How to get fit in your 50s


4 minutes

03 September 2021

Man in his 50s exercising with handweights at home

If you’re in your fifties and you’ve fallen out of the fitness habit – or even if you’ve never exercised regularly before – it’s not too late to start.

Focusing on fitness in your fifties can help impact your health for the rest of your life.

Regular exercise can help you maintain or manage your weight, blood pressure and bone and joint problems.1 It helps reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, and Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.2

It can also be helpful for improving sleep, stress levels, symptoms of depression and anxiety, and mental health in general.2

How much exercise should I do in my 50s?

The Department of Health guidelines recommend people in their fifties find time to be active every single day.3

Moderate intensity physical activity

They suggest 2.5 to five hours of moderate-intensity physical activity a week.3

Activity that gets your heart rate up and may get you sweating, but doesn’t leave you breathless, qualifies as moderate intensity. That could be a brisk walk, a game of golf (bet that made you smile), or even mowing the lawn (where’d that smile go?).

Vigorous intensity physical activity

Instead of moderate intensity exercise you can opt for 1.25 to 2.5 hours of vigorous-intensity physical activity each week. That’s exercise like jogging or a hilly bike ride, which makes it too hard to talk.

Like to mix it up? You can also do an equivalent combination of both moderate and vigorous activity.

Muscle strengthening

Muscle-strengthening activities – like push ups (and other bodyweight exercises), weightlifting or a Pilates class – are also recommended a couple of times a week.

How should I get my exercise in my 50s?

When starting a new fitness plan, it can sometimes be challenging to get motivated and stay committed. Here are a few tricks to make that easier:

  • Talk to your doctor about what you can manage . The whole point of regular exercise is to improve your health, not put it at risk. Before you take up any new exercise regime, see your GP for an evaluation of your physical fitness.4 They can tell you which areas you might want to focus on and any kinds of exercise you might need to avoid. This is especially important if you have a chronic condition, heart condition, chest pain, dizziness, asthma, diabetes or a bone or joint-related condition.4
  • Find activities you enjoy doing. If you like doing something you’re much more likely to commit to doing it regularly. If you hate swimming but love golf you’re much more likely to walk nine holes than swim nine laps, so go golfing.
  • Start small and slow and build up. It’s better to gradually build the intensity or duration of your workout as your fitness improves and confidence grows.4
  • Make time to warm up and cool down. Stretching and warming up helps prepare your body for exercise and may help prevent muscle strains and joint sprains.4
  • Make exercise convenient. Forming new fitness habits around your existing schedule is a great way to make sure you get your exercise in. Maybe get off the bus a couple of stops early and walk into work or take the stairs to your meeting instead of the lift.
  • Exercise with a friend. A jog around the local park is a lot more fun if you have someone to chat to. You’re also more likely to keep motivated and stay committed when you’re in it together.

What specific sorts of exercise should I do in my 50s?

In our fifties our bodies can start changing on us. There are certain conditions that become more common among us in our 50s including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, kidney disease, and cancer.5

Learn more about HBF’s support programs for:


Cardiovascular disease or type 2 diabetes

Aiming for a mix of aerobic exercise (like running, cycling, swimming, aerobics) and resistance training (such as, push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, weightlifting and Pilates) can help to reduce risk or help manage some of these conditions.

Nutrition tips for your 50s

Eating a nutritious diet and maintaining a healthy weight are important at any age. When you are in your 50s you may be aiming to maintain those healthy habits you’ve always had, or you may be looking for some advice to help improve your diet.

  • Aim to eat a variety of foods from the five main food groups. Eating as close to the national guidelines as possible will help ensure you are getting all the nutrients your body needs. The five main food groups include vegetables and legumes, fruit, grains and cereals, lean meat and meat alternatives, and dairy and dairy alternatives.6
  • Limit discretionary foods. Discretionary foods are those that are not needed as part of a healthy diet; things like biscuits, cakes, chips, alcohol, etc. Choosing more whole, minimally processed foods more often and limiting these discretionary foods will help to ensure you are getting less added sugars, salt, and saturated fats in your diet.6
  • Choose to cook at home. When you cook at home you are in control of what is going into your meal which generally means it’s going to be a healthier choice.Have fun in the kitchen, get creative with cooking techniques, try different herbs and spices, or search online for some interesting dish inspiration.

A final word on fitness in your 50s

Improving your fitness in your fifties can help get your body strong and healthy for the decades of your life to come. If you have fitness goals to achieve, don’t forget HBF can help.

If you are managing a chronic health condition, we also have health support programs for our members (eligibility criteria applies).

Good luck with your fitness goals.

1 About physical activity and exercise – Australian Government Department of Health (2021)
2 Exercise and mental health – healthdirect (2019)
3 For adults (18 to 64 years) – Australian Government Department of Health (2021)
4 Physical activity – how to get started – Better Health Channel
5 Manage your health in your 50s – healthdirect (2020)
6 The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating (2017)
7 Healthy cooking at home – LiveLighter


This article contains general information only and does not take into account the health, personal situation or needs of any person. In conjunction with your GP or treating health care professional, please consider whether the information is suitable for you and your personal circumstances