This article will help you understand how your body changes over time, the value of getting fit, and the importance of maintaining a fitness practice throughout your life. Together, we’ll also explore different types of training and why each one is beneficial to building and maintaining your strength, fitness, and vitality.
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Fitness after 40
Everyone will start to notice a change in their bodies as they age, whether they’re just hitting 40 or crossed that proverbial hill long ago. How those changes manifest will be different for everyone, but most people will notice one or more of the following:
- Difficulty losing weight
- Decreased flexibility
- Joint pain
- Difficulty lifting heavy objects
- Decreased muscle tone
- Weight gain in unexpected areas
- Becoming more easily winded with less exertion
These slight changes are a normal part of living, but with exercise and a healthy lifestyle, you can minimize—and perhaps even reverse—some of these effects.
When it comes to the importance of exercise and how your body functions, it’s often a case of “use it or lose it.” In 1966, the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School conducted a study in which five healthy 20-year- old men were confined to bed rest for three weeks. In that short period, these men increased their body fat, lost muscle mass, and exhibited troubling health markers such as higher blood pressure and an increased resting heart rate.
Fortunately, there’s a silver lining. When these same young men were put on a two-month workout regimen, they not only reverse those effects but also improved all their health markers. The takeaway: You can improve your health and fortify your body against ageing with a consistent exercise program whether you’re committing to it at home, in the gym, or wherever works best for you. No matter your age, it’s never too late to start.
Endurance training is a cardiovascular or aerobic activity that elevates your heart rate and gets you moving on a regular basis. You can increase your endurance through activities like walking, biking, swimming, jogging, and using rowing and elliptical machines.
When committing to endurance training, focus on the concepts of pulse, power, and pace. You want your heart rate (pulse) to be in the target zone for your age, to pack some power behind your movement, and to keep up a steady rhythmic pace.
If you’re new to endurance exercise, you might be wondering where to start. Let’s imagine you’re training for a marathon. Training properly would require shorter running workouts that progressively lead to longer workouts, covering more distance until you are able to run the full marathon without stopping. It would require that you commit to endurance training over time to improve your cardiovascular performance.
Recall those young men from the Dallas study who were able to undo the damage done from three weeks of bed rest. Thirty years later, after going through the “normal” ageing process, they reconvened with the researchers and were put on an endurance-training program to improve their health.
After completing that program, not only did the men lose body fat and bring their health markers back to normal levels; they also surpassed their earlier fitness levels from their 20s! That’s the power of an endurance-training program.
Think of your heart as another muscle that needs to be challenged to get stronger. Though it’s always best to check with your doctor first, especially if you’ve had heart issues in the past, most physicians will recommend some form of endurance training to bolster your heart health.
Even the American Heart Association recommends endurance training as one of several types of exercise you should be performing regularly to get and stay healthy. Consider starting slowly and working your way up to 30 minutes a day, five days a week, of moderate aerobic activity.
Stamina is how long you can continue to perform an exercise with correct and proper form before exhaustion. The terms endurance and stamina are often interchanged, but when you think of stamina, think steady. Being able to keep up your pace over time is the goal.
Developing stamina takes regular cardiovascular training, but it’s something you can build upon. Just as you’d need to start training for that marathon with shorter runs, you’ll want to build up your stamina over many workouts.
Try starting with as little as 15 minutes of cardiovascular exercise and adding one to three minutes every time you work out. This type of gentle progression allows your heart and body to get stronger without noticing a huge change in exertion.
Resistance training (also called weight lifting) involves using a weight such as a barbell, a dumbbell, or even your own bodyweight to strengthen different muscles. When you lift and lower weights, stress is placed upon the corresponding muscle, which will strengthen that muscle and its surrounding muscle groups over time.
It’s in the tearing down of the muscle fibres through weight lifting, and the body’s natural and subsequent repair of those tissues, that allows for muscle mass to be built. Muscle mass is “metabolically active” tissue, meaning that it requires calories just to stay alive.
Other tissues, like body fat, can thrive without extra calories. This is an important distinction, because the more muscle tissue you have and develop throughout your life, the stronger you and your metabolism will be.
With a stronger metabolism, you’ll burn more body fat and calories daily because your caloric needs will be higher, resulting in tighter, stronger, and more toned muscles.
Your body is composed of lean body mass and body fat. Lean body mass encompasses everything other than body fat: things like bones, muscles, organs, tendons, ligaments, and fluids.
As you age, you naturally start to lose a little bit of muscle mass every year, tipping the balance in favour of body fat. Therefore, your weight may remain consistent, but you might feel a bit softer and notice fat storage in new places. The good news is that this can be reversed with resistance training.
When thinking about starting a resistance-training routine, there are some major areas of the body to consider. The main muscle groups are:
There are many ways to activate these different muscle groups, but some of the most common methods are:
- Full-body training: performing one or more exercises for every muscle group during the same workout.
