Best Exercise Program to Start in Your 40’s

Everywhere you look on social media and the internet, you can find advice from under-qualified “influencers” about how to stay fit and healthy. If you’re just starting to exercise in your 40's, you may find that these programs don’t help you actually reach your fitness goals. It can be very discouraging, but these intense programs and standards that you’re holding yourself to are unattainable for lots of people. As we age and our hormones change, the way we exercise and take care of ourselves should change too! Continue reading to find out how healthy and individualized strength training for women can be the key to optimal health and wellness as you exercise in your 40's.

Battling Preconceived Notions

Before we get into why strength training is so important, let's debunk a few myths about exercise in your 40's. These are things we hear and see all the time from our patients who are struggling with how to exercise at this point in their lives.

Myth: Running and reducing calories is the best way to stay in shape and lose weight.

Reality: By only doing cardio, your body plateaus quicker, meaning you’re constantly having to increase the distance to get the same workout intensity. It is important to incorporate other types of exercise into your routine to get all the benefits of cross-training! Adding in cardio a few times per week can help supplement your strength training. Also, reducing calories can be more detrimental to your workouts because you’re not providing your body with enough fuel! Make sure you’re eating enough quality calories (proteins, good fats, and whole foods) to get your best performance during workouts. 

Myth: Lifting heavy weights makes women look bulky. 

Reality: No, you won’t get bulky from weightlifting…women don’t have enough testosterone in our systems to do that! Lifting weights requires more energy and actually keeps your metabolism elevated longer than a cardio workout does. This means you continue to use up energy at a higher rate, which can help with maintaining ideal body composition. 

Myth: It’s too late to start strength training at 40. 

Reality: It’s never too late! Even if you’ve never done any formal exercise or lifting before, that doesn’t mean that you can’t start now. 

Age Related Changes 

In your 40's, you may be entering menopause or perimenopause (for signs of how to know if you are in Perimenopause - Click Here to read more). When that happens, the body begins to lose bone density, breakdown muscle mass faster, and increase abdominal weight gain. What is one way that we can slow this process? You guessed it… strength training. The beautiful thing about effective strength training in your 40's is that you don’t have to leave the gym super sore to know that you had a great workout. You get more bang for your buck if you challenge your body without pushing it past its limit. 

We have all heard about or experienced those dreaded hot flashes that occur during menopause. The cause of hot flashes hasn’t been proven but is likely occurring when the body’s thermostat is not able to regulate itself due to the body’s change in hormones. However, a mix of strength training and aerobic exercise (AKA cardio) has been proven to release natural chemicals within the body to help keep the thermostat in check. 

The Benefits Aren’t Just Physical 

As hormones shift in your 40's, your estrogen levels decrease which can lead to many issues, one of them being emotional changes. People entering or in menopause are more likely to experience depression and anxiety as a result of these changes. Exercise at the appropriate dosage releases feel good hormones called endorphins which can help combat stress, anxiety, and depression! Strength training will also help you feel more confident in performing day to day activities with less fear of injuring yourself. 

Putting it into Practice

What does a properly prescribed strength training program for women in their 40’s look like? First, you want to start small. It’s okay if you aren’t bench pressing 100lbs the first day of your program. The first day of your program may look more like using body weight or light dumb bells for 6-8 reps. Each exercise should try to target a different body part to allow you to have a total body workout. You will want to begin doing this at least two days a week, the other three days that you exercise should be moderate to high intensity cardio like rowing, stationary bike, or intervals on the treadmill. Work hard for 10 to 30 seconds, then rest for 10 to 30 seconds, alternating between those for no more than 15 minutes long. Yes, you heard that right. You don’t have to be running a half marathon every day of the week to get a good workout in. 


Some of you may read this information and find that you feel comfortable hitting the gym on your own. To others, strength training may still be scary and that’s okay! That’s where the professionals come in. If you aren’t sure where to begin, Revitalize Physical Therapy has a certified personal trainer and physical therapists that specialize in women’s health. Our whole staff is passionate about helping women stay active and healthy throughout all stages of life!

Call to schedule your first appointment with a Revitalize Physical Therapy team member to start your strength training journey today! 

  • Hales Corners: (414) 331-2323
  • Wauwatosa: (414) 708-8066

If you enjoyed this blog, you may also enjoy episode 37 of the Revitalize Women Podcast. Dr. Brenda sits down with Lisa Kendall, who is a Revitalize team member and a certified personal trainer. They discuss exercising and strength training for women in their 40's - you can listen to that HERE.