Fit at Fifty and enjoying summer swimming in Canada

Getting Healthy & Fit at Fifty


How I changed my my health & my outlook at midlife

There may be affiliate links within this post which provide me with a small commission, at no cost to you. More information at: Privacy & Disclosure.

I’ve had to make many changes in how I care for myself at midlife, and it’s been challenging. But in the process of getting healthy (and fit at fifty), I’ve learned that our midlife bodies just need a little extra love and respect.

Why Was My Midlife Body Betraying Me?

Some unwelcome changes began in my mid 40’s: I gained weight around my waist even though I wasn’t eating any differently. I used to be able to have several glasses of wine at a dinner party and then sleep like a baby (sleep like a baby – my favourite ironic expression), but that also changed. Now, if I had more than one drink I wouldn’t sleep well.

And worse, I developed a problem with my hip that got so bad I could barely walk. After months of searching for an answer, I learned I had hip dysplasia which had led to arthritis – I needed a total hip replacement. (I write more about that in: My Midlife Health Mystery.)

Note: I am a journalist and writer, not a health professional. I am sharing my personal story, supported by facts from medical professionals. If you are a menopausal women who has broader health concerns I suggest you read The Menopause Manifesto by Dr. Jen Gunter. She is an excellent resource and addresses health, exercise and weight management quite extensively with facts and practical advice.  

physical therapy after hip replacement
Physical therapy after my hip replacement

A Hip Replacement at 49

I was 49 and felt like my body had betrayed me. I was frustrated, confused and scared.  I had always been healthy – what was happening?

I had the hip surgery and did the required physical therapy so my hip healed well, and I was thrilled to finally be pain-free. But I had low energy, was out of shape and my balance was off, which was normal, apparently. 

When I was given the green light to begin more exercise I had to approach fitness in a new way. My hip surgeon made it clear that running was out for me. I was never a serious runner, but I enjoyed it – it relieved stress and put me in a positive mindset. Since my artificial hip, and the hip dysplasia on my other side, would not tolerate running or any sort of high-impact exercise, I had no idea where to start.

Susan on a stand-up paddle board in her life after a hip replacement

From Hip Replacement to Fit at Fifty

How I Got My Groove Back

I began working with a trainer at my local gym. Alecia was amazing. She helped me to understand the types of exercise that midlife women most benefit from.

My new priorities were to increase my strength by building muscle (we lose muscle as we age) and to improve my flexibility. When it came to cardiovascular exercise, Alecia advised that I needed 25-30 minutes of vigorous cardio, three times a week. The guideline for midlife women, according to Dr. Jen Gunter, author of the The Menopause Manifesto is a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous activity a week. 

A personal trainer demonstrates a single leg deadlift, which builds strength and balance
Alecia explained that strength training is essential for midlife women who want to get fit

Strength Training and Functional Movement for Midlife Women

I learned about the importance of functional movement: the things we need to do every day as we go through our lives, like getting in and out of chairs and squatting to pick something up. Alecia showed me how to exercise to support the way I moved: I loved this practical approach to exercise and joked with her that since I love to travel, one of my goals was to have enough upper-body strength to lift my carry-on bag into the overhead compartment  – for the next 40 years!

After six months of the new fitness plan, with less overall cardio, I was in better shape than I had ever been. I worked hard: My exercise routine took about 1.5 hours and I did it four times a week. But that is not necessary to vastly improve how your fitness and energy level. What began as a negative – hip surgery and not being able to run – has made me stronger and healthier than ever. 

Join my newsletter for more  Midlife Inspiration

Susan on a hike in the Grand Teton mountains of Wyoming
Hiking supports my mental health, and helped me get fit and stay that way

To maintain my fitness I now exercise just over an hour, 3-4 times a week. Since I no longer go to a gym, due to Covid, I spend about 30-40 minutes doing strength training, using my own body weight and resistance bands, and another 20-30 minutes riding a spinning bike at home. I did not have the budget for a fancy bike such as a Peloton so I purchased this Joroto Cycling Bike instead. I’ve been using it for almost two years and am very happy with it. I highly recommend it; it’s around US$400. 

