The Best Exercises for People Over 40, According To Doctors
These workouts will help you from head to toe as you age.
Your life might not magically change once you turn 40, but your body and overall health certainly do. And while you likely didn't have to overanalyze your gym habits before, those weakening bones and increasingly vulnerable muscles make it necessary to adopt new exercise habits now that you're in your 40s. To help you stay in shape—and also avoid injuries and illnesses—we've consulted with doctors to gather the best exercises for folks over 40. And for more exercise advice, here are 40 Great Exercises for Adding Muscle Over 40.
If you're over 40 and you don't work out on the regular, intense cardio training poses the risk of putting too much strain on your heart. That's why Nikola Djordjevic, MD, a family physician and a medical advisor with LoudCloudHealth, suggests jogging instead. This exercise "strengthens your entire body and helps you stay in good shape" without the risk of heart problems. The doctor notes that you should "make sure that you have proper shoes with a soft sole in order to reduce the stress on your joints."
"A good alternative to jogging is speed walking," says Djordjevic. And Lina Velikova, MD, PhD, a clinical immunologist and contributor to DisturbMeNot, also notes that brisk walking "helps your cardiovascular health [and is] also beneficial for mental health. It's a low commitment exercise that anyone can do daily. Around 150 minutes per week is enough for keeping your heart in shape." Looking for more reasons why you should add walking to your exercise routine ASAP? Here are 30 Reasons Why Walking Is the Best Exercise.
According to Djordjevic, "keeping your muscles flexible should be one of your primary goals" once you turn 40. So how do you go about doing this? He recommends yoga, tai chi, and/or pilates, as all of these exercises "will engage your muscles while helping them stretch and thereby stay healthy."
If you want to work on your abs in your 40s and beyond without putting your health on the line, crunches are the way to go. "By crossing your arms across your chest [while] doing crunches, you can avoid pulling on the neck while you exercise," explains Allen Conrad, BS, DC, CSCS ,a certified strength and conditioner specialist (CSCS) with the Montgomery County Chiropractic Center in Pennsylvania. Similarly, the bending of the knees that occurs when you do a crunch allows for a shorter motion that "puts less pressure on your lumbar spinal curve" than sit-ups would.
In the summertime especially, make sure you're taking advantage of the pool. Velikova notes that swimming is a "great cardio exercise that will benefit your cardiovascular health, your muscles, and your joints." The best part? It's not dangerous for joints and muscles. And as you age, keep in mind that This Is How Your Body Changes After 40.
Heel raises, which involve the deliberate lifting and lowering of the heels, are one of the best exercises for people over 40 when it comes to their health. "This [exercise] addresses weakness, balance, range of motion, and coordination in the foot and ankle," explains Jenna Kantor, PT, DPT, owner of Jenna Kantor Physical Therapy PLLC in New York. It might seem like a simple move, but it goes a long way in the fight against age-related health issues.
"Contrary to what some believe, impact exercises help to build your bones up rather than break them down," says Alex Tauberg, DC, CSCS, a Pittsburgh-based chiropractor and emergency responder. "Examples of impact exercises—and therefore some of the best exercises that people over 40 can do—include weightlifting, plyometrics, and even CrossFit when performed correctly." One 2014 study from Georgia Institute of Technology even found that weightlifting can improve long-term memory! And for more health advice, check out these 40 Habits Doctors Wish You'd Adopt After 40.
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