The best cardio workouts aren’t necessarily the ones that leave you dripping in sweat but the ones that keep you active and engaged. From the adaptable intensity of interval training to the timeless appeal of cycling, rowing, and running, and even the adventurous twist of rucking, these are my five top-recommended workouts to stay lean after 40. They’re your ticket to strength, vitality, and an unstoppable mindset.

So, let’s shatter any preconceptions about aging and fitness. Grab your water bottle, lace up those sneakers, and dive headfirst into five heart-pumping cardio workouts that will leave you feeling invigorated and ready to conquer anything life throws your way. These workouts to stay lean after 40 are about breaking a sweat, progressing your limits, and embracing the joy of movement.

Workout #1: Interval Training

mature fitness woman running on treadmill at gym
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Interval training involves alternating between high-intensity exercise and lower-intensity recovery periods, effectively boosting metabolism and burning calories. By manipulating the intervals, you can target specific energy systems, enhancing aerobic and anaerobic capacity.

One significant advantage of interval training is its flexibility regarding equipment. You can perform intervals on a treadmill, rower, ski erg, assault bike, elliptical, or stationary bike—virtually any cardio equipment. This versatility ensures your workouts remain engaging and effective.

The Workout:

  • Warm-up: 5 minutes of light intensity
  • Working Set: 1 minute of moderate to high-intensity
  • Recovery Set: 2 minutes of low-intensity
  • Repeat for 10 to 15 rounds
  • Cool-down: 5 minutes of low-intensity

Workout #2: Rowing

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Rowing is like your all-in-one powerhouse for cardio—it’s not messing around when it comes to revving up your metabolism and torching fat. Think about it: you hit your lower and upper body with every stroke. And let me tell you, once you nail down your rowing technique, you’ll be blazing through calories faster than you can say “lean machine.”

Steady-state Workout:

  • Warm-up: 5 minutes of easy rowing
  • Main set: 20 to 30 minutes of steady-state rowing at a moderate pace
  • Cool-down: 5 minutes of low-easy rowing

Interval Workout:

  • Warm-up: 5 minutes of easy rowing
  • Working Set: 30 seconds of moderate to high-intensity
  • Recovery Set: 1 minute if low-intensity
  • Cool-down: 5 minutes of easy rowing

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Workout #3: Cycling

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Whether cruising outdoors or spinning on a stationary bike indoors, cycling is your ticket to a killer cardio workout without putting undue stress on your knees and joints. Plus, it’s versatile—you can enjoy the fresh air and scenery on a bike ride outside or hop on a stationary bike for a calorie-burning session indoors.

Steady-state Workout:

  • Warm-up: 5 minutes of easy cycling
  • Main set: 30 to 40 minutes of steady-state rowing at a moderate pace
  • Cool-down: 5 minutes of low-easy rowing

Interval Workout:

  • Warm-up: 5 minutes of easy rowing
  • Working Set: Work through the following pyramid intervals. Follow each interval with the provided recovery set below – :10, :15, :20, :25, :30, :30, :25, :20, :15, :10
  • Recovery Set: 30 seconds of low-intensity
  • Cool-down: 5 minutes of easy rowing

Feel free to tackle as many pyramids as you’d like. My advice? Slot in a leisurely two minutes of easy cycling between each one. Trust me, your body will thank you for the breather.

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Workout #4: Rucking

man rucking uphill on hiking path on sunny day
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Lace up those boots and venture into the world of rucking! Rucking is like walking but with a purpose and some added weight. It’s a fantastic cardio workout that helps you stay lean and builds endurance and strength.

Whether hitting the trails or pounding the pavement, rucking challenges your cardiovascular system while engaging your muscles, especially your legs, core, and upper body. Plus, it’s low-impact, making it easy on your joints. All you need is a weighted vest, or toss a few weights in a sturdy backpack and begin moving!

The Workout:

  • Warm-up: a few rounds of light calisthenics, such as bodyweight squats, lunges, and planks.
  • Main set: 20 to 40 minutes of brisk walking in the environment of your choice (sidewalks, trails, etc.)
  • Cool-down: 5 to 10 minutes going through your favorite recovery stretches

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Workout #5: Running

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Running is the classic go-to cardio workout for staying lean—and for good reason. It’s a high-intensity, calorie-burning activity that engages multiple muscle groups, particularly in your legs and core.

Whether sprinting or going for a steady jog, running challenges your cardiovascular system, improves endurance, and helps shed excess fat. Additionally, running is convenient and can be done almost anywhere, making it perfect for fitting into busy schedules.

Steady-state Workout:

  • Warm-up: 5 minutes of dynamic stretching—think knee hugs, quad pulls, hamstring sweeps, standing rotations, lateral bends, squats, and lunges
  • Main set: 30 to 45 minutes of steady-state jogging at a moderate pace
  • Cool-down: 5 minutes of walking and 5 to 10 minutes of your favorite recovery stretches

Interval Workout:

  • Warm-up: 5 minutes of dynamic stretching—think knee hugs, quad pulls, hamstring sweeps, standing rotations, lateral bends, squats, and lunges
  • Working Set: 1 minute of moderate-intensity
  • Recovery Set: 1 minute of low-intensity.
  • Cool-down: 5 minutes of walking and 5 to 10 minutes of your favorite recovery stretches

Jarrod Nobbe

Jarrod Nobbe is a USAW National Coach, Sports Performance Coach, Personal Trainer, and writer, and has been involved in health and fitness for the past 12 years. Read more about Jarrod
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