With the right exercise routine now a regular part of my life, I have the energy (and the new hip) which allows me to do the things I love such as hiking and skiing.

Susan Heinrich sits in her kitchen holding a handful of leafy greens


Changing the Way I Viewed Food

I love delicious food. Thin-crust pizza is my favourite thing, perhaps tied only with homemade chocolate chip cookies. I also adore delicious cheese and crusty bread. And breakfast burritos are not only for breakfast, just saying. 

Maintaining my weight has always required regular exercise because yep, I love to eat. My weight had fluctuated over the years with two pregnancies, and available time and energy for the gym. 

A loaf of homemade sourdough bread looks inviting, on a wood cutting board
For me, healthy eating at fifty means my husband's homemade bread is an occasional treat

As I reached midlife I found I could no longer exercise the pounds away when I over-indulged. There’s an expression: you can’t outrun a bad diet and that became true for me. My diet wasn’t terrible, but there was room for improvement. And I wanted to be able to fit in to my clothes. Even more important is the research regarding women and brain health. 

After my hip replacement, my interest in nutrition grew. The more I learned, the more I saw food in a new way: nutrient dense foods were a source of energy, would regulate my mood, and were one of the most significant things I could do to ensure my long-term health and specifically brain health. We are much more vulnerable to developing Alzheimer’s disease than men. My favourite overview of healthy eating for brain health is this article by Lisa Mosconi, a neuroscientist and women’s health expert: What Women Should Eat to Maintain a Healthy Brain.

I also got a subscription to the Nutrition Action “healthletter”. It is published ten times a year by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) a non-profit dedicated to providing science-based advice on nutrition and food safety.  It is a great source of reliable information and helps keep me motivated to eat well.  Harvard University also has a series of free e-publications with useful nutrition info., 

Reading the Nutrition-Action health Newsletter by the Center For Science in the Public Interest

Figuring out how to change the way I ate, that I could stick with for the long haul, required some trial and error. I believe that each of us needs to find the right way to eat that is sustainable long-term, enjoyable and makes is feel great. For me, it meant cutting out most processed carbs (things made with white flour), and adding in more nutrient dense foods, vegetables and healthy fats.

It is so unfortunate that those of us who grew up in the 80’s and 90’s were taught that fat was bad. Healthy fats are essential to good health and eating them makes me feel full and satisfied. I focus on incorporating healthy fats in my diet every day: olive oil, avocados, nuts and pumpkin seeds. I have a nut and seed bowl for breakfast every week day (affectionately named the squirrel bowl). Then I eat fun things like huevos rancheros and croissants on weekends.

I had to limit processed carbs and add in more veggies and healthy fats

I now believe that good nutrition can change your life. One of my favourite nutrition experts is Dr. Mark Hyman, a medical doctor and best-selling author who likes to say: “Food isn’t like medicine, it is medicine, and it’s our number one tool for creating the vibrant health we deserve.” 

His website is a fantastic resource, and he hosts a health podcast called : The Doctor’s Farmacy. He has also written many books; I am about to read his latest: Food Fix: How to Save Our Health, Our Economy, Our Communities, and Our Planet – One Bite at a Time.

A breakfast bowl of nuts and seeds has fibre, nutrients and healthy fats
I eat a nut and seed bowl with plain yogurt (no added sugar) every weekday

Changing my eating meant I finally lost the pounds that had crept on in my late 40s, and some additional weight as well.  Most importantly, I feel better – I have more energy than I’ve had in years.

Sure, I would love to park myself in front of a giant bowl of pasta vongole. But pasta is now an occasional treat. Unless I am in Italy. In Italy I eat whatever I want – Molto Bene! That’s reason enough to plan a trip to Italy. 

