11 of the Best Workouts for People Over 40 from 11 of the Best Workouts for People Over 40
11 of the Best Workouts for People Over 40
Aging is a unique experience. For some, the effects will present themselves sooner rather than later, and for some who are luckier, the “aches and pains” and won’t present themselves as prominently. Either way, exercise will remain an important part of your daily routine for a handful of different reasons.
“In your 40s, it's more important than ever to pay attention to form, posture and strength,” said Lisa Corsello, fitness expert and Founder of Burn Pilates in California.
Many, especially those who have been working out consistently over the long-term, will be able to keep up with their regular routine. But for those who are getting back into the swing of things after an extended period without exercise, or those who are just starting a new regimen for the very first time, there are a few factors you should keep in mind.
“Choose lower impact modifications when needed, but continue to challenge yourself,” says Corsello. “Incorporate variety into your workouts and don’t be afraid to try new things.”
Not sure where to start? We consulted a handful of fitness experts (some who are part of the “over 40 crowd” themselves) to find out which types of workouts are best for continuing an effective exercise routine as you age.
“Easy to incorporate into daily life, the TRX Suspension Trainer is an entirely portable gym in a small bag,” Craig Cristello, exercise physiologist for Well & Being, a network of luxury wellness resorts and spas. “It consists of two nylon straps with handles that can be hung over a door, medium sized tree branch, chin-up bar, Smith machine or even a swing set outside.” He said it’s a useful tool because it can be used to perform a wide variety of full-body exercises and can be used almost anywhere. Plus, it naturally challenges balance and stability, which Cristello said is a big draw for the over 40 crowd. “Additionally, TRX allows users to slowly progress and ‘warm-up’ through increased intensity to prevent injury,” he said. “It even offers the ability to perform post-workout stretches — from basic to advanced — that improve flexibility and range of motion over time.”
Dianne Bailey, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and owner of The Conditioning Classroom in Colorado suggested Tai Chi, especially for those who are just beginning a new exercise routine. “It is a gentle, meditative form of exercise,” she said. “Many studies have proven its benefits such as stress relief, lowering blood pressure, improving mental focus and improving balance. I teach Tai Chi in my studio and it brings in a lot of people who are over 40 and have not actively exercised in years. They appreciate the gentle approach and yet recognize how it challenges their muscles and their mental focus. So many exercise facilities focus on ‘extreme’ exercise. Most people are not ready for extreme. Tai Chi is a great place to begin.” Bailey also recommends working with a trainer who has experience with age-related issues. “We can all be challenged, but it it needs to be appropriate to your individual situation,” she added.
Pilates offers a full-body workout that builds strength and improves flexibility, making it an especially great option for those who want to stay fit and healthy as they age. “One component that makes this work different and perfect for us as we age is one of Joseph Pilates' basic philosophies,” explained Tom Gesimondo, an instructor at True Pilates New York. “He believed that you work the muscles at maximum efficiency to get the best results — you do not work until the muscle fibers are breaking down. We do limited repetitions of most exercises, usually in the three to five range, but a few properly executed exercises can have more benefit and less harm than the ‘no pain no gain’ philosophy we often hear of.”
Practicing yoga is another effective way to ensure you’ll maintain your flexibility as you age, as well as a healthy, happy mind. In addition to keeping your joints and muscles nimble and fluid, yoga can also help you build and maintain strength and it’s also a great tool for stress management. Try these simple yoga poses that anyone can do.
Todd Bishop, an American Canoe Association stand-up paddleboard instructor named three important components to consider when choosing an exercise activity: mental stimulation, your own personal level of physical fitness and whether or not it can be integrated into your daily life. “For me, at age 41, stand-up paddleboarding accomplishes all of these goals,” he said. “I can take a leisurely paddle for light exercise and relaxation. Or, I can go all out for a set distance or time to get a more vigorous workout and a mind-relaxing endorphin dump. I can even incorporate more advanced strokes to engage my thought process. This helps for those of us that need to be challenged.” The important thing, though, he explained, is that you find an activity that’s fun for you. “That will be what changes your daily routine and ultimately your fitness level,” he added.
