‘I’m 53 and in the Best Shape of My Life—Here Are the 4 Workout Moves I Swear By'

Body builder Lola Nez lifting weights.

At 44, Lola Nez was experiencing an onslaught of health problems. In addition to having chronic pain, she was diagnosed with GERD and at high risk for diabetes, which ran in her family. “My cholesterol levels were high, blood pressure was high and my GERD was causing so much pain that I could not enjoy my food,” she tells Parade.

Her doctor prescribed her prescription medications, which seemed to create more problems. For example, one of the medications gave her excruciating headaches. “It was really frustrating,” Nez says. Her health problems were also preventing her from being the type of grandmother she wanted to be. “My daughter had just had a baby and my grandson had come to live with me, so they both really needed my help. It was challenging,” she adds.

On top of the physical problems she was experiencing, Nez says that her confidence also took a hit, explaining, “I felt so insecure." It was time, she decided, to ask for help.

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The Type of Workout That Changed Everything

Seeking guidance on taking control of her health, Nez started working with a personal trainer, starting with a consultation. Her trainer taught her how to lift weights, something she had not prioritized before. “In the past, I had tried running and yoga, but neither one seemed to be the right path for me,” she explains.

Weightlifting was different. Nez stuck with it and after 16 weeks, she says she not only saw her body transform to be leaner and stronger, but she felt better too. “In just four months, I went off my prescription medication. My doctor told me, ‘Whatever you’re doing, keep doing it!’” she says.

Even though Nez was becoming more fit than she had been in the past, she was still surprised when her personal trainer suggested she enter a bodybuilding competition that required wearing a bikini. “I said, ‘I’m not going to do that! I’m a grandma!’” Nez recalls. But after receiving encouragement from her husband and kids, she decided to go for it. Now, 10 years later, she has competed in 21 competitions.

“I love the discipline it requires,” Nez says of competing. “It completely changed my mindset too. Now I know, if you really want to achieve something, you can do it if you put your mind to it.”

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The 4 Workout Moves Nez Swears By

Nez knows first-hand how intimidating it can be to start strength training. If you’re new to lifting weights, she recommends working with a personal trainer who can tell you exactly what to do and make sure you’re doing it safely. When it comes to creating a strength training routine, Nez finds it helpful to have “lower body days” and “upper body days.” While in general, she alternates between them every other day, she also listens to her body and gives it as much rest as it needs. “Sometimes, one recovery day is not enough. Sometimes, I need two,” she says.

Below are four strength training moves Nez regularly does herself and encourages others to try, if it’s safe for them to do so.

Bench press

To do a bench press, lie down flat on a bench. Keep your feet firmly on the ground. Your hips should stay on the bench. Hold the barbell over your shoulders, slightly wider than shoulder-length apart. Slowly lower the bar to your chest. Then, slowly raise the bar up, straightening your arms. Do 8 to 10 reps.

Bicep curl

Hold a dumbbell with your palms facing up. Bend your elbow to bring the weight up, keeping your elbow close to your body. Slowly, bring your arm back down to the starting position. Do 10 reps then repeat with your other arm.

Dumbbell shoulder press

Sit on an upright workout bench with a dumbbell in each hand. Bend your elbows at 90 degrees and bring your arms up, so the weights are level with your ears. Using your core, slowly lift your arms overhead at the same time. Slowly lower your arms back down to the starting position. Repeat 10 times.


Squats can be done with or without weights, depending on your fitness level. To do a squat, stand with your feet hip-width distance apart. Engaging your core muscles, lower down and stick your butt back, as if you are going to sit down in a chair. Come back up to the starting position. Do 15 reps.

In addition to strength training, Nez says she regularly does cardio to keep her heart healthy. “Cardio plays a role in fat loss and is also important for cardiovascular health—it’s right there in the name!” she says. Some examples of effective cardio workouts include running, cycling, using the elliptical or even fast-paced walking.

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The One Piece of Diet Advice She Gives to Everyone Over 50

When it comes to diet, Nez focuses on eating a wide range of delicious, nutrient-rich foods; she is not one to follow any eating plan that’s restrictive. She says her goal is to eat foods that support her workout routine as well as promote longevity.

As a woman in her 50s, she explains that she’s made it a point to increase her protein—advice she gives to others who want to age gracefully and live a long time. “Protein helps the body gain muscle mass, and muscle mass is equated to longevity,” she says. According to the National Institutes of Health, a high-protein diet during middle age is linked to higher mortality, but a high-protein diet after age 65 is linked to lower mortality.

In general, adults 65 and older should aim to consume between 1 and 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight every day. This means if you weigh 150 pounds, for example, you should eat between 68 and 82 grams of protein each day.

It’s never too late to start taking control of your health. “Do not let your age define who you are. The key is to believe in your own power and potential,” Nez says. For her, the first step was making that initial consultation with a personal trainer. What will it be for you?

Next up, this is the one thing you should avoid if you're over 60 and want to stay healthy.