Alcohol, Not an Ideal Midlife Companion

I really enjoy wine and adore fancy cocktails; whiskey sours are my favourite. And champagne –  what isn’t better with a glass of bubbly?

But the truth is that many midlife women would benefit from cutting back on alcohol.  It hardly seems fair, but let’s talk about the reasons why. Alcohol is harder to metabolize as we get older, our livers just aren’t as efficient. 

It also disrupts sleep because it’s a short-term sedative, when it wears off, you wake up. And if you are trying to lose weight, alcohol will sabotage your efforts. Alcohol spikes your blood sugar, in the same way a chocolate cupcake does. Even worse, there is a connection between excessive drinking and breast cancer, according to Dr. Hyman. Why? “An increased alcohol load means your liver can’t metabolize estrogen well. Increased estrogen in the body can lead to breast cancer.”


Women toast a friend's 50th birthday on a boat cruise in South Carolina
A group of women toast a friend on a weekend away with the girls

He says: “Drinking wine is like a U-shaped curve. A little bit is OK; a little more is bad news. For women, alcohol can be especially damaging.” 

I have learned enough about the risks of alcohol that as much as I enjoy it, I have cut back. I will add that it can wreak havoc on your skin. Excess sugar leads to a loss of collagen and skin elasticity. I have very wrinkle-prone skin, so need all the help I can get. 

So I’ve created new rules for myself. I try and limit alcohol to the weekend and keep it to a maximum of two drinks at any time. Sure, sometimes I want a third, but I remind myself I won’t sleep well, so try not to exceed two. Except on vacation. Except on girls trips. Except in Italy. (Apparently all rules are made to be broken in Italy.) I try to relax about everything on vacation. That seems to work for me, I know some people need to maintain consistent habits. 

Sleep for Midlife Women

I know sleep is a fraught topic and we are all well aware it’s important. Most of us would sleep more if we could. I am as guilty as anyone of finding ten things to worry about at 3 AM, sometimes they are even legitimate concerns. Other times, I lay awake fretting about the fact that I haven’t been cleaning my dogs teeth with that weird tool the vet told me to order. (Update  – we had to get our dog’s teeth professionally cleaned). 

Sleep is so important to our health that it’s worth our efforts to improve it. And if you are trying to get healthy and fit at fifty, or any other age, being sleep deprived makes it harder to maintain a healthy weight and can lead to sugar and starch cravings. 

Sleep apps such as HeadSpace have some free content specifically designed to help you return to sleep. I have used it and like it. Calm is another good option. I have also been experimenting with CBD oil which seems to help me either stay asleep or fall back to sleep sooner. 

Jumping with my family on the beach, feeling healthy after hip replacement
Sleep is a challenge for many midlife women. This is how I feel after a good night's sleep

Even simpler, and a way to avoid your phone at night, is counting backward from 1000 (or 10,000, if you are a math person ;). It may sound overly simple, but counting often works for me; it is enough of a distraction from my thoughts and worries, to fall back to sleep. Another nice option is to think of things you are grateful for, until you fall asleep. The point is to keep your mind from fixating on worries or to do lists which will make you more awake. I also ask our smart speaker to play the sound of rain or ocean waves which helps.  

Sleep is a vast and complex issue. The leading expert I have found on sleep, is Matthew Walker who runs the Center for Human Sleep Science at UC Berkeley in San Francisco. His book, Why We Sleep provides a deep dive on this topic and emphasizes how crucial sleep is to optimizing our health. It is a Sunday Times bestseller in the UK, and a New York Times bestseller in the U.S. He also has excellent and informative YouTube videos, for example: How to Improve Your Sleep.

fit at fifty and back in my skinny jeans at the Neon Boneyard museum, in Las Vegas

Healthy and Fit at Fifty: Is all this really worth it?