- Upper/lower body training: alternating between working muscles in the upper body (chest, shoulders, triceps, back, biceps) on “upper” days and muscles in the lower body, such as legs, glutes (buttocks and hips), calves, and abdominals, on “lower” days.
- Push and pull movements: alternating exercises such as push-ups to activate the chest and triceps and pulling movements like pull-ups that use your back and biceps.
- Bro split: working out your chest, shoulders, and triceps on one day; back and biceps on another day; and legs, calves, and abs on the third day to round out the muscle groups. You can split the body parts up however you like (there are many variations on these suggestions we’ll explore later). The main point is to work each area equally in relation to the others to prevent injuries and to maintain balance, stability, and symmetry throughout your body.
Resistance training helps strengthen bones and prevent or slow osteoporosis. As we get older, our bones become more porous and brittle. Combined with proper nutrition and a vitamin or supplement regimen, incorporating resistance training into your fitness practice can make a significant beneficial impact on the health of your bones.
Resistance training fosters bone growth in much the same way that it increases muscle density. The stress of the muscle tissues pulling on bones stimulates them to bulk up, and stronger bones are healthier bones.
If you think about a sapling, you’ll likely picture a flexible tree that can withstand wind and rain to grow into a stronger, stable tree. Like saplings, we can fall, twist, turn, and bend when we’re young, but our ability to do so changes as we get older; our joints get stiffer, and our muscles, tendons, and ligaments become less pliable.
This stiffness may limit our range of motion, increasing the possibility of injury. That’s why doing what we can to maintain our flexibility is paramount to our overall health.
If you want to live a more varied life with fewer aches and pains, being agile is key. Agility is defined as possessing dexterity and nimbleness, which is slightly different from flexibility. Being agile means that you can move and change positions quickly.
Think of a football player; someone who is agile and can stop at a specific moment, change directions quickly, and jump out of the way, all without losing balance or even slowing down.
The ability to move your body quickly and easily through different planes of movement comes from practising agility training. Many functional movements incorporate some degree of agility, like stooping to pick something up, avoiding obstacles, catching something if you drop it, and being able to twist and move without injury.
Moving is just as important, if not more so, as our bodies age, but if you don’t stay active, it can be difficult to get up and running again. Maintaining movement is vital not only for lifestyle reasons but also because regular activity increases blood circulation throughout your body. Better circulation means faster healing, a stronger immune system, more energy, and a wider range of mobility, which can result in improved cardiovascular health and a stronger metabolism.
Balance is about being able to control your body, whether in motion or while stationary. Balance is also about ensuring that all your muscles are equally strong, allowing you to feel stable and maintain good posture. Some notable benefits of better balance training include:
- Improved muscle tone
- Stronger bones
- Less dizziness
- Better posture
- Enhanced coordination
- Avoid Injuries
Good balance gives you the advantage when it comes to avoiding injuries. When balanced, your body is aligned and symmetrical so that you can function equally on both sides. Consider a misaligned vehicle with uneven wear and tear on the tires and body. Any mechanic could tell you that a poorly aligned vehicle will cause myriad degenerative problems.
Much like that misaligned car, your body is susceptible to injury when out of balance, making it more likely that you’ll overcompensate for weaker areas by taxing the more dominant areas as you move through daily activities and exercise. Over time, this type of overuse can lead to serious injuries.
Standing upright and moving freely was probably your normal operating mode when you were younger. But, as you age, your ability to stay balanced might not come as naturally. Avoiding a fall in the first place should be your top priority.
When your body maintains a stable stance and position, your chances of falling are significantly reduced, which is essential as you get older, because a fall can result in broken bones, sprains, and other debilitating injuries.
Studies show that for improving balance, it’s important to have a regular fitness program that includes strength, flexibility, and mobility training. Fall-prevention programs that include each of those exercise modes show great progress in helping older adults avoid falls and the accompanying fractures, allowing them to live more vibrant, self-reliant lives.
Although exercise should remain a constant throughout your life, your needs and abilities will change over time. Recognizing the types of changes you may be facing will allow you to adapt appropriately to your fitness practices as your life progresses.
In your 40s, you may start to notice a bit of a change across the board. As your body has aged, what worked for you in the past isn’t quite as potent in the present. This means you need to work out a little smarter (and maybe even a little harder) to maintain your overall fitness level.
Hormone levels can also be a major player in your overall fitness. Your levels of estrogen and/or testosterone may have decreased, and now perhaps it seems as if even glancing at a piece of cake will make you feel 10 pounds heavier. Those fluctuations usually mean that your body is changing the way it metabolizes and stores fat.
To help counteract these changes, stick with regular workouts (or get started again) and incorporate resistance training into your routine several times a week. Practice developing a mind-body connection by focusing on the muscle you are working on. Feel and hold each muscle contraction, making every repetition count.
