Now, we’re not saying that walking isn’t an effective exercise for people of all ages. It’s an accessible form of gentle cardiovascular exercise, an excellent form of moving meditation and can be a great way to catch up with loved ones.
But when it comes to getting an exhilarating workout that’s fun but will supercharge strength and metabolism, improve bone density, reduce body fat, and build lean muscle tissue—super essential as we age—you might be wondering what more you can do to cover your bases.
Getting—and staying fit—as you age doesn't mean resigning yourself to endless walks or settling for a snoozy gym routine, sleepwalking from one machine to the next. It's the perfect time to shake things up, try something new, and sculpt the body you've always wanted.
Exercise forms the cornerstone of a healthy lifestyle, especially as we age beyond 40. Diversifying your workout routine not only keeps things interesting but also ensures a holistic approach to fitness.
Here are six effective forms of fitness supported by science for the 40-plus crowd.
1. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
HIIT might just be your calling if you've ever wanted to feel like a Marvel star in training. Short bursts of high-intensity exercises and brief rest periods make this workout efficient and adaptable for any fitness level. Imagine unleashing your inner superhero at a place like F45 or Barry's Bootcamp. These studios offer killer HIIT sessions, and research published in the British Medical Journal shows that HIIT training lowers the causes of all mortality compared to moderate-intensity exercise.
If you think these studios are geared towards a younger member base, several Ontario owners say the average member is actually 40-plus. These studios offer fitness for everyone, with coaches standing by to modify, progress and regress movements at all times—no matter where you’re in your fitness journey.
2. Strength Training
Strength training isn't just for bodybuilders; it's a key ingredient in the recipe for a strong and resilient body. Whether you're lifting weights or mastering bodyweight exercises, the goal is to build and maintain lean muscle mass and bone density, especially since, according to Harvard, we lose 3 to 5% of muscle mass per decade and 1% of our bone density every year after the age of 40 and regular resistance training not only helps to slow that process, it can even help build bone density.
Drop by your local gym and inquire about personal training options, or take a strength-focused group exercise class at a nearby box gym or boutique fitness studio to take the guesswork out of programming resistance workouts that will leave you feeling empowered and strong.
3. Functional Fitness
If you worry about struggling to climb stairs, carry objects, get off the floor or reach overhead 20 or 30 years from now—a regular functional fitness routine can help prevent. Functional training is a form of fitness that focuses on training the body to perform everyday activities more efficiently and safely, things like bending, lifting, twisting, and reaching, to improve overall strength, balance, flexibility, and coordination.
Squats, farmers’ walks, and get-ups are exercises you’d see in a functional training routine. Simply search “functional training” near me, and you’re sure to get a ton of local studios nearby that offer this proven training method for reducing your risk of injury and improving your quality of life, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Both mat and reformed pilates are designed to strengthen our core and improve flexibility through targeted exercises, with the difference being that reformer pilates incorporates specialized equipment (aptly called the reformer) that provides enhanced resistance and support, offering a more comprehensive full-body workout. In addition to core and flexibility benefits, Harvard says that pilates is also a great form of fitness for boosting energy concentration and improving body mechanics, posture and balance.
Another thing we love about it is that it still provides a highly effective workout without the high-impact stress. Search for local Pilates or Pilates-fusion studios near you, get ready to feel the burn in all the right places, and walk out with a posture that announces confidence.
There are countless forms of yoga to try, and before you raise an eyebrow, know that yoga isn't just for the flexible Instagram crowd; it's an excellent way to improve flexibility, balance, and mental well-being. The most common styles of yoga are Hatha, Vinyasa, Ashtanga, lyengar, Kundalini, Bikram (hot yoga), Yin, and restorative yoga—and all of them can be suitable depending on fitness level and personal interest—so we recommend reading up on each type or doing a trial at a studio near you that offers multiple styles to discover what you like best.
The benefits of yoga have been well-studied for centuries and span mental health and physical upsides, ranging from a calm nervous system and reduced stress to increased focus and concentration, better range of motion and balance, and so much more.
6. Circuit Training: Where Cardio Meets Strength
Circuit training is the multitasker's dream. It’s a combination workout of cardio and strength moves that some studios may call a hybrid class where you move seamlessly from one exercise to the next, blending strength and cardiovascular training into a dynamic routine.
Not only is circuit training great for cardiovascular health, but it’s also proven to improve muscle strength and endurance, boost metabolic rate—even at rest—supports healthy weight loss, and is incredibly time efficient, meaning you are in and out in no time. The constant variety will keep you engaged, and the results will speak for themselves.
About the Author
Alicia is a journalist and editor in digital and print media specializing in health, nutrition, fitness, and wellness. She was previously the Editorial Director of Clean Eating and Vegetarian Times. Her work has also appeared in Hone Health The Edge, Yoga Journal, Women’s Running, and Oxygen, among others. In addition to being a content creator, she's an ISSA-certified nutritionist, certified personal trainer, and fitness studio owner in Toronto. Alicia loves spreading the word about helpful, science-backed health information, and she can be contacted via her website at aliciamtyler.com