I look back over this list and think: so many rules, so many restrictions. Who are you? You used to be fun.

Then I think about how I feel now: energized, healthy, happier. And I remind myself that I enjoy the wine and the thin-crust pizza because they are special treats, not coping mechanisms. The splurges bring me joy, rather than leave me feeling guilty and craving more. 

I believe midlife presents an opportunity to make some changes. As women, we all give so much to everyone else. We deserve to feel as good as we can; it is a gift we can give to ourselves. 

I still have bad days, when I make chocolate chip cookies to soothe difficult emotions. And I might have even had a whiskey sour on a Tuesday, just last week. None of us are perfect, and that’s ok. We’ve made it this far and our midlife is a gift to be enjoyed. So I do the best I can, and forgive myself for everything else.

For me, healthy and fit at any age is about more than being able to button up your skinny jeans. It is about vitality and happiness: feeling energized, calm and optimistic about the future. 

More Wellness Tips & Travel Inspiration

Receive the monthly Midlife Globetrotter newsletter with ideas for healthy midlife living, travel for women and more fun!


24 Responses

  1. Wow. So many good tips and so much to consider and contemplate. The 50s decade is a tough one for women. It’s helpful to know it’s not all out of our hands-we do have control over some of it. Reading articles like this one helps me stay mindful and focus on small changes I can make on a daily basis. They do add up. Thanks for the opportunity to reflect.

    1. I totally agree about it not being out of our hands and small daily changes. They really make a difference! Thanks so much for reading; I am glad you enjoyed the article! Susan

  2. This article is great, I feel like I am reading about myself. I struggle with dietary and sleep changes which I never thought I would have to, your suggestions are helpful and just realizing that I am not alone is huge! I also find that yoga before bedtime helps relax me and sleep comes easier. Your seed and nut bowl looks intriguing, I will have to try, what is in it, if you don’t mind sharing? Thank you again, I will be reading some of your mentioned articles!

    1. Hi Nancy. Thanks for reading and for your message. You are definitely not alone; almost every midlife woman I talk to is struggling with some aspect of these types of changes. My nut & seed bowl is typically: pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds and chia seeds. And for the buts I change it up but my favorites are walnuts and almonds. I have it with some blueberries and high-protein greek yogurt.

  3. Thank you for sharing. Not long before I turned 50, I made a pact with myself: “Next 20 years better than the last 20.” I’ve incorporated much of what you talk about here, although I need to work on consistency. Thanks for the encouragement.

  4. I just found this site today! AWESOME. Everything you’ve written is so encouraging and is especially relatable.

  5. ”Love your website. Keep up the good work.”

    “I came across your website. It’s awesome, dude. I told my brother about it. He’s bookmarked your site.”

    “I like your website. No fluff, just helpful info. Great job.”

  6. I loved your article. I need to make changes in my lifestyle. I’m 57 years old and am 6 lbs shy of 200 lbs. (that was hard to write) . I have been yo-yo dieting for over 20 years. I want so badly to develop life long healthy habits. I want to age gracefully and not be dependent on people to have to take care of me in my old age, all because of poor lifestyle choices. I hate the thought of giving anymore $$ to the weight loss industry but the thought of making these changes in my own is overwhelming. My dilemma is sign up with a gym/nutrition center or make my own plan. Do you have any thoughts?

    1. I apologize for the late reply; I took some time off. I so admire your commitment to improving your health. I totally agree that support is helpful until lifestyle changes become habits. I am not an expert, but from what I know, I would focus on your nutrition first and then after some time add in an exercise routine. You could certainly continue any exercise that is already a habit such as walking. Improving your nutrition will make you feel better overall, and give you more energy. Also, if you had to choose one o the two if weight loss is a part of your goal, improved nutrition will have a greater impact. I’ve read that for weight loss nutrition will contribute about 80% of the result and exercise 20% (obviously this will vary, but you get the idea). That said, for your overall health and longevity exercise and building muscle is important also. But I would start with improving nutrition and adding in healthy foods and new food habits. Once you have that in place and feel better and more energetic, is a great time to start building in some more exercise. The proper nutrition will support your exercise goals, for example you need to be eating enough protein to support building muscle. A nutritionist can help you with that. I hope this is helpful to you. Please keep me posted on your progress! Susan

