Why Exercise is Important After the Age of 40

Exercise after 40 becomes even more important as we continue to age. No matter how much or how little you exercised in the past, it is never too late to start again. But what is important is that you and I commit ourselves to improving our health starting now. According to research by the Duke University School of Medicine, our bodies and health begin to decline before the age of 50 and it continues to decline as we get older.

As we get older, we lose bone and muscle mass, women’s estrogen levels begin to decline; men we lose testosterone over time – 1% a year after the age of 40. We increase our odds at cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis (thin bones) over time. We begin to pick up weight, (3 – 4 pounds a year) and it becomes harder to drop the added weight along with your increasing LDL (bad cholesterol).

This is where regular exercise comes into play. Exercise is extremely important in helping to guard against the enemies of the 40 and over population.

So, if you and I want to continue to enjoy our time with our kids, our grandkids; and do all the things that bring us joy; this is not done by living longer, but living a high quality of life with great health.

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What is Exercise and How Much Exercise Do You Need?

We know that exercise is important for everyone to live a much more healthy and happy life, but what is exercise? We hear the word “exercise” and we immediately think of working out at the local gym, taking a jog in the park, playing a game of pickup basketball, or spending time with your spouse in a game of tennis.

According to the National Institute of Health (NIH),

Exercise is a subset of physical activity that is planned, structured, and repetitive and has as a final or an intermediate objective for the improvement or maintenance of physical fitness. Physical fitness is a set of attributes that are either health- or skill-related. 

Ok, so if you are like me, you probably re-read that definition two or three times. In short, exercise means to get up and move your body as you are able. What I found interesting is the phrase “physical activity”, which does not necessarily constitute gym or sports-related activity. Research published by The PMJ (Post Medical Journal) defined physical activity not only as exercise but as “incidental activity” such as housework, shopping, gardening or simply taking a walk. The kind of physical activity is less important compared to the frequency and intensity of the activity being performed. 

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has established a Physical Activity Guideline that reads,


  • Adults should move more and sit less throughout the day. Some physical activity is better than none. Adults who sit less and do any amount of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity gain some health benefits.
  • For substantial health benefits, adults should do at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) to 300 minutes (5 hours) a week of moderate-intensity physical activity.
  • Or 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) to 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity.
  • Or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity. Preferably, aerobic activity should be spread throughout the week.
  • Additional health benefits are gained by engaging in physical activity beyond the equivalent of 300 minutes (5 hours) of moderate-intensity physical activity a week.
  • Adults should also do muscle-strengthening activities of moderate or greater intensity and that involve all major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week, as these activities provide additional health benefits.

Older Adults

The key guidelines for adults also apply to older adults. In addition, the following key guidelines are just for older adults:

  • As part of their weekly physical activity, older adults should do multicomponent physical activity that includes balance training as well as aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities.
  • Older adults should determine their level of effort for physical activity relative to their level of fitness.
  • Older adults with chronic conditions should understand whether and how their conditions affect their ability to do regular physical activity safely.
  • When older adults cannot do 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week because of chronic conditions, they should be as physically active as their abilities and conditions allow.

Can exercise get any more complicated? We now have to discern between Moderate-Intensity Aerobic Physical Activity, Vigorous-Intensity Aerobic Physical Activity a mix between the two, along with balance and muscle training – Ay-ay-ay!

But no worries, I’m here to help you understand this better.

Moderate-Intensity Aerobic Physical Activity (Moderate-Intensity Aerobic Exercise)

  • Walking briskly
  • Mowing the lawn
  • Light bicycling
  • Dancing
  • Water Aerobics
  • Golf (Walking the course)

Vigorous-Intensity Aerobic Physical Activity (Vigorous-Intensity Aerobic Exercise)

  • Speed Walking (4+ mph)
  • Jogging/running
  • Bicycling (10+ mph)
  • Swimming
  • Aerobics
  • Basketball
  • Tennis (Playing singles)

So, a few things of note:

  1. In case you were wondering, yes, there is a Light Intensity Aerobic Physical Activity. But it does not increase your heart rate.
  2. To meet the HHS guidelines, you can mix both Moderate and Vigorous-Intensity Aerobic Physical Activities during the week.
  3. To help you know if you are performing Moderate and Vigorous-Intensity Aerobic Physical Activities correctly you can perform the “talk test.” If you are able to talk, but not sing while performing Moderate-Intensity Aerobic Physical Activities then you are  doing it right. If you are unable to say more than a few words without taking a breath while performing Vigorous-Intensity Aerobic Physical Activities then you are doing it right.
Exercise after 40

Balance Training

As we grow older having good balance becomes increasingly important. The interesting thing is that most of us don’t think of improving our balance when it comes to a healthy lifestyle. But as we grow older and without proper balance, we increase our chances of falls which will make us more dependent on the help of others.

