These Are the Most Dangerous Exercises You Can Do If You’re Over 50

They say age is just a number. But when it comes to exercise, age can say a lot about what you can and can’t do. Sure, someone may be in peak physical condition well into their 50s, but certain workouts carry a greater chance of injury and other health issues. These are the most dangerous exercises you can do if you are over 50, including one common workout that can lead to deadly complications (page 10).

1. Long-distance running

Woman runner running on city road.

Your joints and muscles might get tired easily as you age. | lzf/iStock/Getty Images

Cardiovascular exercise should be incorporated into everyone’s regime. However, running long distances shouldn’t be your cardio of choice if you’re over 50. Since your aerobic capacity declines as you age, you likely won’t be able to maintain the rigorous pace you once could. You don’t have to stop running altogether; just tailor your run so it’s more manageable.

Try instead: Running at a moderate level, with intervals of brisk walking in between.

Next: You need to adjust this exercise as you get older.

2. Squats with weights

Man using a kettlebell weight at the gym.

Your knees might not be able to handle heavy weights. |

To be clear, doing low-impact squats is great exercise. But you should err on the side of caution and skip the free weights. The added weight will put unnecessary pressure on your knees, setting you up for leg injuries.

Try instead: Ditch the weights and focus on proper form and more reps instead.

Next: Time to retire that retro aerobics gear.

3. High-intensity aerobics

An aerobic class full of men and women getting a workout.

This form of fitness might not have the appeal it used to. |

Just like long-distance running, intense aerobics should be approached with caution. Your aerobic capacity has decreased and your muscles are shrinking, making you more prone to injury in a high-octane class. Plus, your body will tire more easily, which makes you more likely to misstep and hurt yourself.

Try instead: Join a class with a more low-impact to moderate pace.

Next: Your shoulders will thank you for steering clear of this exercise.

4. Overhead press

A woman working out in a gym with a weight bar.

You can modify all your favorite workouts to prevent long-term injuries. | Gpointstudio/iStock/Getty Images

This exercise may seem harmless, but it carries serious concerns. Since your muscles shrink as you get older, the bulk of lifting during the overhead press gets put on your shoulders. Plus, the decrease in back mobility as you age puts you at higher risk for back injury.

Try instead: Go for a shoulder exercise with less chance of injury, like shoulder raises.

Next: Stairway to … pain and a loss of balance.

5. Running stairs

A woman running up mountain stairs.

What used to be a fun workout might become a painful disaster. | lzf/iStock/Getty Images

Channeling Rocky Balboa may seem like a premium exercise method. But running up and down stairs becomes a hazard in your 50s and beyond. Your ability to balance begins to decline, so you’re more likely to lose your footing and take a tumble. Plus, stairs are tough on the knees.

Try instead: Use the stationary stair-climber at the gym for a lower impact climb with similar results.

Next: This popular machine is a no-no in your 50s.

6. Bench press

Weightlifter at a gym in fitness gear.

Your joints might not be able to handle bench presses like they used to. | Ibrakovic/iStock/Getty Images

It doesn’t take much for this exercise to cause serious upper-body issues. Like deadlifts, improper form can make the bench press a dangerous exercise for your shoulders, wrists, and pectoral muscles. As you get older and your joints aren’t able to handle as much weight, your shoulders are at greater risk of injury from the bench press.

Try instead: Consider a free-weight chest exercise.

Next: The wrong — and right — way to get your “om” on.

7. Bikram yoga

A Bikram yoga class in session.

A tough workout that gets harder throughout the years. | Matt Cardy/Getty Images

To be clear, yoga is great for maintaining flexibility. However, this steamy, sweaty variety is a bad choice. Since you get dehydrated more easily as you get older, the extreme heat in a hot yoga studio may make you sweat to the point of fainting.

Try instead: Opt for a lower-impact yoga class to help maintain your flexibility.

Next: Save your spine the trouble of this common move.

8. Crunches

A group of people do crunches on mats.

You may think you know how to do the perfect crunch, but you might be wrong. | JackF/iStock/Getty Images

Crunches are already one of the toughest exercises; it’s so easy to do them wrong! To make matters worse, they become a health hazard as you age and lose mobility in your spine. The curling motion of a crunch will put stress on your neck and back and can cause some serious issues like pinched nerves and muscle pain.

Try instead: Switch up your ab routine and try planks instead. It will save the strain on your spine.

