Something seems to happen to the body around 40, doesn’t it? Many of us can remember the boundless energy we had in our 20’s-30’s, but few of us, even pro athletes, are able to muster that same energy and vigor after 40. There are a number of physiological reasons for this natural change, but we won’t get bogged down in the details.
The once commonly held notion that people after 40 should slow down has changed. Nowadays, people like Phil Mickelson, Tom Brady, and 46 year old Olympic gymnast Oksana Chusovitina, have shown that it’s still possible to stay active at a high level even as you get on in years. Perhaps unlike earlier generations, we don’t see age as a total barrier to playing sports anymore.
However, we can’t lie to ourselves. If you haven’t been active in your 20’s, chances are you won’t be much different when you’re over 40. As you age, so does your body. It will take longer to build muscle, the body will recover more slowly, and to see a drastic change, you need to put in more effort. But it’s possible – and this is how you can do it.
Bear in Mind You’re Not 20 Anymore 😢
The first step towards leading a fit life once you’re 40 or older is to be realistic about what you can and cannot do. You aren’t 20 anymore, so you should cut yourself some slack. Acceptance is powerful, because it allows you to be who you are, instead of trying to pretend you’re who you were. If you are tired after a long day at work, caring for children, doing things around the neighborhood, you shouldn’t stress about hitting the gym that particular day. There is plenty of time for gym – just don’t get lazy. But it’s ok to take a rest in order to recover.
Balance Is in the 3 Bs: Bend, Build and Breathe
Working out should be a mix of the three Bs. You should always stretch, as flexibility is an important factor when working out; you should build muscle by doing strength training (this is HUGE for women who want to fight osteoporosis!) and you should sweat a little too (a.k.a. do cardio exercises). All of these are important, no matter how much you might disregard the need of stretching.
You can easily summarize this as three simple rules:
- Bend: Stretch every workout session. If you know a bit of yoga, throw that into the mix. Just make sure to loosen up your legs, back, torso, and arms.
- Build: Split the time you allocate to muscle building and fitness exercises evenly. Don’t worry about ‘bulking up’…lift lighter weights to tone.
- Breathe: Do one hard session of cardio per week in order to get your heart rate up (you don’t have to go nuts, but you should find it challenging).
Furthermore, having a balanced and healthy diet helps more than you think. Remember that if you want to get fit, everything starts in the kitchen.
Approach Strength Training Correctly
Strength training is a fantastic way to proceed after you finish stretching. Try picking two exercises that go well together. For example, you could go for one of these pairs: squats and bench press, squats and pull-ups, deadlifts and shoulder press, or kettlebell swings and bench press.
You should aim to repeat each exercise for three to five sets of six to eight reps, using 50% of your max (so if you can normally squat 100lbs 1x, start your first set at 50lbs and do it 6-8 times).
In addition, if you have a day when you feel super motivated about working out, challenge yourself by adding a few extra reps.
Don’t Neglect the Cardio Exercises
Similar to the way you approach strength training, you should cycle between easier and more difficult cardio exercises. There are many activities you can perform, which will work wonders on your health (and weight).
If you are not a fan of jogging, you could opt for cycling, skiing, swimming or even rowing. Since you can do all of these activities outside, you get the added benefits of vitamin D and fresh air.
If you’re feeling more adventurous, sign up for a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu class and learn practical self-defense while getting an incredible workout. (Worked for Jonah Hill!)
While we can’t stress the importance of a healthy diet enough, it would be a huge mistake to ignore the role fitness plays in aging gracefully. You can start gradually, now that you’re 40+, but you need to make exercise a priority if you want to feel your best. Try to alternate days of strength and cardio exercises to fit your comfort level, and in due time, you will be in great shape, regardless of your age. The secret to remaining fit after 40 is making daily exercise part of your lifestyle.