Fitness for over 40 – should we train differently at this age? I’m not one to buy into the idea that age should restrict your fitness. Having said that, there are certain realities that age brings with it. Those challenges need to be navigated safely. If you do that, you can be as fit as you were when you were 20.
Before we start, if you have any serious issues with your health – see a doctor. If you have any physical conditions, consult a specialist. And as a general piece of advice it’s good to regularly visit a physiotherapist, and also get a massage frequently, or use home-based alternatives. Be sensible with your progress. Even at a high degree of fitness, it is still apparent that we don’t recover like we used to when we were younger.
Progression in Fitness for Over 40 Year Olds
This is probably the most important thing. In your 20s you could probably exercise, put in a hard effort. You’d sleep like a log. Be recovered the next day. And be ready for the next bout of exercise. Unless you are already very fit, that is unlikely to be the case any more. So take things easy. Build up slowly. Find your own pace.
It is probably a good idea to find a training method that fits in with fitness for over 40 year olds – not 100% effort 100% of the time. More like maybe 80% effort 20% of the time, the rest, a nice easy pace.
I’m the worst for going full out – personally I love to run fast, but I do so at a cost. That cost is potentially getting injured, maybe over training, and possibly deceasing my aerobic capacity in the process. Trust me, full out was never the greatest of ideas, you just used to get away with it easier. Also, there is absolutely no reason why you can’t train this way, and once a week, go full out. You might surprise yourself with your improvement in fitness and pace too. I know I did.
You will also have to be more effective with warm up, cool down, stretching, and rest. Not particularly because you’re older that you used to be. Warming up has always been a good idea, elite athletes all do it. If you don’t recover as quickly because of your age, you probably should too. More on that later.
Understand your Goals
What are your goals? I know a lot of you will say weight loss or improve fitness. They’re not goals. Be specific. And try to make your goals so that you achieve these things as a side benefit. So run a race, complete an obstacle course. It doesn’t matter what it is. Have a goal. Achieve weight loss and improve fitness as a bonus.
There will be a difference between a 40-year-old male weight loss workout, and a woman wanting to build muscle after 40. Or a man wanting to run their first 5 mile run. They may contain similarities in seeking fitness for over 40 but are focused on different aspects of fitness.
Given the goal you decided upon, you can now look for a workout to help you achieve it. Your fitness routine is specific to what you want to achieve.
And on that point. Listen to your body.
If you’re tired, do lighter training.
When you feel good, train harder, or train longer.
If you need a rest. Then rest.
Best Exercises for Weight Loss
The idea of finding the best exercises for weight loss are to burn as many calories as possible. That in combination with consuming less calories than you burn will lead to weight loss. Simple mathematics.
Generally speaking, the larger and greater number of muscles you can use, the more calories you burn. This could be done fast. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) for example. Or Muay Thai. Or slower. Run or jog a half marathon.
There is a lot of evidence on not exceeding your maximum aerobic function – the maximum heart rate before you are no longer 100% aerobic. Aerobic burns fat. So in this case, slower and steadier wins that race.
Some of these suggestions such as Muay Thai are generally dominated by people in their 20s, but there’s no reason why you can’t use it for fitness for 40 year olds. Just be clear if you’re sparring that you want to train light, or miss sparring and hard contact until you build fitness.
I did it in my 20s, and it was hard. Fun, but a tough sport. Biggest challenge is recovering from injuries like bruises so you enjoy it and don’t become a walking bruise!
Here are some ideas with approximate calories burn:
- Muay Thai / Kickboxing / Boxing – 550 to 1000+ calories
- Stair climbing – 600 to 950 calories
- Jumping Rope – 650 to 1000 calories
- Kettlebell Circuits – 550 to 850 calories
- Rowing Machine – 450 to 750 calories
- CrossFit – 600 to 1000+
You probably need to build up to these levels – at first you’ll probably want to give up.
You can also build up to long distance running, at a steady pace.
Running is a great exercise for fitness for over 40 year olds. Whilst you’re not in your prime exactly, you can definitely be good enough to be competitive with plenty of 20 year olds.
I can easily get through 2000+ calories on a 2+ hour run.
Best Exercises for Overall Fitness
This isn’t just for fitness for over 40 year olds. This is good for anyone. It’s fast, gets good results, and is easy to do. Often with minimal equipment.
