Starting an Exercise Routine: Dos and Don'ts If You're Over 40

Updated on October 12, 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.

Starting to work out when you're 40 or older is very different from when you're in your 20s. By the time you're 40, you're already at an increased risk of some health problems like high blood pressure.

After 40, your body starts to change. You start to lose muscle mass, and your body in general just can't recover as quickly.

All this means that you have to pay attention to your body and start out slowly. Being ready for your workout will help you avoid hurting yourself and get you on the road to achieving your exercise goals.

Before You Get to the Gym


  • Get checked out by a doctor.
  • Get blood work done to make sure you know about any health problems.
  • Ask your doctor to check your medications, both what's prescribed and the dose.
  • Tell your doctor you're starting an exercise program.
  • If your doctor suggests it, also get checked out by a cardiologist.


  • Stop taking any prescribed medication. Working out isn't magic, and it's especially important when you first start to keep up with all doctor prescribed medications.
  • Start your new exercise routine if you're sick or feeling under the weather. You'll struggle, you won't feel good, and it'll make it much harder to find the desire to go back the next day. Wait until you have recovered from any illnesses or sicknesses.

Set Yourself up for Success


  • Find your motivation. Set an overall goal, so that you can tell yourself every day "I'm working out for this goal".
  • Set a schedule that you know you can keep. If you're not a morning person, don't commit to working out at five a.m. every day.
  • Find a gym that's convenient to your home, work, or on your commute. Make it easy for yourself to visit.
  • Visit the gym and get a tour so you know where everything is.


  • Just hope for success. Plan for success. You can make it work!
  • Delay. Follow the guidelines and prepare yourself for success, but don't keep putting it off.

Get the Gear


  • Buy a really good pair of shoes. Look for cross trainers. Running shoes are also okay, but cross trainers will be the best for your work out.
  • Make sure your shoes fit. If they're uncomfortable, you won't want to go back.
  • Wear loose, comfortable, breathable clothes. Same as with your shoes; if you're comfortable with your workout gear, you'll feel better about going back the next day.
  • Get a gym bag. Something big and roomy that is just for your workout gear. It'll get stinky!
  • Get gym shorts or pants. Don't wear jeans or regular pants! Make sure you have something loose that won't chafe or be too tight.
  • Get some gloves. Fingerless are the best way to go. You'll be glad you have them when you start doing weights, or if you get onto pull-ups and dips.
  • Remember a sweat towel. You can use a small hand towel to wipe down the equipment (if your gym doesn't provide wipes), lay it down on the bench (to keep it from getting too sweaty), and wipe excess sweat off your face.


  • Skimp on the shoes. These might be the most important item you buy.
  • Worry about getting the trendiest gear. You can be confident that you won't be the center of attention, regardless of what you're wearing. Go for comfort and functionality over style.

Your First Week


  • Take your time. Be aware of gym etiquette (for instance, some gyms might request that you limit your time on popular cardio machines if the gym is particularly busy), but don't rush yourself. That's how you get hurt.
  • Learn how to warm up. Ask the gym instructors to show you some basic warm-up moves.
  • Listen to your body. If something hurts, slow down or stop. Your body isn't used to working out and it won't help to rush into movements and actions that can cause injury.


  • Overdo it. Starting out, go slow. Figure out what's comfortable to start out.
  • Compare yourself to anyone else. When I started working out, I would look at how fast other people could run on the treadmill, or how much weight they could lift. I tried to push myself and ended up with some very sore joints and muscles. Remember you're doing this to keep healthy.
  • Skip meals. Your body needs fuel. Losing weight is a common goal, and working out will help you achieve that goal. Make sure you're fueling your body in a way that'll support your exercise routine. If you want to address your diet, focus on techniques like portion control. Don't go to the gym on an empty stomach.
  • Get hung up on the numbers. Focus on doing it right. For the first week, don't worry about getting faster. It's much more important to get the proper technique.
  • Mix up your workouts. You'll eventually want to get both cardio and weight training into your workout routine, but don't do this in your first week. Focus on getting into a routine, and learning the right way to walk or run.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


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