5 Tips for Being Fit Over 40

This blog was written by Xero Shoes affiliate, Kristina Cañizares

Celebrity trainer and owner of Fit & Bendy in Los Angeles


Instagram: @fitandbendy

Fitness Over 40: 5 Realistic Tips to Get In Shape

What does it look like to be fit over 40? Is it possible to get in the best shape of your life in your 40s, 50s, and beyond?

The evidence says yes! As long as you are alive, your body will respond to exercise, building muscle and gaining mobility. Age doesn’t stop you from taking up a new sport, falling in love with trail running, learning to do a split, or joining the pickleball craze. 

But fitness over 40 does require a shift. As I sidle up to 50 I’ve found that I’m still able to do all the activities I love, I just have to tweak my strategy. Below are 5 pillars of my fit-over-40 training approach that I use both for myself and my clients for productive, effective, injury-free fitness.

How to Get in Shape at 40: 5 Fitness Tips to Follow:

Tip #1: Focus on Fitness Fundamentals

When you’re young you can skip steps. Coaches will often throw you into drills where you can learn by making mistakes, falling down, trying again. When you’re older the repercussions from over-training, poor form, and generally flubbing a move can be more serious.

If you’re learning a new physical activity, start with the basic movements and make sure you are confident and strong before progressing. Train in short sessions and build stamina and strength rather than going bonkers on Day 1. Don’t push through pain, train when you’re super sore, or try things that you can only accomplish with poor technique.

This approach may feel slow, but it’s a lot faster than rehabbing a torn ligament or nursing a swollen knee!

Tip #2: Slow and Steady Progressions

When you first start working out it generally feels exhausting and difficult for a while. Then you hit a point where it gets easier, feels better, and you get hungry for it. This is when many people get really excited and suddenly want to dramatically increase the intensity and duration of their workouts.

Your body will continue to adapt to exercise until you’re dead, but as you age the adaptations happen slower. This means that rapid intensification of an exercise can overload your capacity, increasing injury risk. 

One of the hardest things for myself and my older clients to learn is to set aside the “more is more” mentality and try to be p-p-p-patient with our bodies. Sometimes more progress comes from lighter weights, less intensity, shorter sessions, and more rest days. More isn’t always better.


Tip #3: Mind the Little Things

Everyone loves to work the sexy stuff. Let’s get those bulging biceps and perky glutes. But when was the last time you trained your foot strength, wrist mobility, or neck muscles?

Almost all of my clients see improved mobility and strength, reduced pain, and better performance when they add in a few short sessions a week designed to strengthen and mobilize often neglected areas. We can’t take anything for granted in our bodies if we want to be able to perform well with longevity.

My daily warm-up before any workout focuses on my breathing muscles, neck muscles, feet, and hands. These are areas that are not explicitly addressed in my workouts but greatly improve how I move.

Tip #4:  Function over Fashion

So many fitness programs use aesthetics as the measurement of success. Weight, body measurements, and clothing size may change as a result of fitness but they are a side effect of working out, not the direct effect.

The direct effects of working out are to improve strength, mobility, balance, cardiovascular health, and reduce pain and injury. Improving all of those factors helps you move more, and enjoy fun activities. I would argue if all of those factors are doing well, you’re going to look better too regardless of your size.

When our primary motivation in working out is cosmetic it’s tempting to skip the above-mentioned fundamentals, push too hard too fast for visible results, and neglect muscles that aren’t going to get noticed in your instagram post. It’s also easy to give up if you don’t see the results you want in the timeline you set for yourself.

I try to work out for joy, connection with my body, community, health, and functionality. I’m not immune to the societal pressure around thinness but I know that weight loss obsession does not lead to healthy outcomes most of the time.

Tip #5: A Little Bit of Exercise is Better Than Nothing

Life is busy. We get tired. Overwhelm is real. Sometimes that workout you planned just isn’t going to happen.

It is really easy to get discouraged when life gets in the way of our fitness routines. We know how important it is to be consistent with our workouts, but that doesn’t mean that all is lost. No time for a run, but maybe you have ten minutes to dedicate to the bare minimum?

On those better-than-nothing days I ask myself: What do I need to feel good right now?

Sometimes it’s a set of calf raises at the kitchen counter. Or single leg mini-squats in line at the grocery store. Or a sprint up the staircase in the airport. Sometimes it’s one, long forward fold with some deep breathing while on hold with the DWP. Whatever it is your body is asking for, give it what you can. That way when your schedule clears up and you have time to work out again your body doesn’t feel completely neglected.

I love these little mini-workouts on my busiest days as a way to relieve stress and stave off tightness. It’s also a short invitation to check in with my body and remember that I am a person. Sometimes stress makes me forget that!

See also: Kristina’s informative video prepping your feet for walking in minimalist shoes.

Reflecting on My Fitness Goals Over 40

These days I cherish my workouts more than ever before. They are mine – a time to focus exclusively on my own needs and goals and leave the clamor of life behind for a moment. They are my investment in the future, since I appear to have not died yet and old age may actually come for me.

This gym joy did require an adjustment from my younger self’s approach to fitness. I was a card carrying member of the “Go Hard or Go Home” club, highly competitive and driven. I wish I had adopted some of the above tenets earlier, but some lessons can only be learned the hard way. I just want to stay above ground and healthy so I can keep learning.

 Kristina is an affiliate Xero Shoes.

The content of this post does not constitute and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health provider with any questions or concerns you may have about your health or a medical condition.