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Want to Get Lean After 40? Do These Exercises, Say Experts

Here are 6 exercises for people in middle age, all recommended by top fitness experts.

If you're looking to get fitter and leaner as you enter middle age—a time in your life when your body begins to fight wear-and-tear, joint pain, and the inexorable decline muscle mass and metabolism—you may have some specific questions. Should you do cardio? Should you do strength training? Should you eat at a calorie deficit? Should you drink plenty of water?

The answer to all of them is yes. (In addition to all of that, you need to ensure that you're also getting plenty of rest.)

That being said, as it pertains to the specific exercises you should be doing, here are 6 recommendations for people who are over 40 (and older), all of which came recommended to us by top trainers. So if you're looking to get more active, burn fat, and get lean, consider adding these to your training docket ASAP. And for more ways to live a smarter, healthier life at any age, don't miss the Things You Should Never Do Before Breakfast, Say Experts.

Hit Your Elliptical Machine

Woman Exercising on Elliptical Cross Trainer

"When it comes to [a lean body] and great abs after 40, a good tactic that I've found and many people don't consider, is including the elliptical trainer into your regimen," says Patrick O'Connor, a fitness expert at Gym Gear Central. "I know a lot of people look down on the elliptical as an inferior cardio machine, but the low impact of elliptical workouts are great for your joints."

Plus, he notes, it offers resistance. "The elliptical trainer, because of its adjustable resistance levels and the fact that the handles allow you to engage your muscles in the running motion means you get a much more effective muscle building workout when compared to just running," he says. "On top of that, just the effort of balancing and stabilizing yourself on the machine will engage and strengthen your core!" And for more ways to live a healthier life, see here for the Secret Side Effects of Meditating Just 12 Minutes Per Day, Says New Study.

Go Swimming

Senior man standing in an indoor swimming pool.

"[A] fantastic exercise for midlifers is swimming," Alex Parren, personal trainer and running coach for health and fitness equipment specialist Meglio, recently explained to the UK's The Telegraph. "[It is] low impact, meaning your joints undergo little to no stress while your muscles and cardiovascular system get a great workout. When done at a moderate intensity, swimming burns as many calories as running or cycling with none of the injury risk. It's a full-body workout and also promotes coordination and concentration, so it keeps you mentally fit too." And for more ways to burn fat and get fit, see here for The Secret Little Tricks for Burning More Fat Every Day, According to Experts.

Lift Weights with High Repetitions, Short Rest Periods

holding dumbbells

When it comes to recommending great exercise methods to his clients who are over 40, Joshua Lafond, a NASM-certified personal trainer and founder of Health Gym Habits, advises his clients to lift weights in a very specific way. "Using high repetitions and low rest periods is a great way to get your heart pumping while still lifting weights," he tells us. "This type of high-intensity interval workout (HIIT) will have your body mimicking a cardio-style exercise [for the fat burn]—without the cardio! When doing this type of workout, I recommend keeping the repetition range between 12-15 reps per set. Additionally, the rest period between these sets should be short and no longer than 60 seconds."

You Should Walk More

walking on treadmill

At ETNT Mind+Body we've preached the fat-burning, life-extending benefits of walking countless times, and we firmly believe that walking is an excellent exercise for getting lean—no matter your age. But as it pertains to people over 40, one trainer recently explained to the The Telegraph why it's a great way to get lean. "Walking can shed just as many pounds as running; it just may take a little longer," said Alasdair Fitz-Desorgher, personal trainer at Openfit, a fitness app. The key to getting lean, he says, is to keep challenging yourself.

"When you started losing weight, your diet (calories in) and exercise (calories out) created a calorie deficit, causing you to burn the stored fat," he says. "But now you're lighter, the same amount of exercise burns fewer calories. Therefore, you need to adjust the balance by either eating even less, (which can be unsustainable and unhealthy), or by increasing the intensity or duration of your walks. I'd recommend setting yourself a walking challenge, varying the speed and intensity of the walk, and introducing hill walks." And for more reasons to walk, don't miss these Incredible Things That Happen When You Walk More, Say Experts.


Side view of a muscular couple doing planking exercises

We recently polled tons of trainers, asking them what the single best exercise is for fat loss and a lean body at any age. The answer was unanimous: High-intensity interval training (HIIT).

In short, you get the benefits of cardio by getting your heart rate up—"it improves oxygen flow in your bloodstream and is great for your heart," Jeff Parke, of Top Fitness Magazine, told us—and by performing strength-training moves you're promoting muscle growth, which will lead to more calorie-burn as you make gains. "HIIT is an extremely effective and efficient form of exercise, elevating your heart rate quickly and burning a significant amount of calories in a short amount of time," Tom Holland, MS, CSCS, CISSN, an exercise physiologist.

Use the Strength-Training Method Know as "Time Under Tension"

1 flat dumbbell bench press

One trick you can do to boost your lean-body efforts after 40 is to take advantage of a simple strength-training technique known as "Time Under Tension" (TUT), advises Tim Liu, C.S.C.S.

"TUT refers to the amount of time that you activate a muscle during an exercise," he writes. "Simply put: By activating your muscles for longer and by slowing down the eccentric—or lowering phase—of an exercise, you can reap some great benefits. In fact, according to one study published in 2016, volunteers who doubled the amount of time that they lowered the weight down on a bench press exercise compared to the time they pushed it up experienced a better workout overall. The study found that merely adding two seconds to the lowering phase made the whole movement more effective. Given that you're losing muscle mass after 40, this technique will help you get it back—and then some."

See here for all of the ways you can implement this method into your own routine. And for more ways to fight the effects of aging, don't miss The One Exercise Move That Slows Down Aging, Claims Fitness Coach.

William Mayle
William Mayle is a UK-based writer who specializes in science, health, fitness, and other lifestyle topics. Read more about William