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Do These Exercises Over 40 to Reduce Stubborn Body Fat, Say Experts

You'll be trim and lean in no time.

There are lots of benefits to being in your 40s. You're likely more settled, more confident, armed with lots of life skills and wisdom. But there is one frustrating downside to aging: It becomes that much harder to lose stubborn body fat and get lean.

"As you age, you start losing muscle and gain excess body fat due to a shift in your hormones and lack of physical activity," says Vanessa Johnson, NCPT and director of instructor training for Club Pilates. This is especially true for women during perimenopause (which can start in your 40s) and menopause (which usually hits around age 50 or 51). The hormonal fluctuations during these periods can make healthy weight management more challenging.

Thankfully, it's not all doom and gloom. "Exercise, any form of exercise, will help you lose weight, assuming you stay in a calorie deficit," Johnson says. "Movement will naturally burn more calories and increase muscle mass, both of which help you lose body fat, even in your 40s and beyond and you don't need to do high impact complex activities to achieve this, too," she adds. Translation: HIIT isn't necessary to get lean after 40 if it bothers your bones or joints (although it can be an incredibly effective fat blaster.)

So what are some good exercise to burn stubborn body fat and get lean when you're over 40? Here are some great places to start, according to experts. And for more intel on age-appropriate exercise, check out: Underrated Exercises Everyone Over 40 Should Do, Says Trainer.


young man swimming in oceans water

Swimming is a great option for many people, especially folks who are overweight or those who struggle with joint pain. "Despite it seeming so easy, swimming is perfect for rehabilitation but can also help you burns tons of calories without overworking your body, as it tackles nearly every muscle group—the legs, upper body, and core," Johnson says. Take that, stubborn body fat!

Strength is practically guaranteed to improve from regular swimming. "You can try different exercises besides swimming in the pool like jogging in place, squats, leg raises and side jumps," she adds. Looking for other exercises to try? Don't miss: The Best Exercises You Can Possibly Do After Menopause, Say Experts.


Pilates reformer workout exercises woman brunette at gym indoor

This modality is an incredible method for getting lean as it helps you maintain muscle mass while improving your overall physical fitness. "Pilates is known best for its ability to improve posture which means it's very effective at building up core strength, and additional muscle will help you burn more calories beyond your workout," Johnson says. (That's because muscle typically burns more calories than fat.) Plus, the low-impact exercise is perfect for anyone facing joint pains when aged 40 or higher.

Any moves that are great for core work (which is the focus of Pilates) are especially helpful for getting lean, particularly in the belly area. "With time, Pilates will boost your muscle mass and continually contribute to your fat loss and leaning out," she says. So be patient! Want more fitness intel? Check out: These Are the Workouts You Should Never Do Alone, Say Experts.

Brisk walking

Side portrait of two young sporty women walking on the beach

Every little bit of activity you can add into you day counts for something, which is why walking is a great option for those who need less impact from their fitness while still getting lean.

"Try adding small walks through out your day to get your muscles used being engaged regularly," says Jessica Cifelli, MS, CPT, senior master instructor for CycleBar. Make it more intense by carrying weights, incorporating hills or inclines, or doing short little intensity work throughout the walk, like some squats jumps or body weight squats.

"As you get older, it can be difficult to get motivated and stay motivated, so try finding someone to go on your walks with who can hold you accountable," Cifelli adds—something that's true for pretty much every workout. Want some pointers to maximize your walking workouts? Check out: These Walking Workouts Will Help You Get Lean, Says Trainer.


people working on exercise bikes

This is another great low-impact cardio option for people over 40. "Cycling allows for adjustments in intensity levels based on experience and current health status," says Cifelli. You can easily increase the intensity if you have a greater level of fitness, better joint ease and more stamina to burn even more calories.

"The higher effort in cycling may allow for an elevation in metabolism throughout the day, an ideal scenario for burning calories even when the activity is complete," Cifelli says. So, you will burn more naturally afterward for the after-burn—win-win.



"While yoga isn't necessarily known for its high-calorie burning effects, it can be an incredible tool [for getting lean] due to its ability to help you move your body more, manage stress better, and reduce cortisol levels," says Zac Armstrong, NASM-CPT and master instructor for YogaSix. Per the Mayo Clinic, chronic stress can contribute to unwanted weight gain; by managing stress levels, you're further supporting your efforts to stay lean and healthy.

"For optimal results, it's recommended you practice three to five times a week," Armstrong recommends. "This will keep you active, improve stress and mobilitym and given that yoga is so low impact, it's also great for anybody who struggles with joint pain." Plus, you can do a "sculpt" style yoga class with weights to make it more calorie-burning. Want more intel on all of the benefits of yoga? Check out: One Incredible Side Effect of Doing Yoga, Says New Study.

Weight training

Asian women exercising in bed in the morning

Weights are good for building bone density, which is important for older women to combat the risk of osteoporosis. Plus, strength training of any kind is an essential component of shedding fat, since it helps build muscle and burn calories.

Grab a dumbbell or kettlebell and do Russian twists, sit-ups, renegade rows (you get an arm boost too!) or "manmakers. All of these moves are great for improving core strength to target belly fat in particular. Want more intel on lifting weights? Don't miss: Secret Side Effects of Lifting Weights You Never Knew, Says Science.

Isadora Baum
Isadora Baum is a freelance writer, certified health coach, and author of 5-Minute Energy. Read more about Isadora