You've reached a certain point in your life and you want to start focusing on your fitness. But where do you begin? What are the best exercises for women over 40?
The best exercises for women over 40 are based on fitness level, whether or not health conditions exist, and weight management goals.
Many fit women over 40 do the same exercises as younger women — or even more intense workouts in some cases.
Vary your workout routine daily to maximize results.
Ready to get started? The best exercises for women over 40 are just ahead!
Before you get started, why not try a quick and easy plan that's designed specifically for busy women like you?
Cardiovascular Exercises for Women Over 40
Regular cardiovascular workouts are the key to a healthy heart for women over 40.
You might be surprised to learn that heart disease is a leading cause of death for women.
In fact, 1 out of every 4 women in the U.S. dies from heart disease.
Choose a cardiovascular workout you most enjoy, and change things up often.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020 suggest adults complete at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity (or 74 minutes of vigorous-intensity) aerobic exercise each week, and at least 300 minutes of moderate-intensity (or 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity) aerobic exercise weekly for more extensive health benefits.
Working out more than this may provide additional health and wellness benefits.
Adults ages 65 and older should follow the same guidelines if they can, or modify workouts to ensure safety during exercise.
This video will teach you how to do HIIT and LISS cardio workouts at home.
Swimming is a high calorie-burning workout that’s easy on the joints — which is key if you’re suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, another form of arthritis, or have an injury.
A 155-pound woman burns about 409 calories in just 30 minutes swimming the crawl or butterfly strokes.
The same 155-pound woman expends about 372 calories in 30 minutes swimming the breaststroke.
Whether you join a cycling class or head outdoors to train, cycling is a calorie-burning, sculpting workout you’ll get results from.
It’s easy on your joints, so you don’t have to worry as much about overuse injuries.
A 155-pound woman burns about 260 to 391 calories in just 30 minutes of bicycling, depending on workout intensity.
Some of the most enjoyable exercises for women over 40 are those that take you back to your childhood years.
Rollerblading (or roller or ice skating) does just that for many women.
Rollerblading works well for many women over 40 (as long as you don’t lose your balance) because it’s generally a moderate intensity workout that’s easy on the joints.
A 155-pound woman burns about 260 calories rollerblade skating for 30 minutes.
Elliptical Machine Workouts
Using an elliptical machine is often less stressful on your bones and joints than other cardiovascular workouts, so it is the perfect choice for women over 40.
Elliptical machine workouts help women weighing 155 pounds burn about 335 calories in just 30 minutes.
The more you weigh, the more calories you’ll expend working out at the same speed and intensity as someone smaller.
No equipment? No problem! Try this 15-minute HIIT workout for women that can be done at home with no equipment!
While you may not burn quite as many calories stair climbing as you would doing other workouts (a 155-pound woman burns about 223 calories in 30 minutes on a stair climber machine), this form of cardiovascular workout tightens and tones as you go.
Your butt and leg muscle definition may drastically increase after just a few weeks of regular stair climbing sessions.
Walking is one of the best aerobic exercises for women over 40 because it’s easy on the joints and isn’t necessary a high-intensity exercise (though you can make it intense by pumping up the pace).
Walking is an excellent weight loss workout, especially if you’re new to regular exercise.
To add some intensity and resistance, burn extra calories, and boost muscle definition, choose an outdoor walking path packed with hills — or use a steep incline during walking treadmill workouts.
Believe it or not, the favorite childhood pastime of jumping rope is an excellent calorie-burning exercise for women over 40.
A 155-pound woman burns 372 calories in just 30 minutes while rope jumping.
It’s easy to jump rope at home or when you’re traveling.
Even if you don’t own a jump rope, you can go through rope jumping motions to reap the same calorie-burning and toning benefits this exercise offers.
No time to workout? Try this quick 10-minute workout!
Strength Training Exercises for Women Over 40
One of the best ways to boost strength and endurance for your entire body — and save you countless hours in the gym — is by choosing functional fitness exercises that work more than one muscle group at once.
Many of these workouts are done using just your own body weight, or with light dumbbell weights as added resistance.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020 recommend adults complete muscle-strengthening workouts (using all major muscle groups) at least two days each week.
Here are some of the top functional strength training exercises for women over 40.
If you’re looking for a way to get your heart pumping and boost muscle definition, add jumping burpees to your regular workout routine to get results quickly.
A 2015 study published in Military Medicine found that high-intensity interval training consisting of alternating 30 seconds of burpees with periods of active recovery maintained fitness levels in moderately-trained adults who didn't have access to workout equipment.
- To complete jumping burpees, do a pushup and immediately jump up into the air with your arms extended toward the ceiling.
- Jump back down into a plank position, do another pushup, and repeat jumping burpees continuously for 30 seconds (or longer).
- Alternate doing burpees with short rest periods, or with other calisthenics exercises between burpees sets to maximize results.
Squat to Press (Thrusters)
Doing a squat to press exercise combines two workouts in one, allowing you to exercise multiple muscle groups at the same time.
- Use light dumbbell weights for this exercise.
- With dumbbells in your hands, squat down until your thighs are about parallel with the floor.
- When you stand up from your squat, lift the dumbbells above your head and complete a shoulder press.
- Repeat this exercise for two to four sets, doing at least 15 repetitions per set.
When you’re ready to work your abs and strengthen and tone your shoulders, consider adding renegade rows to your regular workout routine.
- Begin in a plank position (an extended pushup position) with light dumbbells underneath your hands.
- Do a row with one arm while still in a plank position.
- Then do a row with your other arm and alternate sides continuously for at least 10 to 15 reps.
