A while ago I wrote this popular article on exercise considerations for older adults. Now I’m taking a crack at the middle-age exerciser because I’m right there at 51. Not exactly old but no spring chicken either. There are things I wish I could do but can’t. Things I want to do but can’t and lots of things I want to do but my wife will not let me.

Sound familiar? Yep, it’s a blessing to be alive.  

Seriously strength training is the fountain of youth and most of my middle-aged clients are stronger and move better than they ever have. But there are exercise limits and considerations when you’re entering through the gates of middle age.

What is middle-age? Let me take a quick crack at it.

The Cambridge Dictionary defines middle-age as the period of your life when you’re between 45 and 60 years old. When you are no longer young (but might act like it) but not yet considered ancient. (1) 

Does this sound like you? Then keep reading. If it doesn’t then still keep reading because you’ll be there sooner than you think. And while you’re at it, get off my lawn.

Exercising Around Joint Pain

The wear and tear on your joints is real. Whether you’ve lived an active life or not, one of the realities of staying above ground is your joints will hurt. The joints of the back, knees, elbows, hips shoulders, ankle, and wrists will at some time flip you the bird.

Hopefully, not all at once.

You wake up in the morning and it’s harder to get going. Or you go to the gym and younger folks do what you were able to once do, and you say to yourself.

 ‘Wait till you’re my age and your (knee, back, hip, elbow, wrist, and shoulder) hurt”

Yes, when you’re middle-aged it’s more than likely something will hurt. Or if it doesn’t wait until you are my age. Anyway, with joint pain, it’s a damned if you do damn if you don’t. Movement is good for the joint, but sometimes joints hurt when they move. It’s like Goldilocks and the porridge. You want it just right.

So, depending on your pain tolerance here are a few ways to exercise around (and not through) joint pain.

Isometric Exercises

Isometric is a muscle contraction without movement which is especially helpful when movement is painful. Think of isometrics like a tug of war between your muscles and gravity, with you being the winner.

For example, if your knee hurts isometric squats help strengthen the muscles around the joint without movement. And isometric leg exercises have been shown to reduce the symptoms of knee pain too. (1)

The same premise works with shoulders (planks and side planks) and hips (hip extension variations). Isometrics strengthen the muscles around the joint without pissing off the joint.

Reducing Your Range Of Motion

Pain is a complicated process, but it boils down to the brain sensing a threat, whether it’s real or perceived. But when you reduce the range of motion to a pain-free one, you reduce the threat of pain and still strengthen the muscles around the joints without it.

Reducing the pain threat, hopefully, over time you’ll strengthen the joint to where the joint pain is lessened. Granted, it’s tricky, and this does vary from person to person. Here are some examples.

 If you need help exercising around joint pain, please contact me here.

Do More Mobility Exercises

As you get older, the ligaments and tendons that support your muscle and bones, get thicker, dehydrated, and less resistant to stretching and movement. Ever felt stiff in the morning? Harder to get going? Now you know the reason.

Sorry, you are not a kid anymore, and playtime is over.

Plus, with all the responsibilities of being an adult, you move less and sit more. Although going to the gym is great it’s not going totally undo all the sitting and hunching over your phone. Besides walking you need to dedicate more time to mobility exercises.

When you move less and stress more, you need to be intentional with your movement to ensure you can keep up with the young whippersnappers in your life. These mobility exercises below will support better movement, posture, and less pain.

Rocking (notice how it looks like a squat)




Couch stretch. Hold for 2 minutes on each side

Half kneeling and tall kneeling hold. Hold each for 1-2 minutes

These exercises double as an excellent warm-up which becomes more important to do when you’re middle-aged. Because as a car with miles on it your body takes a little longer to start up. So, starting off slow and including a warm-up with these exercises is advisable.

Do More Unilateral Exercises

Due to activities of daily living, almost everybody has a dominant and non-dominant side. For instance, carrying more groceries on one side over the other over time may get one arm stronger.

This doesn’t get worse in middle age, but it may become more pronounced. Although they are not a big deal in themselves but combined with other factors such as stress and lack of movement this may lead to injuries and movement limitation down the road. Better to strengthen this imbalance by dedicating some time to lifting one side at a time.

Plus, unilateral exercises improve balance which becomes more of a factor, the older we get. When training unilaterally, you automatically throw your body off balance, forcing your core muscles to engage to keep yourself upright. 

Trust me when I say that’s a good thing. Here are a few must-do unilateral exercises to keep you upright and looking and moving great.

Suitcase Carries

Single Arm Floor Press

Single Arm Cable/Resistance Band Row

Elevated Split Squat (Yes, they suck but they’re good for you)

Note- Do this version if you have trouble with the elevated split squat

No Time

Cliché alert.

It’s fair to say you have less time than you used to, and shit happens. Stuff happens and our best-laid plans become stuck. You have other priorities that push exercise down the list.

You know you need to exercise but knowing and doing are two separate things. Combine this with a lack of time and you can get stuck in a vicious circle between your health, looking after others, and paying the bills. But you don’t need an hour or half-hour to take care of yourself. A little10 minutes will do.

Exercise to fit your current situation and not the situation you wish you had. When time is an issue (and when isn’t it) and you only have 10 minutes to spare here are a few ways to maintain or improve your health.

Time-Saving Trainings

1A. Pushups 10 reps (Can be done on knees or on an incline surface)

1B. Inverted rows 10 reps

1C. Bodyweight squats 20 reps

 Rest one minute after each circuit and do five circuits.

 1A. Dumbbell shoulder press 10 reps

1B. Dumbbell bent-over row 10 reps

1C. Goblet squats 10 reps

 Rest one minute after each circuit and do five circuits.

 1A. Pushups – 10 reps

1B. Side planks- 15 seconds each side

1C. Bodyweight squats 20 reps

 Rest one minute after each circuit and do five circuits.

 Note- the exercises above can be also included in tri-sets like these

Take 10 Minute Movement Breaks

Finding time in your day to be active even when you’re busy or overwhelmed will have huge implications on your health, fitness, and waistline.  Here are some suggestions when you don’t have time for formal exercise.

1.    Take the stairs instead of the elevator.

2.    Walk during your lunch hour.

3.    Walk to your coworker’s desk instead of emailing.

4.    Pace the sidelines at your kid’s athletic game.

5.    Do housework and walk around your house.

6.    Walk your dog.

7.    Bring the groceries from your car into your house one bag at a time.

8.    Perform gardening and easy-to-do home repair projects.

Again, dedicating time and being intentional with your movement is key for a healthy body and mind.

Wrapping Up

Now, middle-age doesn’t have to suck. Yes, you have more responsibility but hopefully, you have more wisdom and better toys. Finding ways to exercise when life hits the fan will ensure you can move like a kid and then act like one too.

Need an exercise program to get started? You will find one here

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