If you’re in your 40s, you may have noticed that you don’t run as fast as you used to, lift as much as you once could, or recover as quickly from your last workouts. Or, even if they don’t apply, you know that over time you’re at greater risk for everything from sore knees and backaches to heart problems and other miscellaneous injuries—even if you’re in the best shape of your life.
Either way, there are steps you can take now to improve the quality (if not necessarily increase the quantity) of your remaining years. We spoke to a trainer in her 40s from fitness app Aaptiv — a subscription is available at no cost to eligible Haven Term policyholders via our Haven Life Plus bonus rider — to get some tips. Here̵7;s trainer Wes Pedersen on how to strengthen long-term health and become more injury-proof as you age.
keep going forward
Finding the best way to exercise in your 40s “is something I’m literally living through as we speak,” says Pedersen. “I’m 42.” As we get older, “we don’t move as much,” he says, which means the body becomes stiffer and more prone to mishaps. “Long-term, it’s important for the body to be flexible to prevent injury,” he adds.
To increase flexibility, Pedersen recommends starting the day with “a 6-10 minute mobility routine. I use the weird ‘mobility’ on purpose,” he says. “I don’t think of it as a stretching routine, because most people think of stretching as something more static. This is more akin to the yoga flow. There are many things that provide mobility, so rather than a toe touch, I would rather do leg sweeps or swings. Instead of sitting and doing the splits, I prefer to do lateral lunges in a pattern.” He includes “everything from Child’s Pose to Downward Dog to the World’s Greatest Stretch and Pigeon Pose,” all in motion. If you already have stretches that you like to do, the key here is to turn them into movement.
“When you’re moving instead of doing static stretches, you’re working a little harder,” says Pedersen. “With more movement comes more activity and therefore more blood flow and the muscles work more. If you move through a range of motion that is weight-bearing, the tendons, cartilage and bones are all stimulated,” helping to keep them strong and resilient over time.
Build strength effortlessly
In your 40s, you can (and should) still weight train, but you need to make some changes in your approach. “In my 20s, I could train hard several days a week and my body bounced back pretty quickly,” says Pedersen. “Now it takes longer, so you have to be mindful of how many days a week you do really hard workouts and the other days have to be slower — very consistent, fast weight training days.”
Pedersen says someone in their 40s can still do some form of strength training up to four or five times a week, but most of those sessions should be “less high-intensity and more like an old-school bodybuilder format: lunges, squats, deadlifts, pull-ups.” Using body weight resistance puts less stress on the body while keeping it strong, and the added mobilization control is also beneficial for long-term strength and flexibility.
Pedersen recommends that your training time be about 60% body resistance, 20% “very concentrated strength; deadlift bench press, barbell time,” and the remaining 20% is exercise that gets your heart rate up. (Don’t forget, the heart is a muscle, too.) This could just be cardio, something that combines strength and cardio, he adds.
Do these five key moves
Pedersen recommends the following exercises, which you can find on Aaptiv as part of a workout, or do on your own.
Outcome with balance
“Any type of lunge where you use balance as a component is good, such as a Curtsy lunge.” This works the lower leg muscles as a normal lunge, but also improves stability and body alignment, which can help reduce the likelihood of lower back pain.
“Some kind of rowing is very valuable, because as we age it’s really useful to still have good posture and also drive the elbows and shoulders back.” Rowing also gets the heart going.
These are a time-efficient way to build and maintain muscle. Just be sure to add weight gradually and keep your form in mind, or you risk injuring your back.
“A bodyweight lift is only good for general upper body strength.”
The world’s longest stretch
This is good for balance, hips, lower legs and thoracic spine mobility. Crucial for busy people who want long-term health but not long-winded workouts, it doesn’t take very long either.