  7. Sorry if this is a repeat, not sure if my other message went though. I loved your inspiring site and just came across it . I’m 51 and want to do some solo traveling as well. I love photography too and want to trade my Nikon d-7000 in for something lighter. Might you have a recipe for your nut and seed bowl? It looks yummy. Thank. you!

    1. Hi Terri! Thanks for your comment and kind words about the website. It’s been a labor love for me. I am so excited for you and your travel plans! Solo travel can be really empowering. For my bowl it’s typically as follows: 1/4 cup blueberries and 1/3 cup greek yogurt (because it’s higher in protein). Then I add nuts, typically sliced almonds, about 1 tablespoon. And then 1 teaspoon each: pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds,hemp seeds, ground flax. But you can substitute any combo and nuts and seeds that you like. 🙂 Susan

  8. This was a great article! I am 59 years old, and I can relate to a lot of what you wrote. I have been into fitness for over 35 years, and I still love it! However, as I have gotten older, I have seen (and felt) some changes in my body. While I am way healthier than most women my age (and even 1/2 my age!), I have had some health issues that I’ve been struggling with, especially in the past few years. These health problems have contributed to some chronic pain, fatigue, and trouble sleeping. I haven’t allowed my health problems to stop me from working out, but I have had to modify the way I do things. That’s ok, though! I am just grateful to still be able to workout and be physically active, even if it’s a little different than before.
    I’ve also made some changes to my diet as I’ve gotten older. I’ve been a healthy eater my whole life, but I have had to tweak my eating strategy by cutting back a bit on carbs and eating more protein than I am used to. Lots of complex carbs used to be my go-to, but now my body is telling me it needs more protein, so I am honoring that.
    Thanks for sharing your story!

    1. Hi Christine. Thanks so much for sharing your story. I’m sorry to hear about your health struggles but it sounds like you’ve taken some great steps to optimize your wellness at this stage. I love your attitude of gratitude. I feel the same. I’ve also had some issues in recent months, an injured wrist and sore shoulder,that have affected my workouts, but I persevere and am grateful I can be active. Take good care and thanks again for reading, and for sharing your experience. Susan

  9. Thank you for this.
    I have been struggling with menopause and my body and mind
    It’s refreshing to read others have the same issues!
    All of my best

    1. Hi Niki, I’ve heard from so many midlife women experiencing some of these struggles. Very normal at this stage. I find focusing on the positives really helps me. Best wishes!

  10. I’m not sure how much your story applies to me as I am 71 and preparing for a total hip replacement but I enjoyed reading about your journey and I find it encouraging. Thank you for posting. 🙏🏾

  11. Wow! Love your site! Thank you for sharing about your joint replacement. As a woman quickly approaching 60 as well as a women’s health coach and registered nurse, it’s so important for women to understand getting healthy (especially nutrition, sleep, stress management and movement) to be our best in the later years of our life.

    I lift my 2 grandbabies and having strong muscles is key. Keep sharing your journey!


    1. Thank you, Kathleen! I agree! It’s the best gift we can give ourselves. How wonderful that you have the health and energy to fully enjoy your grandchildren.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



About - Midlife Globetrotter

Hey there,

I’m glad you’re here. Can we talk about midlife? I reached my late 40’s, realized my kids were growing up, and adventure began calling in a new way: big travel adventures as well as everyday ones. I want Midlife Globetrotter to be a place where we explore how to add a sense of fun, freedom and meaning to these precious years. Let’s celebrate how far we’ve come, and all that’s ahead.




More to Explore