Next: High intensity puts you at high risk.

9. High-intensity interval training

A woman doing an ab workout on a mat.

You can stay in shape with the right modifications. |

Yes, HIIT is all the rage. But it isn’t for everyone, especially once you’re over the hill. The body’s ability to dehydrate rises as we get older, making super sweaty HIIT workouts a health hazard. Headaches, a decrease in blood pressure, and even delirium are just a few side effects associated with dehydration.

Try instead: Opt for a more low-impact circuit training regimen.

Next: Who knew this common, popular workout could be deadly?

10. Spinning

Man in a spinning class

Fitness buffs were shocked to learn about this spinning syndrome. |

Pedaling away on a stationary bike seems like a great calorie burn, especially as your metabolism slows. But doctors found many cases of patients — all devoted to spin classes — diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis, a potentially fatal syndrome typically found in victims of car crashes or crushing injuries. Directly related to spinning, rhabdomyolysis can injure your muscles and leaks their contents into the bloodstream.

The rare condition overworks your kidneys and can be deadly. Doctors note another complication involves heavy amounts of myoglobin in the blood, leading to renal failure and cardiac arrest.

Try instead: Pedaling at a more moderate pace on a stationary bicycle, rather than joining an intense spin class that pushes you past your limits.

Next: Boy, you’re (not) gonna carry that weight.

11. Deadlifts

A person picking up weight equipment.

Never attempt new strenuous activities without a trainer present. | Pattonmania/iStock/Getty Images

This exercise can cause serious back pain, even if you’ve done the exercise for years! Men’s Health explains using subpar form is common enough that it’s only a matter of when you will tweak your back doing deadlifts. Since your spine narrows and deteriorates over time, its ability to withstand poor deadlift form decreases.

Try instead: this low-back friendly alternative

Next: Want to get a leg up on your health? Then avoid this leg exercise!

12. Leg press

Athletic girl doing the leg press at the gym.

You might need to leave this workout in the past. | Creative-Family/iStock/Getty Images

Knee pain? Hip problems? This tough exercise can make these ailments even worse. The leg press machine is already bad for you since it doesn’t allow your body to perform the exercise in a suitable way for your joints. Add to it that joint pain is more prevalent as you age, and this exercise is a recipe for disaster.

Try instead: low impact lunges with dumbbells

Next: One of the most dangerous exercises out there — no matter how old you are.

13. Lateral pull-downs

A man doing a shoulder and chest workout at a gym

Pulling the bar behind your head is a serious don’t. |

The pull-down machine is one of the most commonly misused because people pull the bar down behind their heads. It creates an even bigger threat to the 50-plus club. The pressure that this machine puts on your neck and shoulders becomes even greater as you get older, putting you at risk for rotator cuff tears and pinched nerves.

Try instead: lateral pull-downs using free weights, with your arms angled in front of you

Next: It’s time to find an alternative to this intense exercise.

14. Mountain climbers

A woman does mountain climbers on a white floor.

This common warm-up exercise can be tough on your neck. |

Mountain climbers are an all-encompassing abdominal exercise that achieves both cardio and resistance training in one fell swoop. That being said, you should consider an alternative to this exercise if you are over 50. Your decrease in muscle can make it easier to mess up the form of this floor exercise, putting unnecessary strain on your shoulders and wrists. Plus, this isn’t a good exercise for anyone with knee pain.

Try instead: a variety of plank exercises

Next: This core exercise should come with a warning label.

15. Trunk twists

Young man doing planks on a blue mat.

You can continue doing steady planks at any age. | Gpointstudio/iStock/Getty Images

Having a flat stomach into your golden years should not come at the price of your back. Which is why this exercise is a no-go. The loss of back mobility makes the twisting motion in this exercise super dangerous, leaving you open to major back pain that can leave you unable to exercise at all.

Try instead: planks and standing ab exercises

Next: This popular form of fitness becomes more costly as you get older.

16. Boxing

Young boxer wearing red gloves working on punching bag.

A sparring match might be too strenuous for sensitive bones and joints. | Master1305/iStock/Getty Images

This one is a bit controversial, given that boxing is all-around great exercise. And it has been debated for decades now whether age plays a part in boxing ability — whether you are a pro or the average joe. Long story short: If you are over 50, you should consider how high-impact your boxing session is going to be.

Try instead: Stick to the speed bag so you can stay more stationary and mind your balance.