Improving balance includes strengthening your legs and core helping to improve and maintain stability. Here are activities to improve your balance:

  • Tai chi
  • Yoga
  • Walking heel to toe
  • Standing on one leg and raising the other leg behind you

Muscle-Strengthening Training

Muscle-strength training can be done in a gym or at home with a focus on an entire body workout. It would be beneficial and highly suggested to work with a trained, certified professional/instructor.

How to Exercise

  2. If you take medication(s) and if your goal is to reduce/get off the medication(s); BE SURE TO CONTINUE TO TAKE ALL MEDICATIONS AS PRESCRIBED WORKING WITH YOUR DOCTOR.
  3. Set a health goal and create a plan that includes exercise and a healthy eating plan to achieve your goal.
  4. Depending on your current activity level, start slow, and build your way up to the HHS guidelines.
  5. Don’t eat two hours prior to exercising, but drink plenty of water before, during, and after.
  6. Warm-up before you exercise and cool down after you exercise.
  7. Be sure to wear clothing that is comfortable and right for exercising.
  8. Listen to your body. As we age, we do not recover as quickly as we did when we were younger. So, don’t ignore aches and pains or nagging injuries. It is better to take a day or two off as opposed to being down and out for an extended period of time.
  9. Choose activities that you enjoy. Chances of you sticking with an exercise routine greatly increase when you enjoy what you are doing.
  10. Learn how to properly use all gym equipment as well as the correct form for each exercise you perform.

Final Thought

As you age it is extremely important that you remain active through physical activity. Physical activity can range from exercising to mowing the lawn. The type of physical activity is less important than the level of intensity of the activity being performed.

You should aim for at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) to 300 minutes (5 hours) a week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity, or 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) to 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of the two.

It is important to also add balance and strength training into your routine.

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Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans 2nd edition. (2018). Retrieved from https://health.gov/sites/default/files/2019-09/Physical_Activity_Guidelines_2nd_edition.pdf

Caspersen, C. J., Powell, K. E., & Christenson, G. M. (1985). Physical activity, exercise, and physical fitness: definitions and distinctions for health-related research. Public health reports (Washington, D.C. : 1974)100(2), 126–131. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1424733/#:~:text=Exercise%20is%20a%20subset%20of,health%2D%20or%20skill%2Drelated.

Katherine S. Hall, Harvey J. Cohen, Carl F. Pieper, Gerda G. Fillenbaum, William E. Kraus, Kim M. Huffman, Melissa A. Cornish, Andrew Shiloh, Christy Flynn, Richard Sloane, L. Kristin Newby, Miriam C. Morey, Physical Performance Across the Adult Life Span: Correlates With Age and Physical Activity, The Journals of Gerontology: Series A, Volume 72, Issue 4, 1 April 2017, Pages 572–578, https://doi.org/10.1093/gerona/glw120

Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans 2nd edition. (2018). Retrieved from https://health.gov/sites/default/files/2019-09/Physical_Activity_Guidelines_2nd_edition.pdf

Taylor D. Physical activity is medicine for older adults. Postgraduate Medical Journal 2014;90:26-32. https://pmj.bmj.com/content/90/1059/26

Images by Photo by Damir Spanic on Unsplash and David Mark from Pixabay 

2 responses to “Why Exercise is Important After the Age of 40”

  1. Nice article! Personally I’m a fan of resistance exercise even before aerobic training- as it protects against atrophy, builds muscle mass and improves bone density (important factors with age). Regardless, exercise for older adults is essential, much respect for putting the info out there!

  2. […] you’re just starting out, then it might be difficult at first. However, the more often that you work out or eat healthy meals consistently, the more natural it will become over time. When you stay […]

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