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5 Tips to Get Back in Shape After 55

By Aubrey Reinmiller September 12, 2022 Health and Fitness

“I’m too old to get back in shape.” As a personal trainer who has worked with hundreds of women over the age of 55, I hear this all the time. It’s absolutely not true. Getting back in shape after 55 can be harder than when you were in your 20s, but it’s absolutely possible! 

No matter whether you have been out of your healthy routine for a short while or even if it’s been years or even decades, you can feel stronger and more confident in your body, lose some stubborn pounds, and gain vitality after 55 with the right exercises, nutrition, and healthy habits. 

Dig Deep to Discover Your Goals!

Before you even start exercising or adjusting your nutrition, take the time to do a little mindset work. This is one of the keys to starting and keeping your new healthy habits! Take a few minutes to think about why you want to get back in shape.

You might start out thinking you want to lose a few pounds, you want to fit into your clothes better and see more tone in your arms and core, but if you dive deeper, you might realize you want to be healthy for years to come. You want to stay independent and active as you age and not become a burden to your family. 

Uncovering these deeper goals can make the changes you are going to make more meaningful, and you can remind yourself of those when it gets tough to keep up with the new changes or struggle with motivation. It’s absolutely normal for motivation to go up and down just like any other emotion, keep a reminder of why this is important to you to keep you going. 

Then take a few minutes to think of some short term goals you can work towards and can celebrate keeping up with them! Maybe it will be consistently working out 3 times a week for 30 minutes each or walking every day or planning ahead for your meals.

Skip the Boring and Long Cardio Sessions: Use Interval Training!

Hopping on the treadmill, elliptical, stationary bike or going for a walk on the track are all good ways to get cardio in but do not make this mistake: many women spend too much time at a leisurely pace or a steady pace that isn’t challenging their body enough.

You can get a more effective cardio workout by varying your intensity, speed, or challenge by adding some hills or more resistance. 

Go for a shorter interval workout for 20 to 40 minutes versus long hours of cardio, your cardiovascular system as well as your muscles will get more of a challenge and more bang for your buck in a shorter time!

Start with a steady pace for a warmup, push yourself for a quicker pace, add a hill or incline, or increase the challenge for 30 seconds to 1 minute then resume a steady pace for 5 minutes or shorter as you progress. You can increase your interval challenge times and increase your pace during your interval and your steady section of the interval as you get back in shape and it feels easier! 

Remember, going too extreme as you get back into your workout is the number one way to burn out and lose momentum and motivation to continue working out. Take it steady and build up and progress over time and you will have more success, your body will feel better, and you will stick with the new habit! 

Add Strength Training to Tone Muscle and Protect Your Joints!

As we age, our body loses muscle mass in the natural process of aging. We can work against that process and build muscle through strength training. Building strength can help you to reduce aches and pains in your joints. Focus on the major muscle groups such as glutes, quads, mid back, and core.

When starting out, do 8-15 reps with 2-3 sets of each exercise working out 2-3 times a week for strength training. You should feel a good challenge by the last few reps of each set of exercises. If not, you should add some weights or increase the challenge. Check out these exercises to start:

Fuel Up on Balanced Healthy Foods!

Too often I hear from women who want to lose weight or get back in shape and immediately start restricting their foods. This method is not sustainable and can have an adverse effect on your body, your hormones, and your metabolism.

Focus on fueling your body with a good balance of a variety of veggies, lean proteins, such as fish, chicken, lentils, quinoa, chickpeas, and whole grain carbs like brown rice, quinoa, and sweet potato. If you don’t have the right nutrients in your body, you will lose energy quickly and not have the energy to continue with your healthy habits. 

Get Your Sleep!

Sleep is so important for your metabolism, your energy, and your recovery, and can be a challenge for many women over 55. Set yourself up for success with a great evening wind down routine limiting screen time.

Stop eating 2-3 hours before bed, try to go to bed and wake at the same time each day, limit caffeine intake, get your exercise in earlier in the day, and try some gentle stretches, meditation, or breathing exercises before bed.

Check out this video for my evening stretches:

With focus and the right push for your body, you can get back into shape after 55! In my virtual fitness community, Vitality Fitness and Wellness, with our live virtual workouts and our nutritional support, I help women do it every day! For more guidance, check out my Thrive after 55 Guide.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Are you in shape? How do you maintain it? What did it cost you to start exercising at 55 or older? Do you have an evening routine that helps you to wind down after a long day?

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Hi, So about 3 yrs ago (52-53yrs old) I noticed that my butt started sagging. I feel like it happened overnight. I’ve never exercised on a regular basis so it was only a matter of time before my cute little body went soft. I decided to start slow with hot yoga. I fell in love. I lost a few lbs that I’d wanted to and started feeling better; however, it did nothing for the already saggy butt. Unfortunately I had to stop the yoga for about 18 months and during this time it was my stomach that started looking all saggy with cellulite. I’m now back at yoga but want to start doing regular exercise as well. My question is… it possible for someone my age, 56, to get my body back to where it was? Will I be able to wear a bikini again or will my stomach always look saggy with cellulite? Can I firm my butt back to its former heart-shaped glory? No matter the results I will be starting a work out routine so I’m able to get around well in my upcoming senior years but can I look forward to firm booty and belly??

Last edited 4 months ago by Amy
Jody Perk

Before COVID I went to the gym regularly, attended yoga and dance classes and was in reasonably good shape. I lost momentum during the shutdown and haven’t been able to get back on track. It’s not for lack of trying. I started back to the gym but found exercising in a mask exhausting because it hard to breathe. It’s been nearly 3 years now and I fear I may never recover the muscle I’ve lost.

Patricia Ann Powell

Hi Jody, I too have been trying to get back on track and it’s difficult. When I stream YMCA exercise classes offered online I always feel better afterwards. What I miss most is being with people. You inspire me sharing how you keep trying. Thank you!

The Author

Aubrey Reinmiller is a licensed Physical Therapist Assistant, Certified Personal Trainer and Senior Fitness Specialist, and Functional Aging Specialist focused on helping those over 50 to reinvent aging! She offers online small group and private fitness solutions through Aubrey authored Reinvent Aging: The Over 50 Fitness Guide to Improve Energy, Strength and Balance.

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