How to start exercising in middle age, stay injury free and persevere over the long term

As January draws to a close and spring is on the horizon, many will seek to “exercise more” or “exercise.” Do a quick internet search or scroll through social media and you’ll find hundreds of fitness programs with detailed instructions on what exercises are best, how to perform them, and how many sets and reps you should do.

Unfortunately, many people have trouble sticking to a consistent workout due to unsustainable exercise habits. Building healthy habits should be the first thing you focus on when you start exercising. The following 10 tips will help you develop sustainable exercise habits and minimize your risk of injury for a fitter and healthier 2023.

1 Choose an exercise/activity that you enjoy

Studies have shown that people are more likely to stick with — and stay consistent with — an exercise they enjoy. This can be a group sport or an individual exercise activity. Whether it’s Pilates, yoga, running, walking, swimming, cycling, boxing or soccer, the key is to choose what you enjoy so that it becomes sustainable over the long term.

2 Create an action plan

The goal here is to make time to exercise – you may need to move things or ask for help to make this happen. Spend some time and effort writing down your daily fitness plans.

3 Introduce exercise gradually

Each new exercise should be introduced gradually. Our bodies are great at adapting to physical activity, but this takes time, and any effective exercise program will have a graded progression at its core. To guide us here we can use the 10 parts rule. Walks or runs, times or kilometers, for example, can be monitored and increased by 10 percent every week as you try to build your fitness.

4 Adopt a healthy mindset and attitude towards exercise

By shifting your mindset to exercise as a positive thing, you can do a lot to help maintain exercise as a lifelong habit while reaping the many benefits physically, mentally, and socially. Surround yourself and talk to other people who enjoy exercising.

5 Avoid the boom-and-bust cycle

This means slowly building up to your chosen exercise, at a rate your body can handle, and resting regularly. Injuries are fairly common in people who are just starting out or are new to exercise, as they may be eager at first and do too much too quickly. Muscles and tendons need time to strengthen and adapt to new training loads. So be patient with your body and increase your training pace over time.


Create an action plan and write down your daily fitness goals. Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto

6 sleep and rest

Several processes such as human growth hormone release and muscle protein synthesis occur while we sleep and these are critical to promoting adequate post-workout recovery. Studies examining the sleep habits of athletes have shown that those who sleep less than 7 hours a night over a 2-week period have a 50 percent greater risk of suffering a new injury. It is recommended that adults get 7-9 hours of sleep per night.

7 strength training

Just two sessions a week of strengthening exercises have been shown to reduce the risk of acute injuries by 30 percent and overuse injuries by 50 percent. You don’t need fancy equipment or a gym membership to add strengthening exercises to your weekly workout routine. Instead, you can do a bodyweight circuit at home that includes exercises like squats, push-ups, side planks, and calf raises.

8 Fuel your body and drink up

High-carbohydrate foods help increase exercise performance, and high-protein foods help with post-workout muscle repair. We should aim to drink 2-3 liters of water daily to stay hydrated and readers are encouraged to seek advice from a nutritionist for further dietary help and support.

9 Change your environment

If you can’t decide whether to go to the gym or take a fitness class, learn how to work out at home. There are now many exercise options online, both paid and free.

10 Don’t expect perfection and have fun

Going from no workout at all to exercising 3-5 times a week can be overwhelming. But remember, exercise should be fun. So don’t get bogged down if you have to skip a day or don’t have the time or energy to complete the workout. It’s normal to stumble every now and then – forgive yourself and start again the next day.

If you are unsure about starting a workout that is sustainable for you, it is best to contact your local licensed physical therapist for advice on the above. If you’ve sustained an injury or are worried about recurring from an old one, you’ll be best equipped to exercise throughout 2023 if you seek help early.

Eimear O’Brien MISCP, Clinical Specialist Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist at Beacon Hospital, Dublin How to start exercising in middle age, stay injury free and persevere over the long term

Fry Electronics Team

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