You can reap the benefits of getting fit at any age. As well as keeping your health in tip-top condition, exercise can help you to age more gracefully on the outside too.
Still, working out in middle age isn’t the same as working out in your twenties. This advice from fitness experts over 40 will ensure you get the best results from your exercise routine.
I’m Over 40. How Do I Start Working Out?
Whether you used to be a fitness addict or you’ve never given the gym a second thought, fitness experts agree that getting fit takes time when you’re in your forties.
Darrin Hills, who lives in Oregon, began lifting weights for the first time at the age of 45. Now 52, he shares strength training tips and photos of his progress with his 10,000 Instagram followers. He told Newsweek that it’s important to start slow so you don’t burn out before you’ve really begun.
“Allow your body time to recover. Start small and build it up.”
Hills recommends searching online for beginner exercises and programs, as well as choosing activities you can handle while you increase your strength.
“Leave your ego at home,” he said. “Otherwise you’re just going to hurt yourself and quit.”
Celebrity personal trainer Kacy Duke has worked with the likes of Kate Beckinsale and Julianne Moore—and as Inventing Anna viewers will recall, Anna Sorokin. At age 65, Duke is one of America’s most sought-after fitness consultants.
She told Newsweek that your first step should be to experiment with lots of different exercises to find the ones you enjoy the most.
“Life is for living,” she said. “Enjoy the journey of exercise and mix it up. Make it an adventure.”
What Goals Should I Set?
Whether you want to lose weight or improve your upper body strength, the goals you set are personal—but being over 40 doesn’t mean you have to think small. Duke tells all her clients to set goals that challenge them.
“I always tell them to set ‘unrealistic goals’ for themselves. We didn’t get man on the moon by thinking realistically,” she said.
However, she emphasizes that it’s important to do what’s right for your body. “As a personal trainer, I get a lot of people saying ‘I want arms like Jennifer Aniston’ or ‘I want Angelina Jolie’s legs.’ Let’s get back to what we need.”
Hills believes consistency is a goal all exercise newbies should strive for. Recording your results will help you to track progress and stay motivated, he said.
“Change isn’t going to happen overnight, but if you stay the course, then you’ll see the results.”
How Many Days a Week Should I Work Out If I’m 40?
Duke recommends exercising every day, but it doesn’t always have to be a strenuous activity—the American Heart Association says even light exercise can help prevent heart disease. It can be something as simple as a walk, a few minutes of squats or meditation to calm your mind.
“Set yourself up for success. Even if you just do five minutes a day, your body will crave more,” she said.
It’s also important to fit exercise around your daily life and find a routine that works for you. Duke encourages a variety of exercises, covering flexibility, balance, strength and endurance.
“‘Make fitness a part of your life’ sounds like such a cliché,” she said. “But it’s true.”
How Long Does It Take to See Results?
It depends on your goals but, according to Duke, you can see the results of exercise from day one. “I can see how it changes people from the first moment. You can see it in their attitude, their skin and how their insides feel.”
In the long term, results vary on an individual basis. “It depends on how fast your body builds muscle, burns fat and so on,” she said.
If you remain consistent, it should take roughly three to six months to see real results from lifting weights, according to Hills, but this varies from person to person. Your diet and other lifestyle choices play a role too.
“You need to get your diet set, your sleep schedule set, your water intake needs to be up,” he said. “It can take a few months. It’s a lifestyle, but don’t settle. Shoot for the stars.”
How Do I Lose Weight Using Exercise After 40?
If you want to lose weight after 40, strength training should be a key part of your fitness regime, Hills said. Studies show that the additional muscle you build burns more calories at rest and over time can lead to similar levels of fat loss as cardio.
“With cardio, you’re burning today’s calories. When you’re building muscle, you’re burning yesterday’s calories too,” Hills said.
Being open to changing your routine is also important to avoid a weight loss plateau.
“Whether it’s your diet or your fitness routine, when you stop seeing results, get ready for a change. There’s going to be lulls, but you can push through it,” he said.
Duke agrees it’s important to be honest about whether your regime is working for you. “You have to be able to look at yourself and say, ‘This isn’t working for me, I need to do something different. You need to get excited about it and claim your power back.”
How to Start Working Out at Home
Hills believes it’s not where you work out that’s important, but the desire to get fitter.
“You don’t need fancy equipment to get started,” he said. “It’s amazing what you can do just using your own body weight. It’s more about being committed and saying, ‘I’ll make this work.'”
Duke agrees. “Walk outside, dance around the house, bike—just get started. Invest time in finding things that work for you.”