Ask Nicky: How do I start getting into shape?

Every month, Nicky Forster will be answering questions sent in by our readers. Email yours to

Q: I'm in my forties and have never done any kind of regular exercise before. What's the best way to get started?

Nicky says: Firstly, it's never too late to get in shape.  Even those who start regular exercise in their late 70s can reap the benefits.

The bad news is we start to lose muscle mass from the age of 30. It decreases approximately 5% per decade, and this rate of decline is even higher after the age of 60. The 40s can also be an especially hard decade for women, who often begin the journey into perimenopause, and may have symptoms of hot flashes, weight gain and increased belly fat.

The good news is that regular exercise can help manage these symptoms and anyone can get up to speed relatively quickly.

For anyone who is starting exercise for the first time, or returning to exercise after a long break, it's important to begin slowly and gradually increase your duration and intensity.

This message is really important, as the two reasons I hear more than any others, from those who stop soon after embarking on a new exercise regime, is that they either lose interest or get injured. And this is because they do too much, too soon.

Set small targets

Start off with just 10-15 minutes for the first week and build from there by adding five minutes per week, or whatever you feel is suitable. Exercise for a minute, then rest for a minute or two, and again build from there by increasing your working time or reducing your rest time.

Set small goals or targets to build on each week and improve incrementally over time.

Choose an exercise you enjoy. If you hate running then don’t run, choose to cycle instead. There are many exercise options out there, so you don’t need to punish yourself with one you hate. Opt for an exercise type that is low impact to start with, like cycling, yoga or pilates.

Mental discipline

Don’t rely on motivation. It’s there in abundance at the beginning but soon disappears, even for the most motivated people. Schedule your workouts within your daily routine. If you can exercise with someone else of a similar fitness level that’s great for accountability, but understand that you need to do this for yourself, and that requires mental discipline. Not wanting to do it on any particular day is not a reason to not do it.

Don’t get too despondent if you don’t see immediate results. Just like a child growing up, you often don’t notice it until it’s pointed out by someone else. Keep going: the improvements are subtle, but they are there.

Remember, you haven’t exercised for a long time so embrace the challenge, enjoy the process, and don’t put too much pressure on yourself.

The first step is always the hardest but, as with most things, the fear is far worse than the reality.

Good luck – you’ll be amazing.


Nicky Forster had a professional football career spanning over 20 years, playing a total of 721 professional games and scoring 221 goals for eight teams. He represented England at U21 level, playing alongside David Beckham and Phil Neville, and also managed Brentford FC. He now spends his time as a keynote/motivational speaker, and at The Spot Wellness Centre in Godstone. 

Nicky Forster


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