Your bones lose density, joints are slowly worn down, and metabolism continues to decelerate. Scary, right?
Never fear! They say 40 is the new 30, and with the right exercises and a few lifestyle changes, there’s no reason you can’t get into the best shape of your life, and keep the wrinkles away.
Here are our top five ways you can keep your body going strong, feel great, and keep that midlife crisis at bay, moving into your forties.
When it comes to staving off excess weight, the buck stops with a healthy diet. No matter how hard you work out, if you’re shoveling buckets of nachos and soft drinks down your gullet, it will all be in vain.
Make sure to maintain a balanced diet – eating five to six small meals a day. This boosts your metabolism and helps you to control your nutritional intake. Eat plenty of protein – this helps stabilize blood sugar, and is crucial to building muscle. Try to keep starchy carbs to a minimum, and stick to fibrous carbs – eating less as the day progresses. No processed foods, or refined sugar!
Remember, the older you get, the more susceptible your body is to not only diabetes but high blood cholesterol – which increases the risk of coronary heart disease.
Orthopedic surgeon, mobility expert and author of Fitness After 40: How to Stay Strong at Any Age, Dr. Vonda Wright, says people over 40 do not need to work out more – they need to work out smarter.
When you’re doing cardiovascular exercises, such running, cycling or rowing, do intense intervals. The higher the intensity, the more blood and oxygen flow – hence the lower the risk of damage to the hippocampus – the main part of the brain responsible for storing memory.
Aim to do 45 minutes twice a week – alternating between two minutes of moderate cardio, and one-minute bursts of higher intensity. If this is too much, start off with shorter intervals, and build it up.
As you get older, it is important to take care of your joints. Damage to them is cumulative and easily minimized.
Building up your flexibility and agility help stave off joint and muscle damage. Be sure to stretch before your workouts, and consider taking up Yoga. Some experts believe dynamic stretching, such as walking lunges or squats, for 15 to 60 seconds is better than static stretching, such as touching your toes – which can sometimes cause more harm than good
Yoga is not only incredible for flexibility, but building up muscle and tone. It also boosts respiration, metabolism and a wide array of other bodily functions. Plus, it also reduces stress – meaning fewer wrinkles and heart woes. One study found three hours of yoga a week was enough to lower anxiety by 30%.
For more intense flexibility training, try foam rolling – which is also great for breaking up muscle knots. For the best results, use the roller after a hot shower in the morning, to loosen your muscles and joints up for the rest of the day.
Pilates is great for over-40s, because it is low impact, and also produces incredible results. It not only helps you build up a powerful core, but also boosts posture, balance, flexibility and is great for treating back pain.
As far as smart exercise goes, it doesn’t get much smarter than this. Pilates emphasizes quality over quantity – forcing you to pay close attention to your posture and breathing, which both aid in lowering stress.
It also elongates and strengthens your muscles – producing more elastic muscle and flexible joints, as opposed to weight-bearing exercises, which build shorter and bulky muscles.
Every part of your body receives a balanced workout, helping you sculpt a body that is built to last.
Chronic back pain persists for more than three months and can be difficult to treat. Acute back pain, meanwhile, lasts up to a few weeks and is usually caused by injury or a degenerative condition, like arthritis.
For many people, back pain is just a part of growing older. It is certainly exacerbated by things like smoking, sitting down too much, being overweight and stressed. However, it is also the result of aging – lower bone strength, muscle elasticity and drier discs.
One of the best ways to mitigate damage to your discs, spinal cord and joints is to stay fit – exercise and regular movement keeps the spine healthy. Gentle exercise, such as swimming, cycling, Pilates and yoga are great for strengthening the back and abdomen – which support the spine.
In an ideal world, we would all avoid sedentary lifestyles – but, that is easier said than done for most people. However, if you’re stuck behind a desk, you can still make sure you sit with your back straight against the chair back – avoiding slouching or leaning forward. Try to keep your knees in line with your hips.
Stress can also lead to tight muscles, which is bad for your back – so try to incorporate some breathing exercises, and maintain a healthy work-life balance.
Maintaining proper posture while lifting weights is also crucial – don’t bite off more than you can chew, and keep your shoulders in line with your hips, so you don’t twist too much. Make sure you bend your knees, tighten your abs and keep a straight back.
Still not convinced? These ladies and gents are slaying the game well into their 40s.
Photo Credit: Elena Browe