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Finding the Best Exercise for Over 40 (Science-Backed Options You’ll Enjoy!)
Last Updated on June 17, 2024


Let’s face it, hitting the gym in your 40s can feel a lot different than it did in your 20s. You might be wondering, “What’s the best exercise for over 40?” Is it all about pounding the pavement with high-impact running, or will that leave you with more aches than results? The truth is, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer.

The good news?

Exercise is more important than ever after 40. It helps you maintain a healthy weight, keeps your heart strong, and even helps prevent chronic diseases. But the key to success isn’t finding the “best” exercise – it’s finding activities you actually enjoy doing. That way, you’re more likely to stick with them and reap the amazing benefits of exercise for the long haul.

In this article, we’ll bust some common myths about exercise after 40 and explore a variety of science-backed options that fit your goals and lifestyle. We’ll even show you how to make exercise a sustainable habit, so you can feel your best for years to come.

Debunking Myths About Exercise After 40

Best exercise for over 40

Myth #1: You Need High-Impact Exercises for Results

Many people believe that high-impact activities like jumping jacks or intense running are the only way to see results. But that’s simply not true! Low-impact exercises like swimming, brisk walking, or cycling are fantastic for burning calories, strengthening your heart, and improving your overall fitness.

The beauty of low-impact exercise is that it’s easier on your joints, making it a great option for people of all ages and fitness levels. Plus, activities like swimming can be a refreshing way to cool down on a hot day.

Myth #2: Lifting Weights Will Bulk You Up

If you’ve ever avoided weights because you’re worried about looking bulky, fear not! Strength training, which includes lifting weights or using resistance bands, is actually crucial for building muscle mass.

Here’s the key: muscle burns more calories than fat, even at rest. So, the more muscle you have, the higher your metabolism will be. This can lead to easier weight management and a more toned physique. Strength training also helps improve bone density, which becomes more important as we age.

Myth #3: Group Fitness Classes Are Too Expensive

Group fitness classes can be a fun and motivating way to exercise, but the cost can be a barrier for some. The good news is there are plenty of affordable (or even free!) ways to get your group fitness fix.

Many community centers offer affordable fitness classes, or you can find free online workout videos that cater to all interests and fitness levels.

Myth #4: Exercise Takes Hours Every Day

You might think you need to spend hours at the gym to see results, but that’s simply not the case. Even short bursts of exercise can be incredibly beneficial.

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts, for example, involve alternating periods of intense activity with rest. These workouts can be as short as 15-20 minutes and are a great way to burn calories and boost your metabolism in a shorter time commitment.

Top Science-Backed Exercise Options for Over 40

Now that we’ve debunked some common myths, let’s explore some fantastic science-backed exercise options that are perfect for people over 40:


Cardio, or cardiovascular exercise, is any activity that gets your heart rate up and keeps it elevated for a sustained period. It’s a cornerstone of fitness for a reason – cardio helps you burn calories, strengthens your heart and lungs, and improves your overall endurance.

Here are some excellent choices for cardio exercise:

  • Brisk walking: This is a simple and accessible activity that requires no equipment. You can walk outdoors, at the mall, or even up and down the stairs at work.
  • Swimming: Swimming is a low-impact exercise that’s easy on your joints but provides a full-body workout. It’s also a great way to cool down on a hot day.
  • Cycling: Cycling is another low-impact option that strengthens your legs and cardiovascular system. You can cycle outdoors or use a stationary bike at home.
  • Dancing: Dancing is a fun and social way to get your heart rate up. There are countless dance styles to choose from, so you can find one you enjoy, whether it’s Zumba, ballroom dancing, or simply dancing around your living room to your favorite tunes.
Is strength training the best exercise for over 40?

Strength Training

Strength training, also known as resistance training, involves working your muscles against a force to build strength and endurance. As we mentioned earlier, building muscle mass is crucial for maintaining a healthy metabolism and promoting weight management. Strength training also helps improve bone density and reduce your risk of injuries.

