Fitness Lifestyle

How to Exercise in Your 40s and 50s

woman in black tank top and black pants sitting on gray concrete bench

Not sure how to exercise in your 40s and 50s? We ask Veronika Larisova, nutritionist, exercise physiologist and the co-founder of Chief Bar and Beauty Food for her tips on training as you approach the wonderful middle ages.

You can be fit and healthy no matter what age, but what is easy in your 20s requires a different approach and more consistency when you are in your 40s and 50s. You need to train smarter and more consistently and be more diligent with your recovery. Instead of just smashing your body in an 8-week bikini challenge, then doing nothing for the rest of the year.

Look at Jane Fonda and Cher. All of the naysayers out there keep pointing their fingers at plastic surgery, but the fact is you can’t surgically implant fitness, muscle tone, mobility, agility, coordination and posture. Jane Fonda was posting ISO workouts on TikTok at the age of 84, and Cher still rock the stage in her signature leotards at the age of 75!

two men running together on a beach

Ageing the way we know it is not normal because many negative effects are caused by our modern lifestyle, not by the number of times we celebrate our birthday. That is why some world-renowned anti-ageing experts think of ageing as a disease that’s preventable and to a degree reversible by appropriate exercise and nutrition.

However, our physiology changes with age and every decade of our life bring something different. 

The changes that start occurring in our 40s affect mainly the sensory system (visual, vestibular, and somatosensory) and physical fitness components and skills (cardiovascular fitness, flexibility, strength, balance, and coordination).

The good news is that you can totally bring most of them back to your late 20s or 30s levels and keep them there for a very long time with a well-designed training routine that’s a part of your daily life.

My best tip is to start thinking of exercise like brushing your teeth. It needs to be done to keep your teeth healthy, whether you like it or not. It’s just something you do every day.

couple practicing yoga

While it’s a well-known fact that regular exercise improves cardiovascular and pulmonary conditioning, increases muscle strength and helps maintain bone mineral levels as well as its structural integrity and that it’s good for brain function and mental health,. Research indicates the benefits go far beyond and include anti-aging factors that are not a widespread knowledge amongst the general population.

The Benefits of Exercise

According to the latest research in human physiology, exercise:

-Improves mitochondrial function (the energy production powerhouse)

-Changes genetic expression (switches off the bad genes and upregulates the good ones)

⁃ Reduces inflammation, thus preventing “inflammaging”

⁃ Improves telomeres length

⁃ Upregulates growth hormone release by 300-500% times after each high-intensity session

⁃ Improves gut microbiome balance

⁃ Increases NAD+ (the so-called ‘molecule of youth’)

⁃ Enhances innate immune functions

⁃ Enhances cognitive function by changing the brain structure

cheerful aged sportsman doing sport exercise

An effective training program to keep you fit, lean and youthful must cover all health components of physical fitness (muscular strength and endurance, cardiovascular fitness, flexibility and body composition), as well as all physical fitness skills. Balance, coordination and agility are the primary fitness skills in focus when you cross over to your 40s.

a personal trainer helping an elderly man stretch his body

So how do you go about this? Do you need to become a gym junkie and spend all the little spare time you have pumping iron? Or, if you are a gym junkie, do you need to train less and quit your high-intensity sessions? Absolutely not! Based on the latest research on training for women over 40, the main things you need to do differently are:

1. Longer warm-up and shorter training sessions

A long warm-up accelerates the Growth Hormone release, and research shows that this length and type of warm-up followed by a 30-minute intensive resistance session yields the most benefit in regards to Growth Hormone release in femalesBesides other benefits, such as lean muscle tissue hypertrophy and regeneration, Growth Hormone is an essential regulator of fat metabolism at rest.

It declines with age, but it is possible to increase levels with training; resistance and high-intensity interval training are the most effective methods. Females benefit from a shorter duration (30min) and higher training intensity regarding Growth Hormone release, and exercising longer than 60 min causes Growth Hormone decline in females.

2. More mobility and flexibility training

The physiological reasons for reduced flexibility and mobility include a loss of water and collagen in tissues and the spine, increased joint stiffness and a loss of elasticity throughout the muscle tendons and surrounding tissue. Like strength and balance, flexibility can be regained and maintained throughout life by a healthy lifestyle and regular exercise regime. Collagen supplementation and adequate hydration will enhance the effects of your mobility and flexibility training.

3. Cover all your bases

Some exercise is better than none, but if you want to be the next Jane Fonda, you must cover all your bases – strength, endurance, cardiovascular fitness and flexibility. If all you do is run, your muscle strength and mass will decline eventually, and if all you do is lift weights, your cardiovascular fitness will suffer.

The best way to tick all the boxes is High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). If you start with a long warm-up that involves mobility moves and finish with stretches, you can be done in 45 minutes! Just don’t do HIIT every day. You need at least 48 hours to recover, which doesn’t mean being inactive. You can walk, swim, cycle, and do yoga or any non-intense activities in between.

HIIT has been proven to prevent chronic disease, increase Growth Hormone release, reduce abdominal fat while preserving lean muscle mass, improve V02 max (cardiovascular fitness), reduce blood pressure, improve cardiac function insulin sensitivity, and manage cholesterol/lipids even in the older population.

A study published in the European Heart Journal also concluded that this type of training could keep our cells younger for longer by increasing the telomere length. Another study indicated significant improvements in sleep quality and energy levels after 12 weeks of regular participation.

4. Longer and better recovery

It is not during exercise that most age-related differences are evident, but rather during post-exercise recovery. We recover slower as we age due to various physiological factors, including lower muscle protein synthesis rate (slower muscle repair), lower oxygen supply to the muscles, lower ability to fight free radicals, and hormonal changes.

My best tips include having a sauna after strength training, an ice bath after endurance training, regular foam rolling and or massages, daily mobility work, and stretching, even if it’s just 10 minutes a day. 

Veronika Larisova

Want more? Click here for Ten Of Our Fave Fitness Pieces To Up Your Fitness Game and here for What I Learnt In A 4-Week Fitness Challenge.

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