Stay fit and fabulous over 40
KEEPING healthy and active through regular exercise and eating sensibly is important at any age. As we hit our 40s, it becomes vital to our wellbeing to maintain regular exercise and daily activity.
Numerous studies have shown that a combination of a sedentary lifestyle and poor nutrition increases the risks of premature ageing, illness and disease; ultimately shortening life expectancy.
There are numerous physiological changes associated with ageing. These include decreases in cardiac output (the efficiency of the heart), maximal oxygen uptake (the body’s ability to utilise oxygen) and bone density. Muscle mass typically starts to reduce in those over 40 and blood pressure may start to increase.
The good news is that while you can’t stop the ageing process, you can slow down, halt and even improve some of these physiological changes through regular exercise.
Tips for staying fit at 40
Set a goal:
Having a vague notion of wanting to stay fit is unlikely to be enough to keep you focused. Setting a specific goal can be great for motivation and gives a purpose to each training session. It can be as simple as improving your distance over a given time on an exercise bike, rowing machine or treadmill in the gym, or taking part in a more ambitious event such as a 5 or 10 km run.
Ditch the diet:
A recent survey showed that the average woman has been on 61 diets by the age of 45. Diets wreck your metabolism and result in yo-yo weight gain and loss. The key to successful weight management is adopting a healthy eating plan and sticking with it.
A well-balanced diet includes plenty of fruit and vegetables, healthy fats, proteins, calcium-rich foods and water. Try keeping with fresh and unprocessed foods as much as possible, as anything that has been processed will contain calorie-laden unhealthy ingredients like saturated fats and sugar.
Train for function:
The physiological changes associated with ageing need to be addressed as you approach your 40s, if not before. Keeping your heart healthy through regular cardiovascular training is critical.
Choose an activity you enjoy, such as swimming, cycling or running, and complete a half-hour session two or three times a week at the minimum. Take every opportunity to incorporate exercise into your day, such as taking a brisk walk in preference to driving and using the stairs rather than the escalator. Resistance training, working out with weights, is also vital to avoid age-related muscle loss.
Listen to your body:
While accepting that exercise is good for you it’s also essential you listen to your body and don’t overdo things. The body’s ability to heal and recover can take longer as we age and over-enthusiastic training combined with stress, and lack of sleep can tip you over into injury. Don’t ignore a pain or problem that persists beyond a few days. If in doubt, seek medical advice.
Surround yourself with like-minded people:
There may be times when you lack motivation or focus. Finding friends who enjoy the same activities as you can keep you on track. Exercising with other people can be fun and encourages a little healthy competition as well as being a great source of friendship and support.
Make time for exercise:
Banish the guilt about taking time to exercise and plan it into your busy week like any other appointment. Exercise can also be broken down into smaller achievable chunks, such as a 20-minute brisk walk to work or a ten-minute, focused ab session while you watch the telly.
Un-plug, disconnect, switch off:
Over-stimulation can play havoc with our family life, free time and sleep. Poor sleep and lack of sleep can also affect weight management and increasing levels of stress, lowering our immune system as well as making us feel tired and irritable. Combat this by following a night-time ritual that relaxes you. Take a break from the computer, mobile and TV and take some light exercise, followed by a warm shower or bath and end your evening with a good book for a restful and replenishing night’s sleep.
Step out of your comfort zone:
Don’t be afraid to try something new. Mental stimulation and exercise play an important role in improving brain function and may protect against cognitive decline. Taking on a new challenge, hobby or sport will help keep you energised and motivated.