Here are some excellent options for strength training:

  • Bodyweight exercises: These exercises require no equipment and can be done anywhere. Examples include squats, lunges, push-ups, planks, and rows using a sturdy chair.
  • Free weights: Free weights like dumbbells and barbells allow you to target specific muscle groups and gradually increase the weight as you get stronger.
  • Resistance bands: Resistance bands are a versatile and affordable option that provide a challenging workout without taking up a lot of space.

HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training)

HIIT workouts are a time-efficient way to burn calories and boost your metabolism. They involve alternating periods of intense activity with short rest periods. For example, you might sprint for 30 seconds, followed by 30 seconds of walking or jogging.

HIIT workouts can be particularly beneficial for people over 40 because they can help you burn more calories in a shorter amount of time. They’re also a great way to challenge yourself and keep your workouts interesting.

Mind-Body Exercises

Mind-body exercises like yoga, Pilates, and Tai Chi combine physical movement with breathwork and meditation. These exercises can help improve your flexibility, balance, posture, and stress management. They’re also a great way to unwind and improve your overall well-being.

The beauty of mind-body exercises is that they can be modified for all fitness levels. You can find beginner-friendly online classes or studios that cater to people over 40.

Finding Your Perfect Exercise Fit

Finding the “best exercise for over 40” isn’t about following a fad or chasing what someone else enjoys. It’s about discovering activities that fit your unique preferences and lifestyle. Here’s how:

  • Listen to your body: Pay attention to how you feel during and after exercise. Choose activities you find enjoyable and that don’t cause excessive pain.
  • Make it fun: Exercise shouldn’t feel like a chore! Explore different activities until you find something you genuinely enjoy. Maybe it’s dancing to your favorite music, hiking in nature, or playing a sport with friends.
  • Start small and gradually increase intensity: Don’t try to do too much too soon. Begin with shorter workouts and gradually increase the duration and intensity as you get stronger.
  • Sneak exercise into your day: You don’t need to dedicate a whole hour to exercise. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, park further away from your destination, or do some bodyweight exercises during your lunch break. Every little bit counts!
  • Consult your doctor: Before starting a new exercise program, especially if you have any health concerns, talk to your doctor. They can help you create a safe and effective exercise plan.
Make exercise a sustainable habit after 40

Making Exercise a Sustainable Habit

Honestly, the best exercise for those over 40 (or anyone really) is the one you will do on a consistent basis. Sticking with an exercise routine isn’t always easy. Here are some tips to help you make exercise a sustainable habit for the long haul:

  • Set realistic goals: Don’t aim to become a fitness fanatic overnight. Start with small, achievable goals, like exercising for 20 minutes three times a week. As you get stronger, you can gradually increase your goals.
  • Find a workout buddy: Having a friend or family member to exercise with can help you stay motivated and accountable. Plus, it can make exercise more fun!
  • Track your progress: Seeing your progress can be a great motivator. Keep a log of your workouts or use a fitness tracker app.
  • Focus on consistency over intensity: It’s better to exercise for a shorter amount of time consistently than to push yourself too hard and get discouraged. Remember, even short bursts of activity add up!
  • Reward yourself: Celebrate your achievements! After reaching a goal, reward yourself with something non-food related, like a relaxing massage or a new workout outfit.
  • Don’t be afraid to mix things up: If you find yourself getting bored with your routine, try a new activity or class. There are endless possibilities to keep things interesting.
  • Focus on the positive: Exercise is about taking care of your body and mind. Instead of focusing on weight loss alone, think about how exercise makes you feel stronger, more energetic, and reduces stress.

Remember, the key to success is finding an exercise routine you enjoy and can stick with over time. So lace up your shoes, put on some music, and get moving! You’ll be glad you did.


Finding the “best exercise for over 40” isn’t about a one-size-fits-all approach. It’s about discovering activities you enjoy and that fit your lifestyle. This article explored a variety of science-backed exercise options, from cardio and strength training to HIIT workouts and mind-body exercises.

Remember, the most important factor is consistency. Even short bursts of exercise add up and can significantly impact your health and well-being. So listen to your body, find activities you enjoy, and make exercise a regular part of your routine. You’re taking a fantastic step towards a healthier and happier you!

We hope this article has empowered you to embark on your fitness journey. Don’t forget to explore our website for additional resources on exercise, healthy living, and recipes to fuel your workouts!

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