but I have linked some similar styles below! It’s the softest workout tee I’ve ever owned! I’ve even worn mine to bed because it is just that comfy. They’re exclusively at Nordstrom, so that means free shipping and returns. My Thorlos Experia workout socks are padded at the ball and heel of the foot, for additional joint protection on impact. They’ve really helped me with and knee pain. Unfortunately, my tennis shoes are no longer available, but I have linked some similar shoes below!


What are your go-to strength training exercises? I’d love to know! Please leave me a comment below, and maybe I’ll add them to my routine!

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Suzy Mighell

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24 Comments

    1. Aw, Cindy, thank you! Did you like the embarrassing pictures? I hope they started your day off with a good laugh! xoxo Suzy

      1. Squats and lunges are very hard on those with bad knees and many don’t recommend doing those . What could replace those two exercises?
        Thank you,

  1. It’s true – after 50 you need more strength and flexibility exercise, but I’d rather do cardio, too! I like your routine – especially the plank and dead bug (no so much squats; I’ve NEVER liked them!) I just started back to my Yoga routine 3 times a week. It only takes 25-30 minutes, and I feel like I’m doing so much for my body! Now to get rid of those chip binges when the kids come for a visit!

    1. Melody,
      Squats are terrible, I agree! But the dead bug is the worst – but the best -but the worst! I can’t seem to get into yoga – I’ve tried! Good for you. I will join you on a chip binge whenever you want. I love them and would easily have a chip over a cupcake any day of the week! Thanks for your sweet comment. xoxo Suzy

  2. Great ideas Suzy! Always looking for ways to keep the workouts interesting and varied!

    1. Gail,
      Thanks so much for your sweet comment! So glad this was helpful in some way. xoxo Suzy

    1. Wendy,
      I’m so glad you like the dead bug! I hope you watched the video I attached, as it does a much better job than my explanation or pitiful photos! Thanks so much for your sweet comment! xoxo Suzy

  3. This is great! Thank you, Suzy!!
    And thank you for posing so we know exactly how to do it!!!????

    1. Wendy,
      Thanks so much for your sweet encouragement! I hope you got a good laugh out of my “demonstration” photos! xoxo Suzy

  4. You mentioned the importance of warming up and
    stretching before exercising, and cooling down after. Do you have some suggestions, especially for warming up and stretching? I just found your blog yesterday and I’m looking forward to exploring more of it!

    1. Aw, Holly, I am so glad you found me and thank you so much for leaving a comment! I am so happy to connect with you! That is a really good question! Honestly, before I exercise, I just kind of slowly start to move the joints and muscles that I know I am going to be working, then I gradually speed up. (It looks pretty silly!) Basically, I am just trying to get the blood flowing to the muscles that I am going to target so that I don’t pull something!. For example, if I am going to do planks, I would do arm circles, etc. For legs, I might start slowly with just walking in place, then a boxer shuffle, then jogging in place, then butt-kickers. Then I would do my squats or lunges. For my cool down, I stretch. I need to do a post on this and I will! In the meantime, try some yoga stretches like downward dog and child’s pose. Then do things like touching your toes with a straight leg, etc. I hope that helps. Thanks again for reaching out! xoxo Suzy

  5. I like the look of your exercises!! I will add them to the ones I do from Dr. Mercola’s kind of cardio ones done 4 sets of 10 done 4 times. He demonstrates them on his site. Personally I don’t enjoy exercising but these I will do. Thank you ????. I have saved it to Pinterest.

    1. Margaret,
      Thanks so much! I’ll have to look his up online! Great tip. I hate to exercise too, but I do it because I know I should. Keep up the good work! xoxo Suzy

  6. So glad I found your post! I am just coming off a terrible L4 bulging disk injury. I have been in therapy since the beginning of the year and just finally stopped. Most of these exercises are ones my PT recommended, including the dead bug. You have given me inspiration to get back at it as I was starting to slack because the pain had subsided. Thank you!

    1. Sharon,
      Oh, wow. I am so sorry to hear about your injury. Miserable! Good for you for getting back to it. You go, girl! xoxo Suzy

  7. Yes! Strength training is SO important as we age, or we will lose muscle mass. Adding weights that progressively get heavier is key too. I’m a NASM CPT with a Senior Fitness Cert and my #1 recommendation is to get the Beachbody on Demand service and plan out a year’s worth of workouts that will cycle you through easier to harder…rinse, repeat! P90➡️21Day Fix➡️slim in 6➡️21DayFixExtreme for example is a great loop ???? I quit training my older ladies at the gym and focus on this because it’s 100% more efficient than the gym and you will get REAL results. ????????. As an empty nester at 45 and now 48….I’d rather knock out a workout at home in 30 minutes that will keep me lean, strong and healthy and have the rest of my day to tackle anything else!

    1. Katie,
      That’s great advice! The shorter and more effective, the better! Thanks for weighing in as a fellow empty nester. xoxo Suzy

  8. Hi..Really enjoyed this Post..esp the fact of only having 5 exercise. My question is: how Many of these do you do..and how many sets? Thanks

    1. HI Jayne,
      Thanks so much for your comment! I said in the post how many times I do each exercise, and I usually do only one set of each. I hope that helps! xoxo Suzy

  9. Hi Suzy, this is over a year old so I hope you still receive these. 1. You look great. Very fit. 2. My planks is the shortest ever! But I’m trying. 3. Joined weight watchers, now called wellness wins to get rid of 20#! 4. I also do Greer Childers oxyflex exercises. At home in my pjs and lose inches every week.
    Do you also do a recipe or menu blog.
    Thanks for the great tips.????
    Kathy Stephens

    1. Kathy,
      It sounds like you are well in your way! Good for you! I think you’re going to be amazed at how fast you see yourself gaining strength and being able to hold that plank for longer and longer every single week. Consistency is the key! So sorry, but I don’t do a menu or recipe blog, but there are a lot of good ones out there. My blog is mostly about all aspects of life as an Empty Nester. I hope you’ll check out the rest of my content and consider subscribing to my email list!
      Thank you so much for your kind words, and best of luck!
      xoxo Suzy

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