What Kind of Exercise Should I Do If I Am Over 40?

This is a question I get asked regularly at the clinic and the easy answer is “it depends”. Depends on what? It depends on what your fitness level is like, your strength, mobility, and overall general health. Most importantly it depends on what your goals are. Any exercise program should be specific to your particular goals and therefore there is no one size fits all exercise program.

We naturally lose about 1% of muscle mass per year after the age of 40 (that’s 10% per decade!) Frailty has become one of the most serious health risks for people in their 60s and 70s. It is absolutely essential to actively train and eat properly to preserve and build muscle as you get older. It’s never too late to start, but the older you are the more difficult it can be.  

If you are over 40 your goals and sensibilities around exercise are probably different than when you were in your 20s. The time you have to devote to exercise is maybe less than when you were younger yet you recognize the greater importance of making time to stay fit as you get older. 

If this sounds like you, then you want to get the best return on your time and effort investment. To do this there are some basic guidelines that I follow for my own exercise regime. These may work for you or they may not, depending on your specific circumstances. Ultimately, the best type of exercise for you is the kind that you enjoy and can do consistently!

Have mobility, resistance,  and HIIT training in your program

HIIT training stands for High-Intensity Interval Training and over the past several years it has become the go-to recommendation for exercise for those over 40 and for those who are interested in modifying or maintaining a leaner body composition.  

There are several ways to structure a HIIT style of workout but the thing they all have in common are short burst periods of difficult to very difficult activity followed by a period of rest or recovery. One Common formula is called a Tabata workout.

The Tabata formula is 20 seconds of intense (nearly all out) exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest.  Do this for 8 rounds which adds up to a total of a 4 min program.  Sounds easy right, nope if you are doing it right it is a long 4 min. 

The nice thing about this formula is that it doesn’t matter what your 20 seconds of exercise is. Running 20 on 10 off no problem, Stairs? Yup, how about Burpees? Sure thing. Jumping jacks, squats, jogging in place —almost any exercise can be incorporated into the HIIT formula.

Yoga is a great way to build mobility, balance, and strength. You don’t have to be a super bendy yogi-like person to start or benefit! Like any exercise, yoga can be scaled to your ability. Yoga is excellent for improving body awareness, breathing, and stress reduction as well.  

Where can I go locally to exercise?

We are very fortunate to have many excellent gyms, trainers, and yoga studios here in Frederick. There are lots of places and I am certainly not familiar with them all so this list is by no means exhaustive.  

This is a list of local options that I am personally familiar with and by that, I mean places I have spent personal time exercising at.

Odin Crossfit

Most people think of CrossFit as doing crazy intense workouts with ridiculous heavy weights. Yes, there are some people who have worked hard to perform at that level, and they are amazing to watch.  I assure you, however, having personally done Crossfit workouts for about 10 years, there are many variations and ways to scale workouts to your ability. Odin has great coaches who truly care about you staying safe and healthy while challenging you to push yourself to improve. Frederick Crossfit also has a great staff and supportive environment.  

Straight Shot Training

I recently started working out here, focusing more on my strength training as a complement to the more intensive HIIT-type workouts I usually do at CrossFit. The trainers are very knowledgeable, and as any good trainer should be, they are supportive and encouraging no matter where you are in your fitness journey.  

Yogamour Yoga and Healing Arts Center

Yogamour is a very open and welcoming community, and they offer a variety of classes for all levels if experience. You don’t need to be a super bendy yogi to “do yoga.” Just like any activity, it can be modified to your current needs and ability. Some yoga classes are, in fact, specifically for rest and relaxation, and can be a great counterbalance to more intense workouts.  

Talley Recreation Center and the Frederick YMCA are also great options for trying out new fitness programs. Both have a lot of great programs for all ages at very affordable rates.

Working Out At Home

Sometimes this is the only option because life is busy and it can be hard to schedule a workout. So what to do? Put the kids to bed and watch an exercise video? I don’t have as much experience with home exercise programs as I do with getting out to the gym – mostly because I personally need the external motivation and accountability of going to classes (in other words, I can be lazy if left to do it myself). There are a lot of great apps and YouTube channels to guide you – again find what works for you and stick to it!   

A brisk walk can itself be a great workout.  If you have kids, play with them! Toddlers make great resistance weights and usually love being swung and tossed around.  Skip, hop, get on the swings, crawl around on the floor – all great ways to get your cardio going and use muscles you don’t usually do.

Give us a call if you need help or guidance about how to move better so you can feel better!

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