Cardiovascular health becomes a priority in your 50s, and a reliable, regular aerobic program is essential for maintaining heart health. While it’s still important to continue strength, flexibility, and balance training, committing to a cardiovascular-boosting endurance routine should be your top priority.
You may also notice that it’s taking you a bit longer to recover from exercise. This is a normal occurrence, and most likely due to not pushing yourself hard enough on a regular basis over the years. To overcome longer recovery periods, incorporate flexibility training and stretching exercises into every workout. Otherwise, your body will never be able to progress.
Finally, continue with weight-bearing exercises. Resistance training is vital, especially for women when it comes to protecting bones and staving off osteoporosis. Walking and running are great ways to improve and maintain bone density, as well.
In your 60s, joint health should be a priority. Activity spurs circulation, which delivers healing nutrients to stressed joints, allowing them to repair and replenish. Lubricated joints are happy joints, so maintain your aerobic and stretching exercises. Aim to include low-impact exercises like swimming, bicycling, walking, using an elliptical machine, or doing yoga or Tai Chi.
Additionally, be mindful to include weight training. As we get older, our bodies experience the loss of muscle mass and related strength (a phenomenon called sarcopenia), which can only be slowed by regularly lifting weights. Aim to do resistance training three or more times a week and use a progressive style of lifting, making your workout a little more challenging every time by adding weight, reducing rest times, or increasing the number of repetitions you do.
Your 70s are a great time to stay active at the proper pace and enjoy exercise with loved ones. Tennis, golfing, walking, and swimming is just a few of the fun things you can do. Continue doing the things you love while recognizing that you may need a little extra recovery time, or you may need to slow it down a notch or two to avoid overexertion or injury.
If you get fatigued too quickly, you may need longer breaks between exercises, especially if it takes you a little bit longer to warm up and cool down than it used to. Use this extra time to focus on your balance and flexibility exercises. Staying limber is the name of the game.
In your 80s, use strength training for muscle preservation and healthy bone density, coupled with balance and flexibility regimens for a well-rounded routine. Continuing your fitness program is a must if your goal is to maintain your independence.
Train at your own pace and be sure to monitor your heart rate in addition to other health factors. Take extra rest time as needed, allow for more recovery between workouts, and move at an easy pace, especially if you’re navigating other physical challenges. You have what it takes to prevent muscle loss and stay strong.
Strength training is still a benefit, even in your 90s! At this point, you should be focusing on the quality of life by fostering your self-reliance and confidence. Consult with a trainer to help you with exercises, monitor your heart rate as you continue your cardiovascular workouts, and never stop working on improving your balance and flexibility.
One study published in Clinical Interventions in Aging showed that people in their 70s, 80s, and 90s can still make a difference in their health in the weight room. The study, which involved nursing home residents, revealed that muscle strength and mobility could be vastly improved with just two sessions of weight training a week. Strength training, especially for the lower body, helps combat age-related muscle loss and reduces the incidence and likelihood of falls.
Our bodies change as we age, and those changes can affect everything we do. From hormone fluctuations to changes in body composition and overall health, having a solid fitness plan in place is key to optimal longevity.
There are a few main areas of focus that you should include in your exercise regimen:
- Endurance training
- Resistance training
- Flexibility training
- Balance training
It’s important to recognize that your needs will change as you move through the decades. A program that worked for you in the past may need to be modified according to your current needs to maintain its effectiveness. Always keep in mind the significant beneficial impact that a fitness lifestyle can have on your physical and brain health.
Do you have to take supplements to stay fit and healthy after 40?
It becomes harder for you to lose weight as you get older. As you age, you lose muscle. This has a greater impact than simply losing muscle definition and tone. Since muscle burns more calories than fat, having less muscle makes it harder to burn the calories you consume.
Therefore, apart from doing regular exercises to strengthen your muscles, you might also consider taking some supplements to support weight loss.
Certainly, in order to burn fat, a person cannot rely on a single food or supplement. They should also decrease their calorie intake and increase physical activity. However, when used as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle, fat burners may accelerate weight loss by either increasing metabolism or decreasing appetite.
Traditional approaches to weight loss cannot be substituted by natural supplements. However, they may help people burn slightly more calories every day, gradually increasing weight loss.
Resurge is of the most popular weight loss supplements that promise to help you shed pounds and sleep better. Because studies have shown that sleep deprivation is associated with deficiencies of growth hormone and elevated levels of cortisol, both of which contribute to obesity.
While other supplements promote nutritional factors, meal replacement forms, appetite suppression, or similar effects, Resurge boosts your body’s metabolism by increasing your core temperature. However, before making any purchases, you might want to read some Resurge reviews because the supplement industry is rife with scams.
It should be noted that pills or supplements only work when combined with a healthy weight-loss diet. Supplements are ineffective on their own and are hardly a solution to obesity.
Besides, it’s always best to talk with your doctor before you start taking a supplement, especially if you already take medications, have health concerns or are pregnant.