There are several reasons all older adults should include strength training as part of their fitness routine, but it’s especially important because as we age our muscle mass naturally starts to diminish. Additionally, if part of your goal involves fat loss, strength training will play an important role in helping you achieve that feat. “A common misconception is that cardio is the answer to fat loss,” explained Billy Polson, C.S.C.S. trainer and owner of DIAKADI Fitness Performance Facility in San Francisco. He said that when it comes to successfully losing fat, nutrition should be your first priority, followed by strength training. “The great metabolism boost and hormonal output in the body from strength training makes it far more valuable than a cardio workout for fat burning any day of the week,” he said. (To be clear, strength training can consist of any type of weight bearing exercise like weight lifting, bodyweight exercises, resistance band training or TRX training.)
This relatively new piece of training equipment is by no means traditional and may not be available to everyone, but it’s certainly a smart and effective option for those with limitations or injuries. "The over 40 crowd should seek exercises and fitness routines that build you, not break you," said Kevin Rausch, owner of Rausch PT in California. “Things that build cardio fitness without breaking down joint surfaces. Routines that improve posture, flexibility and strength without compromising tissue injuries.” That’s where the AlterG anti-gravity treadmill comes into play. “[It] works wonders in increasing cardio and strength without the intense impact of road or trail-running,” Rausch said. “You can run with knee arthritis, you can work on your core with a disc injury and you can improve.”
“After 40, I find it’s a little more difficult to try brand new movements or activities, and to perform them at full intensity and expect your body to bounce back without a few aches and pains,” Polson said. “So I choose movements in my exercise program that will train me for these activities.” This is why, Polson says, he places a large emphasis on functional fitness and strength a s part of his regular workout routine. “Whether I am trying new sports, wanting to jog on the beach during vacation or playing tag with my nephew, I want my muscles and joints to be conditioned, tuned and strong to handle whatever is thrown at them,” he said. In other words, functional training helps prepare for the movements and activities you’ll encounter in everyday life. A few examples of functional exercises include the squat, the overhead press and stair climbing.
“If you are experiencing muscle or joint pain, have muscle imbalances or compensation patterns, or have postural issues, corrective training is going to be extremely important in keeping your physical foundation safe, injury-free and strong,” Polson said. “Corrective training is one of the most widely practiced styles of training performed by personal trainers with clients that are over 40. It consists of a thorough, up-front assessment of the client's posture, muscle flexibility and strength, and finally a thorough movement screen of the basic movement patterns, like squats, bends, lunges, pushing, pulling and rotation.” Based on the assessment, Polson explained, the trainer will devise a workout program that focuses on building a strong muscle foundation for the client where their posture is correct, muscle are aligned and balanced and their joints are moving safely and efficiently. “This age is definitely an important time to take care of these aches, pains and imbalances before they become injuries or begin to wear down the joints and tissues of the body,” he added.
To maintain a healthy heart, cardio training is absolutely essential. Cardio includes activities like running, cycling, swimming, hiking or brisk walking. Polson especially recommends cardio interval training. “Alternate periods of full speed work with medium pace recovery periods for 15 to 20 minutes a session two to three times a week,” he said.
“Now is the time to start looking for ways to make your life in general a healthier, active life,” Polson said. “Stop relying on your car for transport whenever possible. Take the weekends to be auto-free, walking or biking wherever you may need to go. Make family active outings on bikes or hiking. Choose holidays and vacations where you can be active the entire trip or learn a new activity. Choose a beach that is close to a beginner surf break and rental shop. Scared to learn snowboarding? Get lessons in cross country skiing for a killer workout on your next winter vacation. Rent a push scooter, they make them in adult sizes, and 'scoot' around the city or neighborhood one weekend. Don’t ever allow yourself to run out of new physical challenges and activities to try. Goals keep your mind learning, your body growing and your soul nourished with the joys of being a kid forever.”