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How to choose the best exercise for your 20ies, 30ies and 40ies

Written by: Nick Jack
Category: 2014
on 11 June 2014
Hits: 4383

Choosing the right exercises, or exercise program to get in shape would have to be one of the most misunderstood and confusing topics for people. The workout you would do in your 20's will significantly be different to the workout you do in your 40's, but not always. The belief that you must workout for at least an hour a day and it is not a good workout unless you get sweaty and puffed is why most people gravitate to repetitious cardio type training like running and cycling. However what I am going to show you in this article is that to achieve your goal of being Healthy, Strong and Fit it is all about choosing the right exercise for you. (note it must be in the order of Healthy First, Fit second, more on that later)


In addition to your exercise program you must have a great nutrition program and be aware of reducing your stress levels but for this article we are going to focus on the exercise component only.

I have been a Personal Trainer & Sports coach in Melbourne for nearly 10 years now and trained with over 1000 clients of different ages, injuries, backgrounds, abilities and goals. But there has been a common theme running through all of the best clients, even the 70 year olds. And that is they all had excellent movement skills, co-ordination and strength. These people possessed this ability before they came to see me, I just helped them to get the best out of their body by using different programs, methods and techniques. Their sessions often were very fun, they progressed quickly and were able to achieve results that were way better than they ever thought possible. Getting fit more or less came easy to this person.

And on the flip side the clients who suffered with the most injuries, health problems or found it very hard to lose weight all had a common theme too. And this was a lack of movement skills, co-ordination and strength! But unlike their counterparts their training program was a lot more difficult to implement, much slower progress, they often found exercise a chore and not fun at all and their results although better were often not as good as they would like. The ones who stuck it out and stayed to the plan would get there eventually however there were many clients who were frustrated with lack of results and just give up.

So if we know that the common theme is MOVEMENT SKILLS, CO-ORDINATION and STRENGTH then how do you go about improving this now no matter what age you are?

Before we cover exercises for each age group there are a few rules you must adhere to first. Without them you are doomed for failure!

Rule Number 1 – Write Down Your Goals

Whatever you are setting out to achieve must have a specific goal written down for you to be able to design a plan. You can read more about how to do this by going to this article on Goal Setting and you can download your Free Goal Worksheet

Rule Number 2 – Apply The Success Formula

When starting a Health & Fitness training program you must address your body’s needs before lifting the intensity otherwise your risk injury. The four factors you must address are Flexibility, Stability, Strength and Power. This article on the Success Formula explains in simple terms how to do this so you only move forward towards your objective.

Rule Number 3 – Reduce Your Stress & Improve Your Nutrition

I see so many people who devote hours and hours to training, yet fail to make any changes to their nutrition at all. This is fraught with danger and will only lead to frustration due to lack of results. Second to this is the ignorance to the damage that stress can play on your body. Apart from pain adding stress to someone is the quickest way to derail even the best program.

By paying attention to these 3 rules you are already well on the way to achieving your goals and more.

So now let’s take a closer look at what exercises are best to do in different age groups.

Best Exercises To Do In Your 20’s

Your focus is simple, improve movement skills. And the easiest way to do this is to play SPORTS! Especially ball sports that require excellent hand eye co-ordination, agility, balance, speed and multiple movement patterns performed in a standing position. Sports like Basketball, Tennis, Netball, Football and Soccer are excellent for developing great movement patterns and hand eye co-ordination that you will keep for the rest of your life! Spending time to do strength training and some form of sports conditioning around your games and training is a key component for not only playing better but also preventing injury.  In this age group you are at your peak in terms of muscle development and still actively building muscle tissue. Although you feel strong this is the time to train for fast powerful movements as soon you will start to lose the ability to use them. Fast twitch fibres and adding muscle is easiest to do in this phase and much harder as you get older so if you can build a great base now it will pay off in your ageing years.

Best Exercises To Do In Your 30’s

Now that you are a bit older, your life brings with it a lot more responsibility, at work and also at home. And with that also comes STRESS. It is also in this age group that you start to experience some muscle loss if you are not actively adopting resistance training to reverse this trend. If you had played a lot of sports in your 20’s, your early 30’s will enable you to continue playing well and if not better as your body has had a lot of time to become an expert at your chosen sport. That is why you see so many good athletes in their early 30’s. However for many people their job has seen them rise in the company ranks or they may even start a small business that now sees their time diminish and they no longer exercise as much as they could. Add on top of that, you might start a family that also has new responsibilities and it is now impossible to devote as much as time as before to your sport. You now have to squeeze workouts in at the gym around your commitments. It is in this age that your focus should be on adding muscle and reducing stress. Postural correction is also a big factor to be addressed in this age group as this is where we find most of the postural faults begin to develop due to the heavy workload and stress on the system. It is very important at this point to be clear about STRESS and how it can over ride the best exercise and nutrition program completely. Watch these 2 videos to understand more about stress.

Best Exercises To Do In Your 40’s

I tend to find there are 2 radically different types of people in their 40’s. There are those who have spent considerable time completing exercise, and those who have not exercised much at all in their life, and are now suffering multiple health issues as a result. The biggest difference you will see is how old people look who have not been doing exercise, especially resistance training. And the reason is very simple. They have lost considerable muscle mass and now at the age of 40 the body starts speeding up the rate of muscle loss, unless you stop it by using strength training. In addition to their appearance looking older, loss of movement skills & flexibility is beginning to set in. Simple activities like walking up stairs start to become difficult and weight gain seems to have just crept up very quickly even though they are not eating any differently. Besides the fact that muscle helps strengthen joints, bones, it is a huge contributor to your metabolism. The more muscle you have the faster your metabolism. This means that if you are losing muscle quickly you will have a slowed down metabolism that will result in weight gain. So the exercise focus for this age group is simple: STRENGTH TRAINING. Continuing with workouts like Yoga, Tai Chi and ways to reduce stress is still a big focus, remembering that stress will eat muscle tissue! Make sure you weight training is based on Functional Strength Training techniques that develop good movement patterns and you will be able to live well into your late 70’s and early 80’s doing most activities and movements that many people find difficult in their 40’s. Read this article on Strength Training For Older Adults

Watch this video of 76 year old Laurie Ford completing a Functional Strength Training workout!


When considering what type of exercise is best for your age it really can be considerably different depending on how much you are already doing and what you have done. Exercises early on in life should be very dynamic, athletic and fun to encourage great movement and motor skills. As we get older we need to become smarter and wiser with our choice, keeping in mind how stress becomes the silent saboteur of any health program. Muscle loss cannot be overstated and you MUST always be looking to add muscle no matter what age. It just becomes non-negotiable the older you get. Now no matter what age you are, you should be very clear about where to start in order to achieve great health and fitness. Always remember that it is HEALTH first and FITNESS second. You must aspire to be healthy in order to be truly fit. And lastly dont forget the common theme with all the best clients, was they all had excellent movement skills, co-ordination and strength. This is what you MUST focus on if you want to be that person who looks like they are only 35 when they are 55!