From resistance training to cardio and mobility exercises, here’s how to build a fitness routine to help guard against future age-related concerns

Your 40s have the potential to be your fittest period yet. It’s an opportunity to revisit your regime, wave goodbye to past exercise mistakes and to shift your priorities towards long-term protection of your body.

“Predominantly, clients in their 40s have similar goals as to when they were in their 20s and 30s: to shed fat and gain muscle,” says personal trainer (PT), Julia Buckley. However, those in their 40s might find that what helped in previous decades isn’t as effective now.

So, what does the best exercise regime look like in your 40s – and what do you need to be aware of before you get started or make any changes?

Age-related weight gain

Losing weight is a common goal Julia notices among her clients in her 40s, often as a result of unnoticed lifestyle shifts. “When we take an honest look, we’ll find [the client’s] eating habits are different, or additional demands mean they’re not as active,” she says.

However, it can also be down to natural changes in the body, such as age-related muscle reduction, which can begin as early as your 30s and can lead to weight gain. “The more muscle we have, the more energy we burn,’ says Julia. “If we haven't taken care to counteract [muscle loss] with strength training, it could be that the reduced amount of muscle on the body is contributing to increased body fat and making our old cardio workouts less effective.”

Perimenopause in your 40s

Reduced muscle mass, together with lower bone density, can happen during perimenopause, which Julia names “the biggest change women experience in their 40s”.

Exercise can work wonders in this respect, together with aiding other signs and symptoms, such as poor sleep and low mood.

Exercising for posture

If you’ve neglected your posture in previous decades, your 40s is a common time for issues to arise (like injury or back pain), according to Julia – bringing it higher on your fitness agenda. “In your 40s, being able to move easily and comfortably, with good posture, are among the biggest wins,” she says.

Guarding against future age-related concerns

You may also be exercising preventatively, especially if you’re concerned with guarding against heart disease, so include cardiovascular activity in your workouts to help strengthen your heart health.

Exercising may also help reduce the ageing process. “If we exercise well and consistently, our actual cells age less, meaning, in effect, we are younger than if we weren’t exercising,’ says Julia.

How to get into shape in your 40s

While your motivation might be different in your 40s, Julia stresses that your age doesn’t need to dictate your fitness regime – “chronological age is not a very important factor at all” – but rather your individual ability. So, let go of the feeling you have to adjust radically simply because of issues like perimenopause, which “don’t actually change much about what an ideal fitness plan looks like”.

What is worth embracing is the most vital asset we have in our 40s: our mindset. Julia notices greater “motivation” and “self-awareness” among her clients beyond this age, with an emphasis on finding a “sustainable, realistic” approach.

How much exercise should you do in your 40s?

The NHS recommends we aim to do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activities a week, spread evenly over four to five days, and incorporating strength activities that work all the major muscle groups on at least two days a week.

A good regime for beginners, might look like “three to four workouts per week of about 30 minutes each,” Julia recommends. While Julia emphasises paying attention to your individual needs, an ideal regime “should be a mix of muscle building, cardiovascular exercise and mobility”. And, ”don't just pick your favourite one… we need them all,” she adds.

But before you start any new exercise regime, visit your GP who can help ensure it’s tailored to your needs.

What are the best exercises to do in your 40s?

Muscle building

To maintain muscle mass, Julia recommends full body moves performed unilaterally (ie, with a single arm or leg at a time). Examples include press-ups, lunges, squats, pull-ups and step-ups, with body weight or the help of free weights or bands (see product recommendations below).


The scope is broad. Julia recommends “anything you enjoy and can safely do” – ie, as long as there’s no specific medical reason, nothing should be out of bounds in your 40s.

She suggests starting low impact, but then building up to higher impact exercise, such as running or high intensity interval training (HIIT), if you can. “If done properly, it will help strengthen and protect your joints,” she says.

Your cardio workouts could take place outdoors, which “has the added benefits of getting out in the fresh air and exposure to natural light”, says Julia. Examples include walking, cycling, outdoor classes, open water swimming, stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking, climbing or bouldering, HIIT in the park or, if it’s your thing, team sports, such as a weekly netball team.

Indoor workouts might take place at a gym on a running machine or rower, or even on a home spinning machine – but can be as simple and affordable as a cardio routine in your living room. Julia offers a range of different workout videos on her website – think step ups, jacks, burpees, high knees, mountain climbers, kicks and other combat-style moves, such as air squats, lunges and side shuttles.


We already know (hopefully) the value of stretching before and after a workout. But integrating mobility-supporting moves is just as important, says Julia.

This might look like a yoga regime, but if that’s not your thing, try integrating into your cardio or strength-training workouts moves that help your range of movement.

Examples include good mornings (where you bend from the waist with a flat back while standing up – see them in action in the YouTube video, below); switching from a plank on all fours to downward dog; and military march, where you march in place with arms and legs kept completely straight.

The best exercise equipment for exercising in your 40s

If you’re new to strength training, investing in a set of free weights is useful. For beginners, this might look like a set of three – light, medium and heavy – starting with a 1.5kg, 3kg and 5kg.

Another budget and travel-friendly addition is fitness bands, recommends Julia. Finally, investing in a yoga mat (which can be used for everything from at-home HIIT to stretching) “is more comfortable” than a carpet or ad-hoc towel solution, and unrolling it creates a useful “ritual that switches us into workout mode”, adds Julia.

Primal Strength Premium Home Dumbbell Pair 3kg

• Shaped to prevent rolling

• Compact

Tight on space? These compact weights can be conveniently tucked and stored away, making them perfect for at-home training.

Activity Superstore 3 Month Wellness & Yoga Subscription

• Three-month subscription

Turn your living room into a yoga studio with this three-month subscription to classes, brought to you by Movement for Modern Life. Sessions range from two minutes to 90 minutes, so you can easily fit your practice into a packed working week.

Primal Strength Premium Yoga Mat

• Length: 1.8m

• Width: 61cm

• Material: rubber

Switch into workout mode with a swift unfurl of this yoga mat. Built for comfort and grip, it’ll help take some of the strain off knees and joints.

Feeling inspired? Try Julia’s Tyger #1 - Strength Workout where she demonstrates a range of moves incorporating dumbbells and kettlebells to help with form and technique