Every decade in your life calls for a re-evaluation of your workout routine. While you might still be in amazing shape at 40, your body is not the same as it was when you were 20 — no matter what Tom Brady says. Fitting in that recommended 150 minutes of exercise per week is important, but how you get that exercise is even more important.
Here are the top five workouts to avoid in your 40s, plus the best ones for you.
The problem with crunches is simple: Your spine bends while you do them. If you’re over 40, doing crunches can increase your risk of spinal injury. In order to keep crunches safe, you’d have to do them while keeping your back perfectly straight, which isn’t easy and requires a lot of additional strength. You’re better off doing planks. Planks work every muscle in your body, especially your core. They’ll make you stronger overall and keep that spine perfectly straight. Plus, you can vary your planks to get an even better workout.
Next: This puts your shoulders in a really awkward position.
4. Behind-the-neck exercises
Exercises that go behind your neck, such as pull downs, can do serious damage to your rotator cuff if you don’t them properly – and most people don’t. When you pull the bar behind your neck, you put your shoulders in an awkward position. This can lead to damage at any age, but if you’re over 40, you won’t be able to bounce back quickly from an injury like that. According to bodybuilding.com, your rotator cuff is not in a good position to stabilize your shoulders, which can lead to damage in the connective tissue.
Next: This exercise is terrible for your knees at any age.
3. Leg press
Leg press or leg extension machines can wreak havoc on your knees. It’s bad enough when you’re a young adult, but you risk serious knee problems if you’re over 40. Loading the leg press with too much weight can also lead to chronic back pain and lumbar herniations. The machine is especially dangerous if you already have a herniated disc. Dumbbell lunges are a better alternative for both your back and your knees.
Next: This exercise can easily go wrong, leaving you with serious back injuries.
It’s tricky to properly do a deadlift. If you mess up, you can quickly cause damage to your lower back. It’s possible to even suffer a spinal injury if you put too much weight on your back with improper form. The older you get, the more aches and pains you suffer regularly, and an ache makes it even harder to keep the perfect form. Your muscles need to work together perfectly to pull off the deadlift without injury, or else you could face a slipped disc, pinch nerve, or other spinal injury. Try a deadlift alternative in order to reduce your risk of injury.
Next: Enough of this is great, but too much of this is dangerous.
1. Intense cardio
Cardio is great for your heart. However, a cardio routine that is too intense, such as training for a marathon, can lead to strain on your muscles. At age 40, your muscles can’t do what they used to, and too much cardio can lead to muscle breakdown. If you work your body too hard, it can release the hormone cortisol, which can actually have adverse effects on weight loss –especially if you’re stressed. Stick with a shorter workout — just a few miles — to ensure you’re keeping your body as healthy as possible.
Next: The best exercise? It depends.
The best exercise for your age depends on you
The best exercises for your 40s depend on what you’re trying to avoid. If you’re trying to fight off arthritis, strength training exercises are best. If it’s osteoporosis, high-impact activities like tennis would be best for you. But most people would agree that they’re trying to fight off one of the biggest killers in America: heart disease. For this, you want to focus on cardiovascular exercises. Try to work your heart three to four times per week with workouts such as brisk walking or biking. Dance classes such as Zumba are also a great way to get a cardio workout and have a little bit of fun, too.
Next: Here’s why all this matters.
Fitness in your 40s is critical
Your 40s are a crucial time for your body. It’s a decade when your muscle mass starts to break down (usually around 45), and fat deposits begin to build up. If you don’t stay physically active, you can increase your risk of developing problems like heart disease, diabetes, or high blood pressure later in life. The World Health Organization defines the start of “middle aged” as 45 — it’s the body’s last chance to get itself help before becoming at-risk for health problems.
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