Aging can be the pits, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be. As long as you keep up a good exercise routine, you may be able to stave off the aches, pains, and stiffness associated with getting older. It is important to remember, however, that your routine should evolve as you age. Once you hit 40, it becomes crucial to pay attention to maintaining form and posture while you exercise, as well as put more focus on building strength that may otherwise naturally decline. So whether you are just getting started again after an extended period, or are simply looking to modify your exercise plan as you approach that milestone birthday, stick with us for the best exercises for people over 40.
Tai chi is an excellent form of conditioning that is gentle yet can also be challenging. Great for people who are just getting started again, it can also be a helpful practice for anyone in addition to other programs. Tai chi has been proven to help reduce stress, lower blood pressure, boost mental acuity, and improve balance. The movements tend to be circular and should not be forced. It is important to keep muscle relaxed rather than tensed, and joints are not to be fully extended, so it is a great low impact choice. Tai chi can be easily adapted, including for those in wheelchairs or recently post-surgery, but it has something to offer for everyone.
As our bodies age, muscle mass naturally begins to diminish. That is reason enough to focus on this type of training after the age of 40. However, strength plays a large part in fat loss as well. In fact, some experts suggest that in order to lose weight, your first priority should be nutrition, followed by strength training. You’ll get a strong metabolism boost that keeps fat burning all the time. Plus, muscles require more energy to fuel, so the stronger you are, the more calories you’ll burn. For people over 40, weight bearing routines can be done with resistance bands, body weight, or reasonably heavy barbells. It is important to avoid weights so heavy that you have to yank on them and risk losing proper form.
Functional training is the type that includes most of the exercise moves you are already familiar with, including squats, planks, leg lifts, stair climbing, and even yoga. Basically, functional training prepares your body to handle movements you do in everyday life. Incorporating these exercises into your routine means your muscles and joints will be conditioned to jump into that beach volleyball game or play tag spontaneously with your grandkids. Climbing stairs is a common struggle for older people, and functional training will also help keep your knees conditioned so that you won’t be stopped by the lack of an elevator anywhere.
If you are already experiencing aches and pains related to aging, you have likely adopted compensation postures to “favor” the painful area. Unfortunately, favoring one part of your body tends to cause issues in other parts that are unaccustomed to bearing increased weight. Corrective training helps to fix problems with poor posture, stiff joints, and tight muscles. It begins with a professional assessment of your condition and aims to build a strong muscle foundation where your posture is correct, joints are moving efficiently, and muscles are aligned and balanced. Ignoring the need for corrective training can lead to degeneration of your joints and body tissues, as well as painful injuries. It is best to undertake corrective training with a physical therapist rather than a regular fitness trainer, who will have much less in the way of training and experience with clients in recovery.
Though it might not be the prime component in weight loss (the debate rages on), cardio exercise is still a vital part of any workout routine because it keeps your heart healthy. People over 40 should aim to get around 20 minutes per day, or about 150 minutes per week. Unless you are already a runner, it’s best to choose a lower impact workout such as biking, walking, or swimming to minimize stress on your joints. It is okay to break up your daily cardio into 10 or 15 minute sessions. In fact, it is important to interrupt long periods of sedentary activity (such as sitting at your desk at work) with some movement – this might be the perfect opportunity to get in some of your daily cardio by climbing stairs or walking briskly around the block.
The best kind of exercise is that which is simply part of your life, not a burden that must be forced in against your will. Active living can provide much of the cardio, strength, and balance training that you need to stay healthy as you age. This can include choosing to walk or bike anywhere that’s close enough, or learning a new activity that’s on your bucket list. Vacations are also a great time to get out there and have new experiences that are physical, even if it’s simply taking a local walking tour rather than a bus tour. Other great multi-tasking activities include taking the stairs whenever possible, playing catch or Frisbee with the kids, and exploring the neighborhood with your dog. When you build exercise right into your daily activities, it never needs to be forced, and you are in a better position to say yes to new experiences that come your way.
Though you may need to modify your workouts as you age, it’s important to continue challenging yourself. Variety is the spice of life, so don’t be afraid to try new things – it’ll keep your workouts fresh and interesting. Just be aware of your limits and ask for appropriate lower impact modifications to protect your body from excessive strain. If you are just getting started with exercise again after a period of inactivity, be sure to start slow and work up to peak fitness. You can get there at any age. It is not unusual for people well over 40 to marvel at finding themselves in the best shape of their lives after committing to a healthy routine.