- Dumbbell weights are optional when completing renegade rows, as using your own body weight as resistance works well too.
Try this full-body dumbbell workout for women! All you need is a set of dumbbells and some floor space!
Plank workouts are some of the best exercises for women over 40, because they strengthen, tighten, and tone your entire body — especially your abs.
Simply hold a plank position (an extended pushup position) for 30 to 60 seconds, do renegade rows in a plank position without weights, slowly rock your hips from side to side, or do mountain climbers while in a plank position to keep your midsection slim and trim.
Try placing your feet on gliding disks when going mountain climbers to really feel your ab muscles working.
You’ll need a kettlebell to complete kettlebell swing exercises (a dumbbell weight works too if you don’t have a kettlebell).
- Squat down while holding your kettlebell with your arms straight and downward, and swing the kettlebell up toward the ceiling as you stand up until your arms and legs are fully extended.
- Squat back down, and repeat continuously for 30 to 60 seconds at least two times.
To tighten, tone, and strengthen your legs and butt using just your own bodyweight, consider adding squat kicks to your regular fitness routine.
- Squat down until your thighs are about parallel with the floor, and kick up and out in front of you with one leg as you stand up from your squat (like you’re kickboxing).
- Squat down again and kick up and out with your opposite leg this time.
- Do this continuously for 30 to 60 seconds (or longer if you can), and complete at least two sets of the exercise.
Try incorporating these free weight exercises for women into your workouts!
Alternating Squat Jumps
Squat jumps tighten and tone, and this exercise really gets your blood pumping!
- Begin by squatting, but jump when you stand up from your squat.
- Complete a squat jump with your legs slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, and do the very next squat jump with your feet almost touching.
- Continue alternating wide-stand squat jumps with narrow-stance squats for at least 30 to 60 seconds.
Alternating Jumping Lunges
Complete jumping lunges using your own body weight (or hold light dumbbell weights for added resistance) as an alternative to squat jumps.
Or, complete both exercises if you’re really feeling energized.
- Get into a lunge position with your right leg out in front of you, and quickly jump up to switch lunge positions so your left leg is out in front of you this time.
- Do this continuously for 30 to 60 seconds, and repeat at least two times.
Gliding Disk Abdominal Exercises
Use gliding fitness disks to complete a variety of abdominal exercises, trim your midsection, and strengthen your core.
- Begin in a plank position with one gliding disk under each foot.
- Slowly move your feet (keeping your legs straight) apart and back together continuously for 30 to 60 seconds.
- You can also bend your knees to move both feet toward your chest (then immediately get back into a plank position) continuously to change things up.
- Or, remain in a plank position but place the gliding disks under your hands instead.
- Keeping your arms straight, slowly move one hand to the side or out in front of you, and back into a plank position.
- Complete the same movement with your other hand, and repeat the exercises for at least 30 seconds (or at least 10 repetitions for each hand).
Hanging Knee Raises or Leg Raises
Hanging knee raises and leg raises both work your abs, so try one or the other (or both) to keep your midsection slim and trim.
You’ll need a pull-up bar to complete hanging knee raises.
- Simply hang with your feet dangling down, lift your knees up toward your chest, and slowly lower your legs back down.
- Repeat this movement at least 10 times or as many times as you can.
If you don’t have a pull-up bar, try this:
- Lay flat on your back with your legs straight out in front of you.
- Lift your legs (keeping them as straight as possible) up toward the ceiling until your legs form a 90-degree angle with the floor.
- Lower your legs back down toward the ground until they almost touch; then repeat continuously for at least 30 seconds.
This full-body, at-home dumbbell workout for women is a great, quick strength training workout!
Flexibility Exercises for Women Over 40
Flexibility exercises for women over 40 are just as important aerobic and strength-training workouts.
These exercises help prevent injury, lower stress, and allow you to complete other workouts with ease.
A 2016 study published in the Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation found that doing Pilates helps reduce menopausal symptoms and boosts strength and flexibility in post-menopausal women.
Even if you’re over 40 and haven’t yet hit menopause, doing Pilates regularly works wonders for increased flexibility, improved posture, and better balance.
You’ll complete a variety of low-impact stretching and strengthening exercises during Pilates workouts.
Yoga combines meditation with controlled breathing, relaxation techniques, and physical poses to boost strength and flexibility.
But yoga does more than just burn extra calories and improve flexibility, which is why it’s one of the best exercises for women over 40.
Yoga appears to help lower blood pressure and reduce stress — plus it’s relaxing.
Even beginners can enjoy yoga, and all of the health and wellness benefits yoga offers.
Believe it or not, stretching helps you burn extra calories, increases feelings of relaxation, and aids in injury prevention.
For best results, stretch most days of the week.
Band-assisted stretching helps you achieve a deeper stretch, without much (if any) extra effort.
If you’re recovering from an injury, ask your doctor which band-assisted stretches you should do, or request stretching assistance from a trained professional.
Try this amazing 20-minute resistance band leg workout for women at home!
Starting a New Workout Program
Starting a new workout program when you’re over 40 might seem like a daunting task.
When you join the Fit Mother Project (FM30X), you'll learn diet and exercise tips designed to keep you healthy for a lifetime.
Start small and work your way up to 150 to 300 minutes of exercise each week.
Even getting in small amounts of exercise is better than nothing, and can reduce chronic disease risks.
Remember, you don’t have to work out at high intensities to reap the health and wellness benefits of the best exercises for women over 40!
*Please know that weight loss results & health changes/improvements vary from individual to individual; you may not achieve similar results. Always consult with your doctor before making health decisions. This is not medical advice – simply very well-researched info on the best exercises for women.