14 Exercises You Should Modify If You’re Over 50 – The Outrage!

If you are reading my blog posts, the chances are you are a fitness enthusiast, rather than a fitness professional and may not have been party to the furoar over an article written in The Readers Digest this week, citing 14 Exercises You Should Avoid If You’re Over 50 (which has now been updated to 14 Exercises You Should Modify If You Are Over 50, after public outcry).


Well as you can imagine there was utter outrage at what seemed to be blatant ageism, when we are in a time where more people don’t exercise than do.  If we have such a sedentary population, why would we discourage those who want to get healthy and be strong from moving.  So I totally get the outrage and at first I was a bit pissed off, because I do all these exercises very often and I might add, quite well and I am only 2 years shy of the big 5-0!

Here’s my take on the article.  If you are over 50 and have never exercised before, then I am going to highly discourage you from making your starting point pull-ups, just as I will highly discourage you from taking up running or doing 300lb barbell deadlifts. It’s truly all about context and application.  You must understand the fundamental movements before you can start to do any form of exercise to a higher level. We all start at the beginning with the basics, because the basics work, every time.

So without much further ado, I am going to give you my 14 opinions of the 14 exercises to avoid if you’re over 50. 

For ease, I have created 3 categories that the exercises fall into:

Utter Bollocks – just keep doing the exercise, there is no merit to avoiding this.

Calm Your Titties – for some people this might not be a great starting point, but shouldn’t be completely avoided.

Chances Are This Is Right – for most people this is an exercise that isn’t going to help you.

Running Stairs

RD Reason to avoid:  for those who are unfit, the danger and consequences of falling increase with each passing year

My Rating: Utter Bollocks

Notes: 50 years old is not 101 years old. We can still climb stairs without the use of a stair-lift, and if you have the ability to run those goddamn stairs, then bloody run them.


Bikram or Hot Yoga

RD Reason to avoid:  extreme heat can cause dizziness or fainting—at any age. This is especially true if you don’t drink enough water.

My Rating:  Calm Your Titties

Notes: yeah for sure, you might get dizzy if you are dehydrated – doh! It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work that out. But as far as yoga is concerned as a choice of exercise, I say do it, but ask yourself why would you choose Bikram or Hot Yoga? Stretching in a hot environment is not ideal for your body. There is a chance you may be inclined to stretch too far and not maintain joint integrity or the correct amount of tension required to safely stretch your muscles.


High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

RD Reason to avoid: is amazing for blasting away fat and calories, but for older people who are not super fit, it may overly stress the body.

My Rating:  Calm Your Titties

Notes:  here’s the thing, HIIT training has been so badly bastardized in the fitness industry, that this statement might possibly be true.  BUT if you training HIIT so that you metabolically challenge your body, with enough rest to be able to perform all the repetitions with correct form and power, then you should do HIIT, in fact I refer to it as Metabolic Resistance Training, which I feel is more accurate.


Spin Classes

RD Reason to avoid: “Spin classes can cause too much strain on the joints; a better option would be to spin on your own at your pace, or bike outdoors on a trail,” says Dr. Bartel. (BTW Dr Bartel should retire I think!)

My Rating:  Utter Bollocks

Notes: honestly, I hate spin classes, I find them so boring and unmotivating, I would much rather get outside and ride a bike in nature. To say don’t do the classes because it will be too much strain is bullshit. Unless you have direct instructions not to ride because of an injury or medical condition, it’s a very easy way to get low-impact cardio into your day.


Push-ups  (BTW this got my blood boiling)

RD Reason to avoid: The classic move may be a great way to build all-over strength, but it puts a lot of stress on your shoulders and upper back, which may be problematic for people with past neck and shoulder injuries  ( again this is Dr Bartel, I’mma going have to ask him, “like seriously!?”)

My Rating:  Utter Bollocks

Notes: the push-up is an exercise that I have taught women into their 70’s to do. It is a very achievable exercise if coached correctly and will not cause stress on shoulders and upper back if you are doing it right.  The push-up can be broken down into so many foundation movements, that anybody at any stage of fitness can jump into one of those exercises and be successful.

Yeah that’s me at 48 doing push-ups. Better get as many in as I can if I only have 2 years left!


Squats With Weights

RD Reason to avoid: Trainers love squats, but for older people who haven’t worked out consistently, they can put too much pressure on knees if done with weights.

My Rating:  Utter Bollocks

Notes:  let’s start with the fact that the squat is a basic human movement, not an exercise, that we use to give birth and take a dump, they should not be avoided. In fact we should do more of them after spending all day in a bloody chair sat down. As for the weighted part, let me just say, huh????


Bench Press (Chest Press with Barbell)

RD Reason to avoid:  “Bench pressing creates a lot of tension and stress on your neck and shoulders,”

My Rating:  Utter Bollocks

Notes: if you have neck and shoulder issues you should be seeing a physio and then most physios will tell you to exercise. Avoiding this exercise serves no purpose.  There are some coaches that just don’t like the bench press and don’t coach it, but to avoid it because of the potential creation of stress and tension makes no sense.



