How to Start Exercising When You Turn 40

Updated on September 24, 2019
Ian Mundell profile image

Ian started working out at age 40 and has since learned a lot about motivation, success, and developing a fitness routine.

Some people get started with a gym routine as a young adult and just keep going. Maybe they got into a routine that worked for them, or it’s been a habit for so many years that they can’t imagine stopping a hobby that they genuinely enjoy.

But this article is for someone who’s never maintained a consistent gym routine and now knows they have to start exercising. That’s where I was when I turned 40 and started working out.

Why Start Now?

A common myth is that starting to work out after years, or even decades, of leading a sedentary lifestyle won't be beneficial. Nothing could be further from the truth! No matter where you are, starting a workout routine (if done properly—more on that in a moment) is a sensible move to make.

  • At 40, you start to lose muscle mass. Working out can mitigate that natural loss.
  • The age of 40 is also when a number of physical ailments start to show up. Regular exercise will help with balance, weight control, blood pressure, and all kinds of other issues.
  • Type 2 diabetes becomes much more prevalent at age 45. But you can reduce your risk by maintaining a healthy weight and getting into a consistent workout routine.

Check With a Doctor First

Before we start, there's a vitally important point that needs to be emphasized. This is especially necessary for someone who hasn't been working out and decides to start at age 40 or older. You need to get a checkup from a doctor before you start visiting the gym. Let's look at why this is so important.

There are a number of health issues that you might never know about until you get a checkup. The biggest one is high blood pressure. You might have heard it called the silent killer. That's because it can develop without giving any warning signs. But even without knowing it's there, the disease can still kill you.

There could be other health concerns that might limit the intensity or the types of exercise that are safe for you. Only your doctor can say for sure.

The most important reason for working out is to take care of yourself; you need to take care to avoid overexerting or injuring yourself.

1 in 4 adult Americans have high blood pressure. If you're 35 or older, or if you're overweight, you have a higher risk of developing high blood pressure.

The Two Most Important Steps to Success

You might hear people enthusing about working out. For some people, working out is something they truly enjoy, and they look forward to each workout session.

You've probably heard about the natural rush that comes from exercise. This is backed up with science, and you'll find it's true; coming out of a workout session, you'll probably find that you feel happier or more content in some way.

But for most people, especially if you haven't been accustomed to a regular workout schedule, that may not be enough to overcome the natural objections. We'll look at those objections and how to get past.

1. Decide What Motivates You

Ask yourself why it is important to you to exercise. It might be your family; you want to be around to watch your children grow up and go to college, or you don't want to leave your partner alone. If you don't exercise, then there's an increased risk of heart attack or other serious (or even fatal) health issues. For other people, it could be you have a long term professional goal—you want to be a partner in your law firm, or you want to run your own business.

Once you've decided what is the most important reason for you to stay fit and live a long and healthy life, make sure you continually remind yourself of that reason.

When I started exercising, I set a very specific reason as to why I was doing it: I wanted to see my child graduate from college. That timeline was far enough away that I knew I had to get into shape, or I risked facing health problems that could interfere with that desire.

There are some mornings my alarm goes off and I really don't want to get out of the warm bed and work out. I tell myself, "you're doing this for your child," and it motivates me to get on my way.

2. Set Yourself Up for Success: Pick a Time You Know You Can Keep

By the time I finish my workday, I'm ready to go home. I have a long commute, about an hour each way, and if I've had a busy day at work then my drive home is especially appealing; I find it relaxing and a great way to wind down.

Because I enjoy my drive home, I knew I wouldn't be successful if I tried to work out at the end of the day. It'd be too tempting for me to skip exercising and instead get straight in the car.

I also know that working out at lunchtime isn't for me; meetings before and after lunch don't give me a lot of time, and I feel too rushed.

Instead, I work out first thing in the morning, before I get to my desk. It's a routine that fits my personality; I don't feel rushed, I'm not being pulled by other demands on my time, and so it's much easier for me to stick to that time slot.

Be honest with yourself, and pick a time that is best for you. Whether it's morning, noon, or night, make sure you get into a regular time slot which makes it as easy as possible for you to stick with it and not find excuses.

Exercise for You—Not for Anyone Else

No matter how much time they spend at the gym, very few people will end up looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger. But it's still tempting to get caught up in how much you can bench-press, or looking at the guy who's always there at the same time as you and can do a dumbbell curl with heavier weights than you.

Stop! I had to remind myself why I was doing this—for me, and for my family. Straining to lift heavier weights because I saw other men at my gym who could lift more than me was pointless. It's also dangerous: if you push yourself too hard and you haven't been working out regularly in the past, you risk putting too much strain on your body, hurting yourself, tearing muscles, and damaging your heart health.

  • Go at your own pace;
  • Keep sight of your own personal motivation;
  • Set yourself up for success with a schedule that you know you can keep.

Stay healthy!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


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