Shaping up after 50 when you´ve never exercised

Shaping up in midlife is easy to say, but really hard to do, especially for someone like me who never really exercised at a young age.

For most of my life I’ve been a pretty active guy. I enjoyed playing soccer with friends, and as a photojournalist, I was never anchored to a desk job.

All through my twenties and thirties, I carried twenty or thirty pounds of photo gear over my shoulder. The last thing on my mind was exercising at the gym.

Shaping up in midlife when you've never exercised

I was never a runner or weights kind of guy. So when I came into my mid-forties and began to gain a little weight, I had to find a solution.

I tried running, but hated it with a passion. It’s just not my thing.

Then about three years ago I joined a racquet club with my family and began playing racquetball with the kids.

It was never a real work out, just directing energy into hitting a ball.

Also Read: Best Exercise & Fitness Routines in Your Fifties

I’m 6’2’’ and until recently, I’ve never weighed more than 200 lb. Last year I clocked in at 215 and my doctor told me it was the most I’d weighed since I’d been his patient. I wasn’t really overweight, but I didn’t feel great either.

I had to do something.

I needed a lifestyle change

Running was not my answer. What I needed was a lifestyle change. If I did an exercise routine I hated, I knew I would quit, because I’m the kind of guy who lacks that kind of discipline for physical workouts.

I needed something that would fit comfortably into my lifestyle.

Walking helped me get my foot in the gym. But more important, it got me into the gym on a steady basis.

Now, I fast-walk two miles four or five times a week. That means I walk on a treadmill for half an hour on my gym days.

Recent findings by the National Walkers’ Health Study suggest that people who do high intensity walking for half an hour (averaging about a mile in 15 minutes) will experience better health and longevity than leisurely walkers.

Shaping up in midlife when you've never exercised

My sister-in-law gave me a decent pair of earbuds for my iPod so I jam while I walk.

And knowing that I’m only walking for half an hour gives me the encouragement that I will be done soon.

I keep my pace to about 4 miles an hour. It goes by pretty fast.

Also Read: The Mental & Emotional Benefits of Dancing

I also use weights about three times a week. I don’t go bonkers with it. I’m not trying to buff up like Arnold Schwarzenegger or anything.

I just do one set of reps for my upper body and abs and back. I feel this helps me stay toned without having to be in the gym forever.

In a few weeks I managed to lose ten pounds

And while my goal is to get under 200 lb. I think it’s more important to keep up the routine and make it part of my lifestyle, than to be hardcore for two weeks, lose the weight, and then stop exercising altogether.

Shaping up after 50 when you've never exercised

This process has taught me a couple of things. It’s not about excess exercise or being a fitness fanatic. It’s about finding a good comfortable rhythm that will help keep me healthy and toned.

In the end I get my cardio workout, maintain good muscle tone and feel better. All this is important, but more important is that it fits into my life-routine.

I don’t feel I’m going out of my way to exercise. I don’t hate it. And I don’t feel uncomfortable or displaced.

In the end that’s what it’s about. As I turn fifty in a couple of months, I feel I’m reasonably fit and that if I keep this up, I will remain fit for years to come.

Phillippe Diederich

Phillippe Diederich is a bilingual author and photographer born in the Dominican Republic and raised in Mexico City and Miami. His photography has appeared in The New York Times, Time magazine, U.S. News and World Report and other national publications. Phillippe's novels Sofrito and Playing for the Devil's Fire are both published by Cinco Puntos Press. He is the recipient of a PEN/Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship and the Editor-in-Chief of Viva Fifty!


  • Reply June 18, 2014


    I am 5´10´´ and I weigh exactly what I weighed at 20: 145 pounds. I am over, over, over 60 and I have been exercising since I was 6 or 7, mimicking my father. And my motto is: the older, the more exercise.

    • Viva Fifty!
      Reply June 18, 2014

      Viva Fifty

      You´ve always enjoyed exercise. Not everyone does unfortunately. You are a great role model.

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