How to Exercise Safely and Effectively in Your 30s, 40s, 50s, and Beyond

Fitness tips for staying strong and injury-free as you age.

According to the American College of Sports Medicine, adults ages 18 to 65 should stay active by balancing moderate and vigorous aerobic activity with exercises for muscle strength and endurance. In other words: Physical activity should be a constant part of your daily routine, whether you’re 25, 32, 46 or 65. But as you do more laps around the sun and your body and physical needs change, your exercise routine and fitness priorities should adjust.

Staying active and regulating your physical activity not only improves your mental and physical health, but also reduces your risk of developing life-threatening illness or injury from a fall. We should all be actively working on improving our posture and flexibility. By doing this, we can develop and maintain good movement patterns and avoid musculoskeletal injuries.

We all know that our bodies change as we age. As we age, we may experience a decline in flexibility, range of motion, muscle strength, muscle mass and balance. But by staying active, we strive to keep ourselves as active and healthy as possible (exercise is also essential for brain health and mood management). Here are some great tips on how to adapt and develop an exercise program that is safe, healthy and effective through your 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s.

How to Exercise in Your 30s

Add mobile work
If you were active in your 20s, you probably scoffed at the idea of taking a day off, or taking the time to properly stretch after a workout class. However, as you enter your 30s, you may start to notice more soreness and longer post-workout recovery times. This is normal, but also a gentle push of your body to develop your mobility, mobility work can help you increase flexibility, reduce soreness, and activate the proper muscles during your workout.

In our 20s, we tend to exercise which muscles we tend to exercise without thinking. As we age, it becomes increasingly important to develop the correct muscles to balance the body.

An example is that we have strength in the front of our body (aka our quadriceps) due to walking forward, but many people struggle with hip strength due to sitting. Adding 10 minutes of mobility exercises to activate your glutes before your workout will help you engage the correct muscles and balance the front and back of your body, says Neville. Good beginner mobility exercises include walking lunges, heel raises, and neck circles.

Built-In Strength Training
All people, especially women, naturally begin to lose muscle mass in their 30s. To combat this decrease, we can increase muscle gain and strength training workouts instead of focusing only on cardio. It is recommended to target various parts of the body and to alternate them throughout the week.

This might look like bicep curls and overhead presses for arm days, weighted leg raises and squats for leg days, and squat presses and weighted side lunges for a full-body workout. In addition to improving muscle definition and mass, strength training increases metabolism and enhances mobility.

1. Start following your form
As we hit our 30s, we may start to notice that our balance and stamina are not as easy to maintain as they were a few years ago. Flexibility is one of those skills that you lose if you don’t practice it, and it may take more time and patience as you blow out more birthday candles. That’s why we need to start paying more attention to details like form and keeping our bodies injury-free.

It’s important to start doubling down on flexibility and flexibility in your 30s so you can lay the groundwork for the shift in exercise programs that will occur in the decades to come. We can achieve this by implementing functional exercises with TRX, such as bodyweight training or suspension training.

2. Keep Your Cardio Active
Women in their 30s are especially prone to insulin resistance due to metabolic changes in adrenal and thyroid hormones. To combat this, invest in a cardio routine that you can follow and maintain.

Whether it’s road or mountain biking, indoor cycling classes, boot camp or jogging, the goal is to keep your heart rate elevated for long periods of time. Aerobic exercise should be done four to five times a week for 30 to 60 minutes each time.

How to Exercise in Your 40s

Squeeze Into “Slack” Workouts
For most of us, our 40s are characterized by hectic activity as we all try to juggle childcare, work demands, caring for aging parents, and our personal time generally feeling very limited. These years can be filled with memories and progress, but they can also leave little time for the gym.

Do what you can to incorporate “idle” exercise into your day, such as taking the stairs instead of the escalator, or taking an hour-long walk during your lunch break. You can also park away from the grocery store, for example, or even engage your child in active play by having a “sprint” race in the backyard. The goal is to squeeze in as many activities as possible.

energize your warm up
Once we hit our 40s, our joint health, function and cardiovascular regulation start to take over. At this stage, we should be looking to use our exercise programs to enhance our activities of daily living. But many people in their 40s are turning to a sedentary lifestyle. This can create challenges for our bodies, such as tight muscle groups that cause pain points in the body that limit our movement.

