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6 Top-Recommended Exercises for a Lean Body After 40

Slimming down and getting your body into shape after 40 is possible!

Getting into tip-top shape can feel like one big uphill battle. As you age, you might not be as quick as you used to or able to lift as heavy. You may also become frustrated when you're doing everything right but not seeing the results you're working so hard for. Don't give up, because performing daily exercise is one of the best gifts you can give your body, and it becomes more crucial than ever before in order to maintain your independence and stay in good health. We spoke with Sanjeev Joseph, PT, MSPT in advanced orthopedics, LSVT certified, and owner of seven FYZICAL Therapy & Balance Centers' locations, who breaks down six of the best exercises for a lean body after 40. (Because slimming down and toning up is possible after you hit 40!)

"Your 40s are kind of a sweet spot for people to get their physical status in order," Joseph says. "It's still an age where change can be made with moderate or higher levels of exercise, and early enough where degenerative changes can be mitigated and delayed indefinitely. If you wait any longer, reversing or preventing chronic conditions can become exponentially more difficult."

Without further delay, Joseph shares the exercises he recommends his patients ace and perform three to five times a week. Keep reading to learn about the six best exercises for a lean body after 40. Getting into great shape is right around the corner! And when you're finished, be sure to read the 5 Strength Exercises for Women To Get Firm & Lean in Their 40s.

1. Squats

woman bodyweight squats

Joseph refers to squats as "the undisputed 'king' of all exercises." Learning how to ace squats can help you address many issues pertaining to your knees, ankles, hips, and spine. "If you could do only one exercise to stay healthy, this is it," Joseph adds. "I encourage my patients to do three sets of 10, going as deep as their body allows, and without pain. As you continue to practice, you'll notice your range of motion will increase."

To set up for squats, plant your feet shoulder-width apart. Extend your arms out in front of you, keep them at your sides, or place your hands on your hips. Next, bend your knees, and press your hips back as if you're sitting back on a chair. Lower into a squat until your thighs form a parallel position with the ground or lower. Then, press through your feet to rise back to standing.

2. Core Strengthening and Stabilizing Exercises

"There are many types to choose from, but the basis is that the core must be targeted, and it must also NOT result in back pain," Joseph tells us.

To set up, lie down flat on your back with your hips and knees bent. Your feet should be flat on the ground. "Then, contract the muscle below your belly button (aka your core)," Joseph instructs. "While keeping it tight, breathe in and out five times through your nose." Complete three sets of 10 reps in total. When you're ready to take things to the next level, you can incorporate weights or raise your knees.

3. Pushups

woman doing pushups on workout mat, white background

The pushup is another "all-purpose exercise," as Joseph dubs it, that works your entire body to help you get lean. You can modify pushups by doing wall pushups or knee pushups on the floor. Make sure your core remains engaged during the entirety of the exercise.

Start in a high plank with your hands under your shoulders and your body forming a straight line from your head to your feet. You should rise up to the balls of your feet. Then, bend your elbows to lower your chest toward the ground. Press yourself back up to a high plank without allowing your lower back to cave in. Perform three sets of 10 reps.

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4. Pull-ups

mature man doing pull-ups at the gym

Next up on Joseph's top exercises for a lean body after 40 is the pull-up. "This exercise is a little more advanced but can be modified using gymnastic rings or TRX suspension for additional support. Keep your core activated for the best results," Joseph says.

To set up for pull-ups, stand below the pull-up bar, and reach up to grab onto it using an overhand grip. Place your hands shoulder-width apart. Bend your elbows as you pull your chest up toward the bar until your chin clears it. Then, gradually lower your body back to the start position. Complete three sets of 10 reps.

5. Heel or Calf Raises

illustration of calf raises

"This exercise is most effective if done at the edge of a step with only your toes on the step and your heels hanging off the edge," Joseph tells us. "Drop your heels down as far as possible, then lift back up on your tip toes." The slower you go with this exercise, the greater amount of work your calves will do. Joseph recommends performing three sets of 15 to 30 reps or going strong until your calf muscles feel too tired to continue.

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6. Cardio or Plyometrics

fit middle-aged woman on bike, demonstrating signs you're in good shape at 50

Last but not least, it's time for cardio or plyometrics. Joseph recommends going light at first then advancing with intensity. Start with activities like riding a bike, walking, or rowing. "As you progress on your wellness journey, these activities will become easier, so begin to challenge yourself with higher levels by trying different types of cardio and see what your body likes best," he says. "Plyometrics are the next level of basic cardio; think of exercises that involve quick movements, agility, sharp turns, jumping, etc. Burpees are an excellent form of plyometrics, but much more advanced."

Alexa Mellardo
Alexa is the Mind + Body Deputy Editor of Eat This, Not That!, overseeing the M+B channel and delivering compelling fitness, wellness, and self-care topics to readers. Read more about Alexa
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