Turning 40 can be scary, especially when it comes to health and fitness.
Your body gets a little stiffer, recovery takes longer, and all of a sudden you might find it harder to lose those stubborn pounds.
Well, despite all of that, turning 40 doesn’t mean it’s time to retire, and it certainly doesn’t mean you have to give up your favorite exercises.
It just means you need to get smarter about how you treat your body, and fortunately for you, in this article, we’re going to give you our top tips for keeping fit at 40.
Listen to your Body
The most important factor when exercising is that you listen to your body.
Feel a twinge in your knee? Maybe you should sit this one out.
Body telling you it needs more rest? Great, take a few extra minutes.
Struggling to keep up at your current pace? Dial it back a little and don’t overdo it.
You should be following this advice whatever age you are, but here’s the troubling thing, most people don’t. They push their bodies to the limits, even when it leads to injuries because that’s what they think they’re supposed to do.
As you reach 40, listening to your body doesn’t mean you have to stop pushing yourself, or that you have to always take it easy, it just means if the warning signs are there that you might be doing too much, you should take them more seriously than you did in your youth.
If you didn’t lift weights when you were younger, now’s the time to start.
Not only does regular resistance training reduce your chances of getting diseases such as osteoporosis but it also helps you to have a stronger body, as you age. It isn’t about looking ‘big’, resistance training helps to strengthen your muscles, and enhance your overall core strength so that you can do more things by yourself as you grow older. It’s about aging gracefully and building a strong frame that will support you through your later years.
For maximum benefit, you should aim to lift weights 3 times a week, ideally with a day off in between each session to allow your body to recover.
Eat to Fuel Your Body
When you were younger, junk food and alcohol may have been the norm, but as you get older it’s time to get smart about your nutrition.
You don’t have to swear off alcohol completely, and there’s nothing wrong with enjoying certain foods in moderation, but you should start to focus on eating healthier and eating in a way that supports your goals.
That means following a diet that incorporates fruits and veggies while also being high in protein to support muscle growth.
If weight loss is a goal of yours we’d also recommend tracking your calories to give you more awareness over just how many calories you’re eating. Eating this way will help you with your health and fitness goals but it will also help you in your day-to-day life as you feel more alert, have more energy, and feel less sluggish.
Prioritize Rest and Recovery
Staying fit and healthy isn’t just about what you do in the gym, it’s also how you take care of your body once the workout is over. Rest and recovery are vital for your long term success as it helps your mind and your body to relax, recover and repair after a hard session.
Most people know the traditional pieces of advice such as trying to get 7-9 hours of sleep, or how adding meditation to your daily routine could help you to mentally relax, but there’s actually a whole host of other things you could do whether it’s at the end of your workout, on your designated recovery day, or at the end of your week.
Stretching or taking part in yoga or Pilates is a great way to take care of your muscles and support your recovery (see below for more).
Using a foam roller to ease the tension in your muscles or making use of a massage gun can also be a great tool to soothe your muscles, whereas taking a relaxing bath, or sitting in an ice bath can also be fantastic for aiding your recovery.
On top of this, making time to mentally relax and de-stress can also help you to wake up feeling more relaxed and refreshed.
In addition to the tactics named above, we also recommend staying active on your recovery days at a much lower intensity. For example, going out for a recovery walk is a great way to keep your body moving without putting it under much strain or tension.
Get Serious About Mobility and Flexibility
One of the most common complaints you hear as people age is how their muscles, bones, and joints ache, click or feel stiff after they’ve finished exercising. For some people, they don’t even need to exercise, as simply sleeping in a different position can be enough to make them feel rough, and that’s where mobility and flexibility exercises can be extremely important.
From basic stretching to more advanced yoga or Pilates, there is a range of exercises designed to help increase your range of motion, boost your flexibility, and increase your mobility, even as you age.
Taking part in these exercises will help you feel supple which will help you move more freely while also reducing aches and pains. It can make exercise, and your day-to-day life, feel more comfortable, and can also help you reduce the risk of getting injured or pulling a muscle when exercising.
Know When to Turn it Up (and when to turn it down)
Exercising in your 40’s can bring about new challenges, but it doesn’t mean you go from all-action to delicate flower overnight. That’s why we encourage you to continue to listen to your body and adapt as you go. It’s also why you should continue doing some form of high-intensity exercise. Whether it’s a class at the gym, a spinning session on your bike, or even a fast-paced run through the park, a proportion of your weekly exercise should still be at a higher intensity as it challenges your body to adapt, grow and improve, which is vital for long term progress.
Unfortunately when it comes to intensity people usually fall into two camps. Either dial the intensity back, which actually results in them getting weaker over time. Or they try to push like they’re 20 years younger and they end up doing considerable damage to their bodies. The happy place is somewhere in the middle. If you work out 3 times a week, make one of those sessions a higher intensity session, and make the others demanding, but at a more steady and even pace to avoid putting your body at risk.
Try Something New
If you’ve been doing the same workouts or following the same routine for years, then maybe it’s time to try something new.
Whether you try your hand at something more gentle on your joints, like swimming, cycling, or rowing, or you switch gears altogether and make the switch from being a lifelong squash player to all of a sudden falling in love with indoor rock climbing, trying a new activity could be a fantastic way to insert new life and energy into your workout routine.
Exercise doesn’t have to be boring as you age and trying something new is a great way to keep things fresh.
You can meet new people, and it could even introduce you to a new form of exercise that you’d previously never considered.
Whatever type of exercise you opt for, and no matter how many times a week you work out, just make sure you’re consistent.
The recommended amount of exercise (150 minutes a week) doesn’t change, even as you age, so even if you are getting a little older and perhaps feeling the effects of it, you shouldn’t be trying to reduce how much you do. Instead focus on performing higher-quality workouts that meet your goals, and follow some of the suggestions we made above around rest and recovery. You’ll soon find your groove again, which will keep you feeling great for decades to come.
Exercising in your 40’s doesn’t have to be difficult. Sure, you might lose a step of speed or your athleticism might drop a little but the biggest difference you’ll start to notice as you age will be in your recovery. That’s why it’s so important to put more thought into your exercise program as you get older.
In your youth it might have been possible to turn up at the gym (after no sleep and lots of alcohol) and still have a decent workout, but as you age you need to treat your body with more care.
By putting more thought into your exercise routine, including how often you exercise, the intensity of your workouts, and how you recover after a session, you can ensure you stay strong, fit, and healthy long after you hit the big 4-0.