High-intensity interval training of any kind is very effective for overall fitness. All of the above examples can be performed in this way. To improve fitness generally, it is good to push the heart rate into a higher zone for a short time, then allow you to recover. This improves your ability to do a higher rate of exercise with the same heart rate. In other words, it improves your fitness. This same effect can also be obtained from a much lower effort level – for example keeping your heart rate around the 60-70% of maximum heart rate, will improve your heart strength, your aerobic system and allow you to train at a higher level for the same heart rate.
I love HIIT because of the challenge of the hard effort, but I wouldn’t do it all the time.
I love low heart rate training because it’s not as mentally challenging, and you don’t need massive recovery afterwards. So good to build up a good base of general fitness.
The above list is by no means exhaustive. If there is something that you really want to do – surfing. Bike riding. Swimming. All of these things can be adapted to interval training. There are applications that will help you with this. Or get a fitness watch.
The more variety you have with your exercise workouts, the more muscles are involved. This will mean a broader level of fitness. An adaptability. There will be a point where you need to increase your fitness of other areas of your body so that you can progress. Otherwise you will plateau.
Recovery after Exercise
Recovery particularly is very important. It’s the part of the exercise where you lock the fitness benefits in. Your muscles rebuild. Your fitness increases.
If you don’t rest, you can cause yourself injury. If you’re like me, you go out there and push hard. But don’t allow enough time to recover. So the next time you push hard, it’s less enjoyable. Then you pick up injuries. And mentally its hard to get out there when you’re sore and just want to sit still and wallow!
You can still train 3-5 times a week, more if you like, but you can’t push hard every single time. Sometimes allow yourself recovery sessions. Lighter workouts to keep your muscles moving, but still, allow them to recover. You can also vary muscle groups, depending upon the exercise. That also allows you to recover.
Work towards integrating HIIT into your workout.
Remember this is about slowly building you fitness, to do this successfully you will have to push yourself on occasions. It is recommended that 20% of your workouts should be at a higher intensity and 80% should be at a lower intensity.
Remember to always mix up your routine, but stick to the intensity plan.
Never go too hard on easy days, these are designed to allow your body to recover. There is a scientific principle behind going hard for 20% of your workouts. So if you go too hard on an easy day, it will defeat the purpose.
They easy solution is to start with a longer workout and gradually try and do the same workout in a shorter period of time. This means you can increase your intensity without having to spend any more time working out.
Make sure you have the nutrition
The body is incredible, in that it can work even when you feed it junk food, and alcohol. Nothing wrong with those in moderation – I like them as much as the next person.
What you can’t do is expect to achieve your potential on a diet on junk, and sugar. And you won’t burn fat as much either.
You need to ensure that your body has the nutrients that it needs.
Personally I would be looking to get those from natural foods – fruits and vegetables.
Supplements do have those things in and a whole lot of other stuff that is created in a laboratory and who knows what to your body. I see no reason why you can’t go the natural route.
If you’re doing a lot of exercise – no matter your age – you will deplete nutrients in your body. This means that the body won’t recover as easily.
Can’t rebuild itself as efficiently.
And ultimately will mean picking up injuries more easily. Which definitely does seem to take you out of training a lot more easily in your 40s.
Various activities have a focus in particular areas and deplete nutrients that need replacing.
Muscle rebuilding requires protein. Doesn’t have to be in a powdered form – or meat – you can get a lot from vegetables.
I suggest you research it if it interests you, and find foods that you enjoy that supply you the protein you need, and are tasty.
Beans, some seeds, nuts.
Meats too (they’re not the highest source, but if you enjoy them some of your protein can come from them too)
Fit your workouts into your lifestyle
Fitness for over 40 year olds isn’t really much different, but it does come with its own set of challenges.
Being in your 40s means that you have responsibilities.
Something I find works well is making exercise part of my “commute” home.
That turns a wasteful hour, into an enjoyable hour+ of, in my case running.
Involve the kids. Do body-weight exercises with them. Make it fun. Show them the importance of fitness.
Maybe set up some weights or resistance bands in a room in your home?
Do intervals of exercises as you watch TV (OR during the breaks).
Or to break the monotony of sitting in front of a computer.
Fitness for Over 40 Year Olds
Consistency here is the key.
25 press-ups a night doesn’t seem like a legendary amount.
Over time, those press-ups will become much easier and you will need to challenge yourself further.
Whatever you decide to do, do it consistently, and sensibly, and build up to it. Don’t go all out on your first session, then need a week to recover.
That just isn’t sensible.
Better to start easy, and build up throughout the workout if you feel good.
I hope by now you are exercising as you read this, if not, why not?
Whatever you decide to do for fitness for over 40 year olds, make sure you enjoy it, and stop to appreciate your progress.
Congratulate yourself for achieving your goals.