There’s no question that our bodies are different when we’re in our 40s. And while you may not be able to imagine yourself doing the same activities at the same intensity level you did in your 20s, it’s still possible to stay fit – and there are some very compelling reasons you might want to do so.
In fact, even if you weren’t fitness-minded earlier in your life, studies show it’s never too late to reap the benefits of an active lifestyle. A study published in the respected journal JAMA Network Open found that upping your physical activity levels later in life allows you to enjoy the same reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and all-cause mortality as you’d get from having been active nonstop since adolescence.
In that study, all it took to benefit was 150 minutes a week of moderate activity like housework or gardening, or 75 minutes of more vigorous activity, like swimming, aerobics, running, or walking at a fast pace. There are also psychological benefits to be gained, such as alleviating depression and stress and feeling more energetic.
All that sounds pretty nice, but how can you put it into action when it feels like the years are catching up to your body? Here are some tips for staying fit after 40, no matter what kind of shape you’re in!
Find what you love
The best piece of advice for staying fit after 40 is finding something you love to do to stay in shape. Every workout isn’t going to feel like a party, but one thing is for certain: if you view it as a chore, you’re not going to want to do it!
Some people feel motivated by the notion of trying to top yesterday’s mileage on the treadmill, whereas others need something more social. Find what you love, whether it’s jumping rope like when you were young, a weekend hike in the mountains with the family, or regular long walks around the neighbourhood with a friend. And be sure to switch it up from time to time so you don’t get stuck in a rut!
Remember to stretch
Stretching is particularly important as you get older because your muscles, tendons and ligaments have a tendency to get stiffer. Make sure that whatever fitness approach you choose, you start out and finish up with a bit of stretching. You need to do some flexibility work from time to time as well – yoga is excellent for this!
Look to the water
If you have access to a pool or the ocean, water workouts are incredibly gentle on aging joints while still allowing you to get a total-body workout. In addition, the resistance provided by the water means you get strengthening benefits from your cardio workout. Consider water jogging, aqua aerobics, or good old-fashioned lap swimming.
Clean up your diet
There’s an old saying that “you can’t outrun a bad diet”, and there’s a lot of truth behind it. A big part of fitness, especially when you’re over 40, involves making good food choices. We’re not saying you can’t have cake on your birthday, but if you’re eating it every day, it’s time to find a healthier way to satisfy that sweet tooth. Try to limit your sugar intake and avoid fast foods while eating more fruits and vegetables for an extra boost of nutrients and fibre.
Anything is better than nothing
It’s asking a lot to commit to 30 minutes of exercise daily, especially when your lifestyle hasn’t been too active. But staying fit after 40 doesn’t mean you have to start spending every afternoon at the gym. Try to do something small every day, whether it’s a long walk after dinner or a 10-minute yoga session online.
A study from Harvard Medical School found that even a 20-minute stroll can reduce stress and clear your mind. Making these intentional healthy actions will help you stay disciplined and can also inspire you to make other healthy choices throughout your day, such as at mealtime or the grocery store.
Don’t overlook the importance of strength training
Many people think lifting weights is just for bodybuilders, but nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, building and maintaining muscle past your 40s is essential as muscle mass starts dropping as you age.
Lifting weights can raise your lean body mass, which will increase the calories you burn overall during the day. And forget those worries about bulking up – strength training will shape your body, not make it bigger.
Get enough sleep
You might wish you could just go to sleep and wake up fit, and while that really is just a dream, getting enough sleep every night is essential for protecting not only your physical health but also your mental health and quality of life.
You’ll have more energy for your daily activities, including fitness, and you’ll find it easier to get motivated when you’re well-rested. And as your fitness improves, you’ll also find your sleep improving. It’s a win-win situation!
No matter how old you are – whether you’ve just hit the big 4-0 or you’re an octogenarian – it’s never too late to start getting fit and enjoy the benefits associated with an active lifestyle!