Staying Fit After 40
There are so many crucial benefits to exercise and getting (and staying) fit, especially as the body ages. In fact, there are very few downsides to exercise. Our bodies are designed with joints for movement, so it’s no wonder that our health improves when we use them and stay active.
Exercise poses many incredible health benefits. When you stay physically fit and active, exercise has the ability to reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes, help us get a better night’s sleep, fight fatty liver disease, manage weight, and of course, it helps us feel and look younger. So, how does this process change as we age? What happens next?
What Happens After 40?
Over time, you’ll inevitably notice changes to your body. The process of aging often follows a pattern. Until around age 30, our muscles continue to grow larger and stronger. Then, around 30, you start to lose muscle mass, up to 3-5 percent each decade if you’re not active. And, even if you are active, you still continue to lose muscle mass just at a much slower rate.
After 40, it’s common to start seeing changes in reflex and coordination. These can start to suffer from the basic biological changes associated with aging. Sometimes, the body just doesn’t respond the same way that it did when you were younger. Some people might find that they have more difficulty getting up from the couch, or climbing stairs, or going for a bike ride, etc. With age, you may find that your body just gets a little stiffer and wobblier as your muscles become more lax.
Fortunately, with regular exercise and a balanced diet, you can continue to enjoy all of the amazing things that your body can do for many, many years to come. You just have to keep moving, and be smarter about how you approach fitness.
Use It or Lose It
The adage, “use it or lose it,” is especially true when it comes to your physical abilities. The key to staying and feeling young is simple – stay active! As you age and lose muscle, that muscle will typically be replaced by fat. So, make every effort to counter this by staying committed to basic daily movement. The good news is that it’s never too late to start exercising and taking care of your muscles.
Flexibility and Balance
If you’re just getting on the fitness train at a later age, the best place to start is in understanding the importance of flexibility and balance. Doctors recommend that people over 40 shouldn’t exercise more, they should simply exercise smarter. In order to stay fit after 40, you must improve your flexibility and balance.
Unfortunately, as you age, both of these physical factors will suffer from muscle loss and joint stiffness. Flexibility is the third pillar of fitness, after cardiovascular conditioning and strength training. It helps to reduce injuries, improves balance and can help you reach your optimum level of fitness. But, it’s no longer as simple as doing static stretches, like touching your toes. No. After 40, your focus needs to turn to dynamic stretching, which involves movement. These stretches include things like walking lunges, squats or arm circles. Flexibility is accomplished through the movement of each muscle group. Dynamic stretching will make you less prone to injury, give you more power, better coordination and balance as well efficient neuromuscular activation, thus improving overall flexibility and balance.
Modify Strength Training
When you’re younger, it’s easier to just hit the gym and lift weights. But, as you age, you’re going to need to build functional strength rather than strength in isolated muscle group. Functional strength will improve your overall abilities by using and working on groups of muscles that you normally use in everyday life. Sure, in the past those leg presses might have built impressive quadriceps muscles, but after 40, if you don’t improve the strength of the muscles that balance the quadriceps, such as the hamstrings, you won’t improve your ability to efficiently climb stairs.
Functional strength training is a coordinated effort between multiple muscle groups imitating everyday activities. So, all of the activities you perform each day, such as walking, climbing stairs, getting up and down from chairs, lifting, pushing, bending, pulling, twisting and turning can be improved through efforts that train multiple planes and multiple muscle groups. You can accomplish these types of activities through the use of free weights, medicine balls, and kettlebells.
The ugly truth is that from day one, our bodies and our health are under siege from every direction. Whether it’s environmental toxins, processed foods, GMOs or other threats that we’re constantly exposed to, it’s simply not possible to protect your health from everything. But, you can absolutely improve your odds of a healthier, fitter, long-lasting life when you arm yourself with information. So, take control of your fitness after 40, make smarter choices, and keep moving so that you can enjoy all of the many exciting years to come.