I’ve seen firsthand how health concerns can sneak up on men as they age. I work as a personal trainer and was the Director of Strength and Conditioning for the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks for 19 years.

A big question you can ask yourself is, what do you want your health to look like 10 years from now?

As you approach middle age, it’s common to experience an increase in aches and pains. We often consider these new discomforts to be a natural consequence of aging, something that can’t be avoided. However, research shows that changes we associate with aging can often be caused by a lack of physical activity.

Have you noticed that it’s harder to catch your breath when climbing stairs? Do you ever tweak your back when getting out of bed in the morning? Well, you’re not alone.

Here’s what happens to men’s bodies after 40

There are reasons random aches and pains in our 40s can make us start to “feel our age”.

  • Muscle mass decreases, leading to a decline in strength and mobility
  • Weight gain, which is usually all fat 
  • Blood pressure rises, and blood vessels begin to stiffen
  • Nervous system changes: reflexes slow, coordination declines, and your memory starts to fail

It’s one thing to read about these changes, and it’s another to live with them. If you pay attention to your body’s warning signs, you may not like what you see or how you feel. Listen to what your body is trying to tell you. Your achy knees or sore back can cause more serious mobility problems down the road.

Does exercise prevent aging?

While nothing can make you completely immune to the passage of time, exercise can add years to your life. Studies show that exercise helps people live longer and can extend men’s life expectancy by two full years on average.

Not only can exercise make you live longer but more importantly, it can also make life much more enjoyable. Studies show that 30% of adults over 70 have difficulty walking, standing up, getting out of a chair, and climbing the stairs. Exercise helps prevent that from becoming a reality by keeping you mobile as you age.

It’s also been shown to reduce your risk of chronic diseases, including heart disease and type 2 diabetes. In fact, exercise can keep your DNA younger for longer by protecting the body’s cells as they divide and renew (which, in turn, holds back the cell’s aging process).

Exercises every man over 40 should do

If you’re over 40 (or getting close), these are three areas of exercise you’ll want to focus on.

How to start exercising over 40

Start small, make it easy

The trick to building a new habit is making it as easy as possible to get started. Start somewhere, anywhere, and build momentum from there.

Man stretching wrists with brick wall in background

Your first step can be as simple as waking up and stretching while still lying in bed. It may seem a tad simple, but it’s a good habit to start the day. Once out of bed, try doing a few more active, upright stretches—advance from there to bodyweight exercises, like planks, push-ups or a morning walk outside.

Find something you enjoy doing

The bottom line is if you pick an exercise that you don’t love (or don’t even like), it’s going to be harder to be consistent. When you pick something that you enjoy doing, exercise is easier.

Personally, I love the gym. I’m at the gym every week, and I have no plans to stop. My wife, on the other hand, dislikes the gym. It’s just not for her, and that’s totally okay! She’d rather spend her time walking the dogs.

So find something you’ll want to keep doing and discover the health benefits of a consistent exercise routine. Find a way to be active that works for you!

Celebrate small wins

Set small goals and celebrate when you reach them. When you focus on fewer steps at a time, it helps to avoid feeling overwhelmed. While it’s important to have ambitious long-term goals, smaller short-term goals provide a path to get there and more milestones to celebrate.

Set a goal to start each day stretching, go to the gym twice a week, or walk for 20 minutes at lunchtime. Make sure you set manageable expectations for yourself and stop to recognize your progress as you hit one goal after another. You’ll find your self-confidence building as you go.

Stay accountable

The best way to stick to a new exercise routine is by staying accountable. Find someone else to help, like a workout partner, a coach or a trainer. Or, if you’re self-motivated, track your workouts in an app or calendar.

Two men shaking hands on outdoor tennis court

Go for it because nobody else cares

A big hurdle for a lot of men is the worry they’re not going to “fit in” at the gym. If that thought has crossed your mind, let me stop you right there.

No one starting a new fitness routine is going to do all the exercises perfectly or look like a pro. Guess what? It doesn’t matter!

When you actually hit the gym, you’ll quickly realize that no one else cares what you’re doing. It doesn’t matter what you wear, how you look, or what level you’re at compared to anyone else. People of all ages and fitness levels are working out, and no one is going to be judging you–they’re all too busy focusing on their own workouts.

Ask for guidance

A lack of experience is not something to be ashamed of. Don’t hesitate to ask for help from an expert when you’re starting out or whenever you’re ready to progress your fitness routine.

Work with a trainer (any gym or local community center has someone qualified and available) to create a realistic fitness program that works for you. They’ll take into account any issues or limitations you’re dealing with and help you feel confident as you learn.

It’s never too late to start

Whatever point you’re at in your life, if you start exercising now, you’ll see a difference in what you can do and the way your body feels. The benefits of exercise have no age limit; a 40-year-long study found that 50-year-old men responded almost as well to exercise as they did at age 20.

I work with a man in his late seventies. When he first came in, he had difficulty walking, using stairs, and couldn’t sit down or stand up on his own. We worked on simple bodyweight exercises and stretches to get his mobility back. Now he rides an indoor bike at a low speed every day alongside the stretches and bodyweight exercises. Adding this simple routine has helped him to drop 17 pounds–and, more importantly–get his mobility and independence back.

Like him, if you start simple and stick with it, you will see real improvements over time, and you’ll be glad you made the changes you did.

What’s your favourite way to break a sweat? Let us know in the comments!

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