Exercise After 40: Quickstart Program!
So, you’re over 35 or 40, and you’ve decided to start exercising after years of inacitivity.
Maybe you’ve been diagnosed with heart disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes, and realise no matter how successful you are in work or business, none of that matters if you don’t have your health to enjoy any of that.
Maybe you’ve discovered that you’re unenergetic or unfit, or have so much chronic pain, that you can’t play with your growing children, or pick up your newborn baby, or worry you may not live to see them get married.
Maybe you’ve just had a divorce or a breakup, and you realise that years of neglect doesn’t make you feel attractive, lowers your confidence and self-esteem, and getting back into good shape is an important part of the attraction/dating process.
Whatever your motivations, you’ve decided to start exercising. Great! Few things herald the start and build a solid foundation for a new path, the rejuvenation of a new Life, the rediscovery of dreams forgotten like starting an exercise program.
But every journey begins with a first step.
Here’s how to take it.
(Watch the video instead by clicking the link)
Read the Prep Article First!
If you haven’t read the preliminary article, I really, really, REALLY want you to do that.
It’s not just because you’ll get maximum benefit by having a fuller understanding of the WHY and the WHAT.
The most important reason is to understand that one thing must remain your TOP PRIORITY, no matter what your goals – SAFETY.
I’ve seen a lot of people over the years get fired up to start exercising. They have so much motivation, and so much hope. They could have added so much to their lives if they had started correctly and safely.
But often, they had no idea. So they just started doing something, anything, without knowing why, or what were realistic results to expect. They got disappointed and stopped exercising, or got suckered into some program that promised the world but gave them nothing. At best they got no results. At worst, they got injured or even aggravated a condition such as a heart problem or high blood pressure.
I don’t want that to be you, so don’t skip this additional preliminary. Go read the article or watch the corresponding video!
Okay, with that out of the way, here’s our quickstart program.
We’ll incorporate three different types of exercises: Cardio, strength, and flexibility.
I: CARDIO EXERCISE
Cardio or aerobic exercise increases your heart rate and your breathing, keeping your heart, lungs, and circulatory system healthy. You’ll improve your stamina for daily activities, like brisk walking or even running for the bus.
Examples are brisk walking, jogging, cycling, aerobic dancing.
For us: we’ll do a simple version of interval training that you can do at home, even if it rains outside or you have no access to a gym.
It comprises a warm up that segues into our cardio portion.
1. First, easy phase: start off at a very easy march on the spot, for 30sec.
2. Harder phase: do a faster march or even a very light jog for 30secs. Nothing strenuous at all!
3. Easy phase again: This time make it slightly harder than the preceding easy phase. 30sec.
4. Hard again: Again, make this slightly harder than the preceding harder phase. 30sec.
5. This repeats a few times. You can continue upping the intensity as long as you can comfortably continue each stage for 30sec
6. Then you taper down by reversing the staged intensities. Make each easy and harder phase successively easier. Then, come to a stop.
Total time: 15-20min
You can eventually increase this to about 30min, but 15-20min is a great start! Don’t forget you want to get in the other components too!
II: RESISTANCE EXERCISE
Strength or resistance exercises make your muscles stronger. They can slow down the muscle loss that comes after 40, and make it easier to engage in daily activity like climbing the stairs, carrying the groceries, or moving the occasional piece of furniture.
Examples are exercises using weights, machines, bands, even your own body.
We’re going to do three compound exercises: a lower body exercise, a push movement, and a pull movement.
Compound exercises are exercises that work more than one muscle at a time, such as a biceps curl. This is how we use our bodies in daily living anyway, integrating the whole body, which is why these exercises have a great carry over benefit into real life.
Collectively, these three exercises will work most of the major muscles in your body… not bad!
- Don’t hold your breath. Most resistance exercises have an easy phase and an exertion phase. The exertion phase is usually when you push or pull against resistance. Just remember: E = E … Exhale when you exert!
