senior man lifting weights

The Biggest Exercise Mistakes You Can Make After Age 50

View Slideshow
woman on Peloton bike at home
Ezra Shaw/Staff/Getty Images News/Getty Images North America

Fitness Fails

You might think you're doing everything right to stay fit, but some "healthy" habits can be counterproductive. As you age, your body becomes more rigid and less flexible, and if you exercise incorrectly, you can suffer more serious injuries than sore muscles. "As time goes by, muscles and joints become less responsive and adaptable compared to the peak young adult years," said physical therapist Rob Cowell. "Sports and exercises that involve sudden changes in direction and quick, powerful movements can easily lead to strains or more serious injuries, especially for the untrained." Here are some exercises to approach with caution, including those intense Peloton sweat sessions.

Related: The Best Exercises for Staying in Shape Past 50

Stationary Bike

Spin Classes

Two prominent TV characters have recently had heart attacks after riding their Pelotons — R.I.P., Mr. Big — which has thrust spinning into a harsh spotlight. Experts say cardio can actually lower your risk of heart disease, but they do caution that anyone who has been sedentary for a long time or has risk factors such as high blood pressure should consult a doctor before starting a strenuous exercise program. Moreover, spin classes (with the exception of aqua cycling) can even result in the potentially fatal condition rhabdomyolysis. "Spin classes can cause too much strain on the joints," cautions spinal-care expert Bradley W. Bartel Jr. A better fitness option could be a recumbent bike.

Related: 18 Fitness Challenges to Keep Pace (and Your Distance) During the Pandemic

woman doing pushups in a gym

Traditional Push-Ups

Trainer Kyle Overstreet of KyleOTrains, who works with a number of senior clients, warned that push-ups put stress on your shoulders. "Push-ups can cause problems in the rotator cuff and the neck," he said. A better option is a wall push-up.

Related: 24 Fitness Myths to Debunk for Your Next Workout

Squats With a Bar

Squats With a Bar

While squats are a great workout, they can put too much pressure on the knees if not done correctly. "There's no reason an older person who is not in peak physical condition, or who is just beginning to get into a physical exercise routine, needs to use a heavy bar while engaging in a squat," Overstreet said. A simple squat without weights is still a great exercise and much safer.

Related: 17 Fitness Programs Adults Over 50 Can Do at Home

For more smart fitness tips,
please sign up for our free newsletters.

senior man jumping outside while exercising


This jumping move is exactly the type of exercise you may want to avoid as you get older. "You need the appropriate range of motion in the spine and in the hips and in the ankles to perform this exercise correctly," said physical therapist Brett Russell, a certified athletic trainer, licensed massage therapist and neuromuscular therapist, and owner of Fyzical Therapy and Balance Centers. Still, he was quick to point out that, "with proper training and technique, all these exercises may be modified to be performed safely."

Related: Overpriced Workout Gear: 16 Items That Are a Waste of Money

Bench Press


"If you haven't ever done a pull-up, and you're out of shape and older, this could be a dangerous exercise to try," trainer Kyle Overstreet said. "The rotator cuff could be injured by this movement." Physical therapist Brett Russell concurred. "There are better ways to attempt a pull-up, such as an assisted pull-up machine," he said. "This is an exercise that you need to build up to."

Related: 12 Ways to Workout at Home and Stay Motivated

Biggest Exercise Mistakes You Can Move Over 50

Jumping Lunges

Overstreet said many people try to do too much, too soon. Jumping lunges are another exercise that's hard on the knees and the joints. "You have to respect the fact that you are getting older, and high-impact jumping lunges may not be the way to go," he said.

Related: 15 Wacky Workouts to Try This Summer



A lot of people attempt rapid crunches with someone holding onto their feet. But physical therapist Brett Russell advised against that. "One reason is that you're actually pulling yourself up with your hip flexors and that can cause low-back issues." He suggested doing crunches on an exercise ball to avoid pulling muscles in your lower back.

Related: Sick of Doing Crunches? 15 At-Home Exercises to Target Your Abs

Leg Press

Leg Presses

Leg presses can be tough for older folks. "Cartilage thins out as we age, and the discs shrink in size in the spine," Russell said. This thinning can bring the bones and the vertebrae closer together, pushing the nerves out on each side, resulting in back pain and worse. "The nerves can be impinged upon, because the discs have shrunk and the vertebrae compress the nerves. There are so many safer ways to strengthen your glutes, your quads, and your hamstrings to obtain the same result."

Related: How Functional Fitness Can Keep You Active and Pain-Free at Any Age



Older lifters must have the appropriate strength and range of motion to perform these correctly. Physical therapist Rob Cowell suggested alternatives. "To stay healthy and lower your risk of injury as an older adult, focus on continuous aerobic exercise like walking, biking, or swimming. Add bodyweight exercises on a mat or classes such as yoga and pilates to help improve your core strength and mobility."

hot yoga studio with sun shining

Hot Yoga

Extreme heat can cause dizziness and be troublesome for older people with heart conditions. Hot yoga isn't recommended for people with arthritis, heart disease, high or low blood pressure, and other ailments common among older people. A study of nearly 30,000 yoga-related injuries seen in U.S. emergency rooms from 2001 to 2014 researchers found that participants 65 and older had a greater rate of injury than other age groups, and advised older people to consult with a doctor before unrolling a mat. These expensive and overhyped classes aren't worth it.

Related: Most Common Health Issues for People Over 60



While it may be a big fitness trend, High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is hard at any age, according to trainer Kyle Overstreet. "HIIT training should be modified, slowed down, and taken at a pace that is right for the condition of the client's body," he said.