What to Know About Cardio for Men Over Fifty

Medically Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, MS, DO on February 29, 2024
4 min read

As you get older, you might be tempted to cut back on your exercise routine. But getting enough exercise is important no matter what your age is. Instead of slowing down after you turn 50, you should keep cardio exercise a part of your lifestyle. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that adults of any age get at least 150 minutes of moderate activity per week, which equals about 30 minutes a day, five days each week. Or you can decide on 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week, which is about 15 minutes a day, five days each week. 

Maximize your endurance. After the age of 30, your body begins to slowly decline in many ways. For example, your maximum attainable heart rate lowers by one beat per minute with each passing year. At the end of a decade, you’ve lost 5% to 10% of your capacity for blood flow. A healthy 25-year-old pumps 2.5 quarts of blood a minute, while a 65-year-old pumps around 1.5 quarts of blood a minute.

When you get cardio exercise regularly, you increase your body’s blood flow. When your body pumps more blood through your system, it increases oxygen throughout your body and improves brain and organ function. The benefits of cardio last long after your exercise is over. Increased oxygen levels relieve fatigue and breathlessness you might experience during everyday activities. 

Add years to your life. When you keep your body in healthy condition, you increase your chances of warding off major illnesses and living longer. With age, you naturally slow down and gain weight as your metabolism decreases. Regular cardio over the age of 50 helps to offset your slower metabolism by preventing weight gain. 

A study conducted by the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School reviewed the health of five men at the age of 20 and again at the age of 50. At 50 years old, their overall health had decreased significantly.  

After their second review at 50, each man committed to a six-month exercise program that gradually increased their activity levels. Each participant lost weight and lowered their blood pressure. At the end of the program, their heart’s ability to pump blood returned to the levels they experienced in their 20s. 

Other benefits of healthy amounts of cardio exercise include:

  • More restful sleep
  • Better mobility
  • Added flexibility
  • Improved brain function
  • Less stiffness
  • Overall improvement in your quality of life

Injury. No matter what your activity levels were in the past, injuries happen more easily with age. Always talk to your doctor before beginning a new exercise routine. Check with your doctor if you have any of the following symptoms during or after moderate activity:

  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded 
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in your chest
  • Blood clots
  • Any type of infection
  • Sores that aren’t healing
  • Swelling in your joints
  • Recent surgery
  • Hernia

Taking breaks might mean starting over. You lose your endurance more quickly as you age. If you take more than two weeks off from your exercise routine, start back slowly. You may not be able to jump back in where you left off.

Your activity levels. Don’t overdo it. If you’re already very active, you probably know your limitations. But if you’re just getting started or haven’t exercised in a while, start slow. Start with low-intensity cardio and build up over time as you gain endurance and strength. Remember that it's always a good idea to talk to your doctor before starting a new activity.

Choose an activity. Your cardio workout after 50 doesn’t have to be boring. Mix it up and try something new each week or month. When you can’t fit in your usual exercise routine, go for a walk around your neighborhood. Other ideas for cardio workouts include: 

  • Go for a walk or hike
  • Certain yoga activities
  • Yard work like raking, weeding, or pushing a lawnmower
  • Ride a bicycle (stationary or outdoors)
  • Swimming and other forms of water exercise

When all else fails, fit exercise activities into your everyday life by: 

  • Parking in the back of the parking lot when you go shopping
  • Taking the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator
  • Standing instead of sitting when possible

Remember strength training. The CDC also recommends 2 days of strength training each week, but you don’t need a gym membership to keep your muscles strong. Here are some ideas for strength exercises:

  • Lifting weights
  • Exercising using resistance bands
  • Using your body weight for sit-ups, push-ups, squats, and lunges
  • Gardening activities, including shoveling and digging
  • Some yoga practices

Take time off when you need it. Rest is just as important as cardio and strength training. If you overdo it one day, take a break. When life gets busy, and you don’t work out for a short time, it’s OK.