- Don’t lock your joints! This not only puts undue stress on your joints, but actually removes tension and desired stress we want on the working muscles.
- Controlled movement. No bouncing, no quick movements. In general, 2 seconds up, pause, 2 seconds down.
- Use good form. If you can’t continue the exercise without trembling, shaking, or cheating the weight up, STOP! Rest a bit, then continue.
STRENGTH EXERCISE 1: THE SQUAT
The squat is one of the best all-rounder exercises you can do for your lower body, and for most people it is also pretty instinctive.
Working muscles: Front thighs, buttocks, hamstrings
Unfortunately, it has often been made overcomplicated and unnecessarily complex by countless well-meaning healthcare or exercise professionals. In twenty years with patients with even pretty serious injuries, I’ve found that only a few special cases required long, detailed teaching sessions. For the most part, you can start really easy.
Easy: Chair Sit to Stand
- Stand up tall, feet shoulder width apart.
- Now, sit down on a chair or bench.
- Then stand up again!
2 sets of 10-15 repetitions (or reps)
As you get better, try touching the chair lightly for some support with each descent, and then eventually, not at all. When you can do this confidently, safely and painlessly, it’s time to look at the squat itself.
Before we get to that though, let me quickly explain the common advice of knees not passing your toes thing. Here’s what it means.
Imagine a line drawn straight up from the toes.
In GENERAL, as we squat, we don’t want the knee to go past that line. But most people tend to do this naturally.
To prevent this, you would have to sit further back, but in order to avoid yourself tipping and falling onto your butt, you counterbalance by having your arms out in front of you.
Why do I say in general? Well, for reasons too complex to get into here, even though it’s a good exercise guideline that will help most people minimize knee stress, in some cases it would be impossible, unrealistic, or even undesirable to keep to this. For now, just understand that it’s a guideline, but it’s not carved in stone. Respect this exercise, but don’t fear it!
Moderate: The Parallel Squat
- Feet shoulder width apart, toes slightly out.
- Tense your abdominals without holding your breath.
- Arms outstretched. Break at the hip, start the squat by imagining you’re sitting down on a chair, so stick that butt out.
- Stop when your thighs are about parallel to the ground
- Pause a second, then reverse direction by driving through your heels.
- Do not lock your knees at the top!
2 sets of 10-15 repetitions (or reps).
STRENGTH EXERCISE 2: THE PUSHUP
Let’s move on to the upper body now. First a push movement.
Pushing muscles: chest, triceps, shoulders.
If you haven’t done pushups in a while, don’t worry! Once again, we have a progression for you.
Easy: Wall Pushup
- Place your hands wider than shoulder width apart on the wall.
- Imaginary a straight line between them.
- Bending your elbows, try to touch your chest or chin to that line.
- Breathe in as you lower yourself to the wall slowly.
- Pause, then breathe out as you straighten your elbows and push yourself back.
2 sets of 10-15 repetitions (or reps)
Moderate: Modified Pushup
If that’s too easy, do this version.
- Start with your hands and knees on the floor. Your hands will be wider than shoulder width apart.
- Imagine a line between your hands.
- Pull in your abs and keep your back straight.
- Bend your elbow and lower yourself down.
- Try to touch your neck or chest to that line, or as far as you feel comfortable.
- Pause, then straighten your arms without locking them.
2 sets of 10-15 repetitions (or reps)
Tip: If you point elbows directly OUT to the side, you may activate your chest more, but this position also stresses your shoulder joints. So if you have shoulder problems, point your elbows BACK and keep them near your side. It’s a lot easier on your shoulders.
STRENGTH EXERCISE 3: ELASTIC BAND ROWS
The last movement is an upper body pull movement, involving the back muscles.
Pulling muscles: Back, shoulders (back part), biceps and brachialis (that’s a muscle under the biceps you can’t see, but it works hard!)
