Fitness Over 40 - Top 10 Tips To Stay Fit as You Get Older
is no doubt the question "fitness over 40" is a matter
of discourse in most doctor's offices, social groups and between
friends. Older people may complain because they can no longer climb
flights of stairs due to uncomfortable knee, back or hip pain.
In the not so distant past, starting an over 40 fitness
program would have been considered a waste of time. It was commonly
thought that once you turned 40 it was too late to get in shape.
But exercise science has proven that you can become fit and healthy
at any age.
Muscle loss and decreased cardiovascular fitness are
not the normal result of aging; they're primarily the result of
a sedentary lifestyle. Once the average inactive person reaches
age 65, they will have lost up to 40% of their muscle mass and aerobic
capacity compared to when they were young adults. You can prevent
this physical decline by remaining active as you age.
Numerous studies have shown that older people respond
very favorably to both strength training and aerobic exercise. Most
fitness experts agree that a 15-20 year decrease in biological age
can be achieved with simple lifestyle changes. There can be a huge
difference between biological age and chronological age.
Don't put limits on yourself just because you're over
40. Your fitness program should be based more on your goals and
fitness level than on how old you are.
Here are 10 tips for starting an over 40 fitness
Check with your doctor. If you have any existing health conditions
or you've been inactive for a long time, you need to get medical
clearance before you start to exercise.
2. Evaluate your current fitness level. In
order to develop an effective over 40 fitness program, you need
to know what your current fitness level is. Cardiovascular fitness,
muscular strength and endurance, flexibility and body composition
are all factors that need to be evaluated. Having a personal trainer
evaluate your current fitness level is a good idea, even if you
don't plan on working with a personal trainer on an ongoing basis.
3. Define your goals. What goals do you want
to achieve? Do you want to lose 20 pounds of fat? Do you want to
run a 10K race? Do you want to bench press 200 pounds? Goal setting
has to be part of any over 40 fitness program.
4. Be consistent. Once you start an over 40
fitness program, you have to follow it on a consistent basis if
you want to derive any permanent benefits from it.
5. Warm up before exercising. A warm up should
be part of everyone's exercise program regardless of their age,
but it's especially important for older exercisers who might be
more susceptible to injuries. Warming up will stimulate blood flow
to your muscles, increase your joint flexibility and range of motion,
and get you mentally prepared for your workout. Do several minutes
of easy aerobic exercise prior to more intense aerobic exercise.
Do one or two light sets of each weight lifting exercise before
using heavier weights.
6. Stretch after exercising. Stretching and
warming up are not the same. Warming up should be done before exercise
and stretching should be done after exercise. Stretching is especially
important for older exercisers who may have lost some flexibility
over the years.
7. Emphasize form and technique when lifting weights.
You want to challenge yourself when lifting weights, but not at
the expense of good form and technique. The over 40 exerciser needs
to be especially careful to use good form and technique in order
to avoid injury. Use muscle power, not momentum, when lifting weights.
Don't heave, swing or bounce the weights. Lift and lower the weights
in a steady and controlled manner. Concentrate on feeling the muscle
that you're working.
8. Give yourself enough recovery time after exercising.
As you age, you need more recovery time after exercising. Give your
body the time it needs to rest and recover and it will get stronger
9. Start slowly and build up gradually. Don't
push yourself too hard too fast. Slowly and gradually progress from
your existing fitness level.
Enjoy yourself. A fitness program has to be enjoyable if it's
going to become a regular part of your life. When you first start
a fitness program, especially when you're older, you may think it's
a chore. But the more you keep at it, the more enjoyable it will
become. Your fitness program will become a positive addiction in
Whatever you do, don't let age slow you down. An over
40 fitness program will help you stay fit and healthy regardless
of your physical age. Regardless of your age when beginning a fitness
program there are some things you'll need to know about smart fitness:
Get comfortable. If you're new to exercise,
that may mean joining a low-key gym like Curves or a walking group
rather than a gym full of 100-pound dumbbells. Conversely, if you
are used to an intense level of exercise and have retired to a new
city, you're probably going to get bored at the aquatics class in
your gated community's pool. Get out and find like-minded athletes
of all ages.
Find activities that are right for you. Do
what you like to do. Do what you can-whatever fits into your schedule.
If you have fond memories when you think back on your Little League
days, join an adult baseball league. If you were never athletic
but always wished you knew how to tap dance, sign up for a class.
Don't do something you don't enjoy because it fits your idea of
what's appropriate for your age. For instance, many people find
walking boring! Not surprisingly, if you're one of them, planning
a walking program is setting yourself up to fail.
It's not all about aerobics. There are so many
changes that happen to our bodies when we age, and changes to our
heart are only part of it. There's a shortening of muscles and tendons,
weakening of our bones, and a decrease in pathways between the brain
and muscles that can hurt our balance. So, yes, get in your 30 minutes
of cardiovascular exercise on most days. But also be aware of the
need for strength-training, flexibility, and equilibrium-building
Start slowly. There is never an age or activity
level that is too old or sedentary to start exercising. But if you're
new to exercise or haven't done it in years, start with simple plans-like
walking every day after dinner. Once that becomes a habit, build
on it. Start slowly during individual workouts, too. No matter how
experienced you are, a good warm-up becomes more essential as you
Change it up. You're vulnerable to injuries,
not to mention boredom, when you do the same thing every day. Changes
in the body as you age only make overuse injuries more likely. More
than ever, cross-training is your friend. That goes for strength
training, too. You're going to make progress only by steadily jacking
up the amount of weight you lift. And don't forget to switch up
your routine periodically. Add and subtract exercises to increase
variety. If you need help, consult books or pay for a trainer session
every couple of months.
it a priority, and don't make excuses. Write down the top barriers
to working out-time, kids, whatever. Also write on cards, strategies
for overcoming those barriers. Laminate them and carry them around.
The point is that people need to treat exercise the way they treat
other essentials in life. We schedule office meetings, so why not
workouts? "If you don't feel like going home to kids and a
husband one night, do you check into a motel? Probably not! We get
over it. Apply that same tough love to your physical activity.
Reduce the risk of illness, lower stress, and improve
overall health with a well-designed and consistent fitness program.
Increased physical fitness will result in the muscle strength to
support joints and lessen pain related to arthritis and other aches
Sadly, 60% of the population in the U.S. do not get
the prescribed amount of workout and 25% are not physically active.
These statistics are slowly increasing, as is the number of folks
who suffer from stress related diseases such as stroke, elevated
cholesterol, raised blood pressure, and diabetes.
However, fitness over 40 plans usually don't begin
in the gym, and exercise is only worth it when your heart rate is
raised for 30 minutes at least. That may mean walking quickly for
30 minutes in the neighborhood, jogging, bicycling with the children,
rowing, and treadmill in front of the television or bouncing on
an exercise ball or trampoline.
If you're over 40, it's time to think about the impact
these changes will have on your ability to make the needed changes;
including your current nutrition and habits. Adding more whole grains,
vegetables and fruit to your diet is another must-do for those over
40 to keep fit. A way to improve your health immensely is to eat
5 - 7 servings of vegetables and fruit, drink 8 to 10 glasses of
water as well as to lessen the amount of white flour and sugar consumed
per day. The point is not so much what you do as the fact that you
- just do it!
Richard A. DiCenso