This is an ideal time to start paying more attention to our warm-ups, energizing them with jumping jacks, squats, and inchworms. Taking the time to ensure our bodies are ready to work through physical endurance will reduce injuries and perform better.

Mix it up for a low-impact workout
Once a woman hits her 40s, some dramatic changes take place in the brain and body: As the ovaries shrink, levels of progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone begin to drop. Leaving the adrenals to make up for the slack in hormones. With more work on the adrenal glands, women in their 40s must be extra careful balancing the stress-inducing workouts they once tolerated well in their 20s and 30s with more nurturing, low-impact exercise.

Women in their 40s typically notice a dramatic loss in muscle mass due to a rapid decline in testosterone and human growth hormone (HGH) production. To combat this, Peltz recommends alternating one to three days of low-intensity exercise, such as yoga, hiking, and walking, with one to three days of strength and muscle-building exercises, such as Pilates, TRX, kettlebells, and weightlifting.” This balance will have a calming effect on hormones – which may start to spiral out of control – while supporting muscle tone and strength.

How to Exercise in Your 50s

good start if you’ve been inactive
As bone mass and density decrease over time, this makes our bodies more vulnerable to potential damage. So if you’re not staying active and want to start exercising more regularly, Kelly says it’s crucial to start slowly. For example, start with water aerobics and work your way up to hill walking as your muscles begin to strengthen. Women over 50 may need more time to recover from injuries, so allow a day or two of rest between workouts.

listen to your body
We may be focusing on retirement in our 50s and we start enjoying a slower pace of life, but that doesn’t make exercising any less important. Some might argue that this becomes even more important if we want to chase future grandchildren and travel the world. We need to make sure our exercise programs are designed around keeping the engine running smoothly in our body. Measure how long it takes you to recover from a workout, and use that to create an exercise program that fits what your body is telling you.

Incorporate different workouts, such as swimming or yoga, rather than just super-strength cardio. Functionality is key at this stage of life, and helping your body move efficiently with things like squats or hinges will help keep the clock ticking.

continue strength training
Neville reiterated that strength training is so necessary as we age because muscle mass helps the body burn more calories than fat at rest. Additionally, postmenopausal women lose muscle mass, so focusing on this early and consistently will maintain strength and fitness.

While Neville says weights are preferred, resistance bands can also be influential. Try to allow rest days between lifts to prevent injury. As you add strength to your routine, you should also maintain low-impact cardio, and combining cycling and walking will ensure you get the cardiovascular benefits you need to keep your heart healthy.

Exercising in your 60s (and beyond)

Don’t Discount Baby Steps
While you may have been a marathon runner in the past, it’s important not to push yourself to give it your all in your 60s. After all, no one goes from couch potato to Olympic athlete overnight. It all starts with making different decisions, like walking instead of driving short distances. Or stand instead of sit while chatting on the phone. Then, gradually add in longer cardio, strength training, and flexibility components to keep you on your toes.

The goal is simple, to keep moving no matter how many times you orbit the sun. The more sedentary you are, the more your muscles, joints, and other body parts start to freeze. The reality is that as we age, we deal with more pain, many of which become part of our daily lives. Sitting still will only make them worse. The moral of the story: stay active, and don’t make yourself guilty if your workouts are easy—they’re still working to keep you strong.

Make every workout a full-body workout
While people often think that breaking up workouts into “arm days” or “leg days” is the ideal way to build strength, that’s really just one approach that should be used for bodybuilding goals. Instead, those in their 60s should focus on having a more general approach to fitness. Full-body training boosts your metabolism more than daily training. Think about including presses, pulls, planks, rotations, squats, and split-positional moves like lunges in every workout.

strive for symmetry
When you add more candles to your birthday cake, you’re bound to get some bumps, scratches, aches and pains in the process. It’s all part of a whole life, but it can sometimes make one of us stronger than the other. However, we can correct old injuries and imbalances through consistent fitness.

Single-limb exercises are a great option for older adults because they can help expose left and right weaknesses. Building strength and symmetry in the body is the best way to develop core strength, balance and proper movement. ”

If you’re not sure how to get started, don’t hesitate to make an appointment with an expert. It is recommended that those 60+ find an experienced physical therapist who can work with qualified trainers to help with specific issues and injuries, provide specialized movements, and safely target weaknesses and imbalances.