The back muscles are generally pretty strong, even for beginners, so you need some equipment to provide you with sufficient resistance. I recommend elastic exercise tubing. They’re portable, take up very little space, and you’ll be able to do many exercises with them, not just rows. They are colour-coded according to resistance level, but most sets will have a few that allow you to put different combinations together.
Here’s how to do this exercise.
- First, choose a band with the appropriate resistance.
- Some bands have handles, while for those that don’t, grab the loose ends.
- Extend one leg. It doesn’t matter which, it’s just an anchor point. But keep it in your midline!
- Loop the middle part around that foot
- Then sit upright, engage your core, spine neutral
- Exhale as you pull backwards, bending your elbows and squeezing your shoulder blades together. Inhale as you straighten back out.
2 sets of 10-15 repetitions (or reps)
III: FLEXIBILITY EXERCISE
Flexibility exercises help maintain your range of motion by preventing/ minimizing muscle tightness and joint stiffness, which often cause aches and pains in our 40s and up. You’ll preserve your freedom to move and feel a lot more ready for action.
Examples are simple stretching, yoga, or some movements in tai chi.
For us: we’ll do 3 basic stretches for muscles that commonly get tight from our modern lifestyles, either from long hours of sitting, or repetitive activity.
Do these stretches after your other exercises, when your muscles are already warmed up.
STRETCH 1: SEATED HAMSTRING STRETCH
We sit all the time, with our legs bent, and this prolonged position often leads to hamstring tightness. That in turn causes knee, hip or back pain.
- Sit on the edge of a chair, with one leg stretched in front of you, heel down, toes up.
- Sit straight, chest up. Keep your hands firmly on the knee of the other leg.
- Slowly, fold from the hip like closing a book.
Do not round your back or think about touching your toes.
- Instead, aim to feel a stretch in your hamstrings, maybe calves, and stop when you do.
- Hold for 30sec.
- Then using your hands, push yourself back up.
At ALL times your hands are supporting your upper body weight…even when you’re coming back up.
- Switch legs and repeat.
STRETCH 2: TRUNK ROTATION STRETCH
Next, we’ll do a stretch that works rotation, a movement that’s often very stiff because we tend to favour forward, backwards movement.
- Sit up straight.
- Keeping your shoulders level, rotate your body to the side as far as it can comfortably go.
- Hold for 30sec.
- Then repeat on the other side, increasing the stretch if necessary.
- Don’t forget to breathe.
STRETCH 3: SEATED CHEST/ SHOULDER STRETCH
Finally we’ll stretch your chest/ shoulder chest muscles, which often get tight with prolonged sitting, and lead to all kinds of shoulder, neck and back problems.
- Sit up straight, arms forward.
- SLOWLY open up until you feel a stretch across the chest muscles.
- As for all stretches… BREATHE… hold for 30 secs…. Then slowly back to start position.
- Another variation: start with the elbows bent about 90º, then do the same thing.
- Some people feel this more in the upper chest.
So, those are the exercises! Let’s do a quick recap of your Quickstart programme.
Progressive stages of alternating lower: higher intensity marching/ jogging. Taper up, then back down to end off.
Total time 15-20min.
II: Resistance Exercises
Elastic Band Row
2 sets of 8-15 repetitions each.
Rest one minute between each set
III: Flexibility Exercises
Seated hamstring stretch
Chest/ shoulder stretch
One set of 30seconds each.
Do click on the link at the start of this article to view the companion videos on my channel, which will make a lot of these concepts easier to grasp. Also, please share these articles or videos with people you care about, people you know should definitely start exercise. But maybe they haven’t, for lack of knowledge, confidence, or time. This article and its companion video should help with that.
That’s it for a start! You’ll spend no more than 20-40 minutes on this, you can do it at home, while watching TV. Simple, unintimidating, but you’ll be surprised how you’ll feel in 4 weeks.
When that comes, you’ll be ready for more, and I’ll show you that more in the future!