Fitness After 40

Fitness over 40 – How to thrive as you age with your fitness and health

By: Ben Fogel

I was recently asked by a client about this topic, and more specifically questions around these 3 categories of fitness for folks over the age of 40.  Here were the questions we are going to answer today. 

How does a body over 40:

  1. Work out as effectively and efficiently as possible while avoiding injury?
  2. Gain muscle and flexibility?
  3. Work out for the best cardiovascular health?

How does a body over 40 work out as effectively and efficiently as possible while avoiding injury? 

The secret as you age lies in the adage “little and often over the long haul.”  Being over 40 myself, I am constantly reminded of this.  When I was in my 20’s, intense workout bouts (often two-a-days) were the norm when I was competing in the sport of Bobsled.  Then, as happens more often than not, life (and life goals) change.

Looking in the camera, Winterberg, Germany – 2004

Now, at 42, I am prioritizing my recovery from workouts that are far less frequent.  My goal is to strength train 3x/week, and this is also what we recommend to all of our clients at Epic since it is the most attainable and achievable.  It is also what we find to not only be the best “minimum effective dose” and helps our clients get the best results.  

So, we recommend strength training 3x/week along with prioritizing great sleep, supportive nutrition, and even soft tissue work.  In this way, we are able to hit our workouts with great effort each time.  Trying to go all out every single day is not at all what we recommend.  Although we do support and recommend some sort of movement every day (whether it be walks, rucks, metabolic classes, etc) we don’t recommend training at an all-out intensity every day.  

In addition to this, your workouts should be structured in a way in which you are changing your volume and intensity on a weekly and monthly basis, which will help enhance your recovery and help you stay your strongest as you age.  At Epic Fitness, every member has their very own custom program that will progress in volume and intensity each month.  

Lastly, and probably one of the most important points here – Warming up is often the most highly overrated part of the workout, but is truly the most important piece.  Your body needs the extra time to “ramp up” and prepare for the strength training session.  Elevating your heart rate, and getting your joints mobilized may be the best thing you can do each and every time prior to your workouts.  

How does a body over 40 gain muscle and flexibility?  

Gaining muscle as we age can have many roadblocks, but it is not impossible to accomplish.  As our hormones change, along with many of the other factors above, it can be very hard to realize strength and muscle gains.  However, the best way to maintain (and gain) muscle is with a consistent strength training routine.  

So, to answer the question of if you can actually gain muscle over 40 – we say a resounding YES – but with these qualifiers: 

  • Your level of training volume and intensity is appropriate (3x/week strength training)
  • You are eating sufficient protein daily (at least .7 grams and up to 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight).
  • You are getting minimum 7 hours of sleep a night
  • Your calorie intake is sufficient (not in a calorie deficit of over 200 calories per day)

When it comes to flexibility, the quality of our tissue changes over time.  As we age, our muscles and joints need a little extra TLC to maintain mobility.  Training movements with a full range of motion, along with prioritizing your warm up and tissue quality all become massively important here.  

How does a body over 40 work out best for cardiovascular health?  

For cardiovascular health, one of the best things you can do is strength training.  What you sometimes don’t realize is that when you strength train, there will be large variations in your heart rate.  This is what we want for cardiovascular health, lots of peaks and valleys with your heart rate. 

During a training session, the more you can bring your heart rate up to 75-85% of your max, then recover between 15-20%, the more efficient your heart will become.  In addition, one of the most overrated exercises that you can do ANYWHERE is walking.  Especially when you add some hills, and maybe even a backpack on your back (also known as rucking!). 

As little as 15-20 minutes of walking a day can have such a positive impact not only on your cardiovascular health, but also on your sleep, your mood (catching those Vitamin D waves!) and your overall health.  

Final Thoughts…

I wanted to take a quick moment to talk about how your mindset plays a huge role in all of this.  You can truly improve both the quality and quantity of your life by adopting these lifestyle habits we touched on above.  

It also feels like the entire conversation about aging should be changing for the better.  At this moment, there are scientists out there (Dr. David Sinclair at Harvard has written a landmark book about this called Lifespan) that has proven if you live into the next 10 years, science will have changed so much to change the human lifespan by decades!  Yes, you heard that right.  What we thought were our final years in our 70’s or 80’s will be more like our 100’s to 110’s!  Cell regeneration will be a thing – just imagine every cell in your liver being able to regenerate to the day you were born… this IS the future.  

The reason I am bringing this up is because you STILL have to take care of your body, as you only have one.  Working out, eating healthy, and recovery are all a massively huge part of living your 70’s and 80’s like it is your 40’s and 50’s.  Because, by the time we get there 30 years down the road, that is what we should be ready for.  No longer will we be calling this our “Golden” years, but our likely our gold years where we are still thriving and feeling amazing!  

At least this is the future that I am looking forward to.  I look forward to my next workout, because I know how much it will help me feel great at 85, and still move and feel my best.  

Now, the only question I have for you is this:

Are you with me?!