5 Exercises People Over 40 Should Be Doing Every Week

Written by Stefanie Lisa, CPT, CFN

Over 40 Workout Plan

If you’ve been inactive for a while or even just slightly erratic with your workouts, you may think it’s time to pick up where you left off—with the same exercises and workouts you did in your teens or 20s. But your body has likely changed over the decades, and your over 40 workout plan may need to change with the times, too.

Exercise is extremely important for a variety of reasons, and as you age, there are certain types of exercise you want to keep in your routine on a regular basis. Those include using weights to work your muscles, flexibility and stability training to keep muscles pliable, cardiovascular training for both high-intensity aerobic conditioning as well as endurance training, and functional workouts to help with everyday common movement patterns.

For your over 40 workout plan, here are five exercises to include in your routine every week and why:

Which Exercises Are Most Important for Over 40 Workout Plan?

1. Flexibility Training and Stability Training

As you get older, flexibility becomes more and more of an issue, and a little known fact is that stability and flexibility go hand in hand. The older you get, the more important these types of exercise become.

With bones becoming more brittle as you age, and muscles getting tighter, shorter, and more stiff over time, experiencing a fall can mean a devastating, long-term injury if you don’t have the flexibility and stability to avoid it. That is why it is key in any over 40 workout plan.

Try to engage in some form of flexibility training like yoga, stretching, or Pilates at least three times a week. Begin with 20 minutes and work your way up to an hour-long session. You can find stretching and yoga programs at most fitness facilities as well as online.

2. Resistance Training

As you age, you lose significant amounts of muscle mass. 1 Adults who do not replenish their muscle tissue through some kind of weight or resistance training can expect to lose approximately 5% or more muscle mass every decade. And, less muscle mass means not only less strength and ability to perform normal daily activities but a slower metabolism as well.

Obviously, having a metabolism that slows over the years can equate to unwanted weight gain over time. And less muscle translates to less strength as you age, leading to decreased ability to perform the activities you enjoy.

But, there’s good news… studies show that there are no non-responders to resistance training. Everyone can benefit from it!

Resistance training helps you build muscle and lose body fat. Training with weights also helps to strengthen your bones, which is vital as you progress in years. It also helps to decrease blood pressure, improve insulin sensitivity, and improve other health markers across the board.

How should you add weight training to your program? Begin with a full body workout twice a week. Perform one to two exercises for each body part (chest, back, legs, biceps, triceps, shoulders, abs, and calves) during each session and aim for 10 – 15 repetitions for each.

As you get better at lifting and stronger with time, you’ll want to increase the weight you use to continue making progress. In other words, when it becomes easy to do 15 repetitions, add some weight until you can barely get 10 reps. Once this weight becomes easy, add more weight. This is known as “progressive overload” and will help you build and maintain your muscle over time.


3. High Intensity Interval Training

Also known as “HIIT” training, this type of cardio training involves short bursts of all-out effort followed by a minute or two of recovery time. A HIIT workout might look like this:

  • 5-minute warmup
  • 30-second sprint
  • 2-minute walk
  • 30-second sprint
  • 2-minute walk
  • 30-second sprint
  • 2-minute walk
  • 30-second sprint
  • 2-minute walk
  • 30-second sprint
  • 2-minute walk
  • 30-second sprint
  • 2-minute walk
  • 5-minute cool down

A HIIT workout will typically last only 15 – 20 minutes max. The idea is to get the most calorie burn for your exercise buck. HIIT training not only burns more fat than regular aerobic training, but you burn more calories for up to 24 hours after you’ve completed the exercise. 2 This phenomenon is known as EPOC (or excess post-exercise oxygen consumption).

You can do many variations on the intervals, such as 30 seconds all-out followed by 30 seconds rest time, or 15 seconds high-intensity work followed by 60 seconds of low-intensity work. It’s up to you, but it is an importnat part of an over 40 workout plan. Try this type of workout twice a week for great cardiovascular and fat-burning benefits.

4. Steady State Cardiovascular Training

In addition to doing high-intensity cardiovascular training, it’s important to engage in longer term steady state aerobic workouts like long walks, long slow jogs, bike rides, hiking, swimming, etc. Why? Because not only does steady state cardiovascular training allow you to burn calories, it also gives your body a break from the intensity of tough workouts. Longer workouts also help you maintain your muscle mass, and you may even find this type of cardiovascular training to be fun.

Try doing these workouts 2 – 3 times a week. And, this is a great workout to do with a friend, as your pace still allows you to have conversations without being out of breath!

5. Functional Workouts

Functional exercise replicates movements you do throughout your normal day, such as walking up stairs, carrying groceries into the house, getting out of a chair, bending over to pick something up, putting away cans in the cupboard, etc. Strengthening the muscles that help you perform everyday activities is important.

Work on strengthening your core, working on your balance, and increasing your strength. Regular workouts with both body-weight training and even bands (like TheraBands), done three times a week, can significantly help with day-to-day activities. 3

Try increasing your strength with planks, pushups, body-weight squats, and arm exercises done with bands (lateral raises for shoulders, biceps curls, and triceps kickbacks).

Exercise is important for our bodies no matter what decade we were born. And by incorporating this type of well-rounded program, you’ll be more likely to enjoy your healthy, active lifestyle for decades to come.

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