Fitness trends for the over 50s

Posted on August 19, 2015 by Eleanor McKenzie
An older couple going on a run on a sunny day

I’m sure you all know by now that I have a somewhat challenging relationship with gyms and exercise routines. Nevertheless, I do keep a weather eye on fitness fashions, so that if I should decide to invest in a gym membership, I can be sure that I’m not joining a class that is “so last year, darling.”

Fitness now has its own fashion trends that fluctuate according to recommendations from an authoritative body, or the latest celebrity endorsement. I don’t mean commercial endorsement; simply that the celebrity successfully uses a particular fitness regime, such as the Beckhams’ indoor cycling at LA SoulCycle. These change regularly: for example, everyone was at Zumba classes in 2013 and I haven’t seen the word mentioned at all in 2015. Now I know why!

So, what are the fitness fashions for the in 2015? The Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2015 has the answers. You may be surprised at some of its findings: Pilates is out, along with Zumba and indoor cycling, and there is a return to yoga and techniques that improve your functional fitness, such as body weight training, which is highly recommended by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).

Body weight training

This is essentially resistance training that uses your own body weight, making it an economical form of exercise, as well as an effective one. You don’t need to learn how to use any complicated gym equipment, you just need to learn how to do squats, push-ups and planks. For the over 50s, its techniques build important muscle groups, help with mobility and boost strength. Best of all, once you’ve learnt the techniques, you can make space to do them at home. If you don’t want to hire a personal trainer to teach you, then there are books, DVDs, or a free Android app.


Not only is yoga an ancient practice, it has also been practised in the West for around 50 years. Yoga always seems to be reinventing itself and now, due to the diversity of yoga practises available, it is going through a resurgence in popularity. There is no doubt that the asanas, or yoga postures, plus the related breathing techniques are excellent for the ageing body, as they lower blood pressure and help keep you flexible.


Ballet dancer on stage

Ballet classes

If you missed out as a child, now is your chance to don ballet shoes (although perhaps not the tutu!). This is the new alternative to Pilates, which is interesting, considering that Pilates started out as the professional ballet dancer’s preferred form of exercise. Like Pilates, ballet is excellent for strengthening the core muscles that form a tube like structure around the trunk of the body and do so much to keep us upright and hold our internal organs in the right place. Plus for people in the 50s and over, ballet is low impact combined with high intensity and is suitable for women and men. So, come on all you ageing Billy Elliotts and Alicia Markovas – if you can’t find a class, Nicky McGinty’s DVD may help.

Functional fitness

This is an approach that trains your muscles to perform everyday activities more efficiently making it extremely useful for anyone who regularly lifts heavy weights as part of their work. Like ballet, it also works on stabilising the core muscles and teaches them to work together rather than focusing on single muscle group exercises. You may need a trainer to show you the ropes with this form of fitness regime, and typically you’ll learn to use kettle bells, free weights and medicine balls. These exercises will also improve your balance and co-ordination, as well as strength and endurance.

Treadmill training

This trend is new in direct from New York. It’s ideal if you fancy taking up running but can’t quite face pounding the streets in the British weather. Plus, using a treadmill provides an opportunity to mix it up a bit in a training session. You can do a bit of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) by changing the speed of the treadmill and the angle of incline for example. It’s the trend that is most similar to spinning classes. The physical benefits include improved cardiovascular health, but it has also been shown to have a significantly positive effect on depressive disorders. Ask at your local gym about treadmill classes: at my local gym they are called Indoor Walking, which does sound quite appealing, even to me.

There you have it: if you want to be in fitness fashion, choose one of the above now, before it becomes “so 2015 darling!”

by Eleanor McKenzie

Eleanor McKenzie is a Northern Irish writer with a passion for art, literature, and red wine. She's worked at advertising agency JWT, edited a journal for a European social policy think tank and tried to teach teenagers the difference between "there" and "their". Being 50+ has not significantly changed Eleanor's life, although she finds it a handy excuse when she wants to avoid anything too energetic.