In today’s missive, I want to share some thoughts on “fitness over 40.”

To frame this up, I recently received an email that asked about three specific categories of fitness for people over 40.

How does an over 40 body:

  1. Work out as effectively as possible but avoid injury?
  2. Gain muscle and flexibility?
  3. Work out for the best cardiovascular health?

How does an over 40 body work out as effectively as possible but avoid injury?

Older humans can still train hard, but not as frequently. Recovery from intense workouts, even when supported by proper sleep, nutrition, and soft tissue work, will take longer.

Crudely, this means it’s ok to go really hard 1x-3x per week. Trying to smash it every single day is no bueno! To be clear, I fully support (and recommend!) more frequent training bouts. There’s nothing wrong with being active every day. You just don’t want to train at all-out intensity every day.

In addition to variations within a week, it’s important to vary intensity within a month or quarter. It’s ok to purposely push your limits some weeks. Balance these weeks with other weeks of lower overall intensity.

(Long time Ninjas will recognize this weekly ebb and flow as a foundation of our small group personal training, classes, and Snatched programming. So if you’re training with MFF, we’ve already got you covered here.

Warming up is important for every age group, but to state the obvious, it gets even more crucial as we age. Your body needs more time to “rev up.” Raising your core body temperature, elevating your heart rate, and mobilizing your joints will help keep you feeling good AND lead to better workouts.

Also of note: recovery from injury takes longer as we age. While some bumps and bruises are inevitable for highly active people, there are ways to mitigate this. Namely, the strategies above!

How does an older body gain muscle and flexibility?

Gaining muscle, while not impossible, does get harder as we age. In addition to the factors mentioned above, our hormones change over time. However, we can maintain much of our muscle mass with adequate strength training.

Is it possible to gain muscle over 40? While everyone is different, if you cross your i’s and dot your t’s with appropriate volume and intensity of training, sufficient protein and caloric intake, and get your rest, modest gains are also possible. And in fact, if you’re relatively “de-trained” and haven’t been doing any weight training, you can expect to see progress here.

When it comes to flexibility, our tissue quality also changes over time. No longer the laughy taffy of our youth, our muscles and joints will need extra care and time to maintain mobility. Once again warming up, training with a full range of motion, and attending to soft tissue work become even more important.

How does an older body work out for the best cardiovascular health?

As discussed above, cardiovascular health can be supported with 1-3x hard (and shorter) workouts like HIIT and a few more days of less-demanding “steady state” training where the heart rate stays mostly in the aerobic zone (crudely 110-130is bpm).

While training to create targeted performance adaptations is beyond the scope of this post, you can find more details about balancing HIIT and steady state training in this blog post HERE.

A final thought…

Now that I’ve addressed the mechanics, let’s touch on your mindset.

Genetics and luck will always play a role. But you can improve both the quantity — and quality — of your life by adopting the lifestyle habits that promote your fitness.

Too much of our social conversation around aging treats physical and mental decline as an inevitable fact of life. True, it would be living in denial to disallow any slowing down as we age. On the other hand, we have no shortage of models in our world of people continuing to live full and vibrant lives into their 80’s and even 90’s.

I don’t know about you, but I’m committed to giving my body and brain the inputs necessary to keep thriving for decades to come. At the time of this writing, I am 42 years old. I’m about to become a father. Based on life expectancy models, the overwhelming probability is that I have decades of awesome life to go.

Am I going to be beating my personal deadlift records from my early 30’s? Probably not, but in part, because I just don’t care. For the record, there ARE people who set performance records into their 40’s and sometimes 50’s. But that’s not in line with my goals, which are more focused on longevity, health, and mental performance.

I care about feeling like a million bucks and having all-day-long-energy, and the pride and personal confidence that comes from the compounding interest of years and years of investing in my fitness.

When I think about my personal life and my career, I’m proud of where I’m at and how far I’ve come. AND, when I zoom out, I know I’m just getting started.

But what if you’re over 40 and relatively new to the fitness game?

If you think it’s “too late” to make strides with your fitness… you’re wrong!

There’s documented evidence that you can make massive strides even if you start as late as your 70’s or 80’s!!

Yes, the best time to plant a tree was two years ago.

But the second best time is NOW.

I suspect some of you don’t need this pep talk. And that’s awesome!

But if you DO find yourself getting nostalgic and feeling like your best years are behind you?

I want to invite you to create a compelling vision and a big future for yourself.

(And if you need help in building your fitness foundation for the decades ahead? See below for some ways you can work with our team of quirky, friendly experts.)

I believe in you!


PS: Feeling unicorn-curious?

Most people start with a totally free class to do a vibe check.


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