RD Reason to avoid:  The burpee is an amazing full-body move, but it can cause excessive strain if you’re not already in great shape.

My Rating:  Chances Are This Is Right

Notes:  most people do burpees with the shittiest form that compresses the lower back and honestly serves no purpose than to get them out of breath. I am on board with this suggestion as there are so many other better quality exercises you can do.



RD Reason to avoid:  … put a lot of pressure on shoulders, a complex network of muscles, joints, and ligaments that have often suffered strains and injuries by mid-life.

My Rating:  Utter Bollocks

Notes:  I just posted this video of a 63 year old woman doing pull-ups then applying for American Ninja Warrior. #justsaying




RD Reason to avoid:  …  the problem with this commonplace ab move is the curving of the spine and lower back, which can be hard on older bones if they’re not already reinforced with regular exercise.

My Rating:  Chances Are This Is Right

Notes:  Completely agree. They are terrible for your lower back and you will get much better strength through your core if you learn to use it when doing every exercise you perform.



Deadlift (This might have been the straw that broke the camels back in the fitness world)

RD Reason to avoid:  … Dead lifts can put a lot of strain on the hips and torso,

My Rating:  Utter Bollocks

Notes:  Again the deadlift is simply a hip hinge, a basic human body movement that we all do everyday. By learning the correct movement pattern under tension, with core activation and with load (eventually) you are going to strengthen your core, hamstrings and glutes, which you bloody need to do if you are over 50 FFS!


Jumping Lunges

RD Reason to avoid:  Plyometric leg exercises include things like jump squats and jumping lunges. “These can cause joint strains as well as wear and tear.”

My Rating:  Calm Your Titties

Notes:  There are benefits as we age to keeping power based exercises in our program, as that diminishes over time. If you are in pain or have been advised not to do plyometrics, then guess what, don’t do them! It’s quite simple.



RD Reason to avoid:  Running until you feel like your heart may pop out of your chest is not a great idea at this age if you’re not super fit. It can also cause strains or sprains in knees and other joints

My Rating:  Calm Your Titties

Notes:  Running/Jogging uses different bio-mechanics to sprinting and should be considered different exercises.  This article mixes them up, which bugs me, but if we are looking at sprinting, then that uses a different energy system from running, and it provides greater cardiovascular improvement. So I say do sprinting for all those reasons, unless you are not fit enough, have injury or have been advised by your medical practitioner to avoid them.


Leg Press

RD Reason to avoid:  Leg presses are done using a machine that involves leaning back on a flat bench while pushing against a weight with the feet. This action flattens the natural arch of the spine and could cause damage to lumbar spinal discs

My Rating:  Chances Are This Is Right

Notes:  There are usually two camps in the fitness world when it comes to leg presses. The bodybuilding crowd love to use them, the functional movement crowd aren’t big fans. Quite frankly I never use the leg press machine or coach my clients to use mainly because it is such a stable machine that takes away all of the benefits you get from stabilizing your body when doing squats.


Let’s summarize all of this.  My opinion about this article is that it was damaging.   We live in a world where more people are sedentary than those who exercise. The numbers vary widely, but it’s pretty much accepted that only 20% of people take part in physical activity. By publishing an article which doesn’t really have any evidence backing it, just a doctor who seems to be exercise-phobic, it does little more than scare-mongering.  I am sure the purpose of the piece was to show people that there are some exercises that will suit them more than others, but to come out and tell people to AVOID AT ALL COSTS is just ridiculous.

There are papers upon papers that tote the benefits of exercise as we age, especially strength training. I see it as my role to continue to shout that message to the masses.  All exercises can be broken down in to basic movement patterns and that is where you should focus your energy if you are a beginner. Any personal trainer worth their salt, understand the importance of core stabilization,  of joint stability and mobility. They understand that we mimic our everyday lives during exercise under load or tension to make these everyday movements easier and pain-free.

If you are still around at the end of this article, thank you for indulging me to use the phrases, utter bollocks and calm your titties. These are life goals of mine and I can now rest happy.


Much love





7 Comments on “14 Exercises You Should Modify If You’re Over 50 – The Outrage!”

  1. I agree with you completely! There are so many ways to adapt and exercise and progress, why avoid it completely? Especially functional movements. People do them every day. Better to do them properly and have the stability to do them. I’m glad I did not read the article and I don’t want to. It’s raising my BP now! 🙂

  2. You’re totally ignorant of the aging process. At 48, you haven’t begun experiencing the loss of bone density or deterioration of connective tissue associated with menopause. I’m a 65-year-old fitness instructor. Fitness professionals should choose safe exercises for their clients. If you’re targeting a specific muscle group, what’s the safest way to do it? Why do risky moves? It makes absolutely no sense at all!

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