Congratulations! You’re 40 years old. You’re arguably middle-aged. No matter whether you think of yourself as middle-aged or not, your body changes as you get older. Your nutritional and physical exercise needs change as you age, so you must adapt your diet and your exercise routine. Adults need about 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise everyday. Regular exercise not only keeps your body fit, but also helps reduce your risk of disease and lowers your cholesterol. People who exercise regularly have more energy and are less stressed than those who don’t exercise. If you have never exercised regularly or have health conditions, such as arthritis, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, diabetes or heart disease, make sure talk to your doctor before you begin any type of fitness program.
Set Realistic Goals
Before you hit the gym or start doing push-ups, set realistic goals. Due to hormonal and metabolism changes in your body after age 40, it is harder to lose weight. Your goals must be realistic. You aren’t going to lose 25 pounds in two weeks and remain healthy. Goals help you to remain focused and motivated. Set short-term, intermediate and long-term goals that are reasonable. A short-term goal could be to walk or ride a bike for 5 to 10 minutes every day and lose 5 pounds in 30 days. An intermediate term goal might be losing 20 pounds in 6 months and exercise for 30 minutes every day. An example of long-term goals might be to lose 50 pounds in 12 months, improve your endurance and build muscle mass. Make your goals specific and positive. For example, instead of making a general commitment to get more exercise, set a specific goal to walk for 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the evening. Track your progress by keeping a fitness diary. Record your physical activity each day. Keep in mind that any physical activity that increases your heart rate and breathing is considered aerobic exercise. Daily activities such as mowing the lawn, gardening and carrying laundry up and down stairs, counts as exercise. Reward yourself when you achieve a goal. Small rewards, such as a relaxing day at the spa or buying a new outfit, can keep you motivated.
Eat a Healthy Diet
In addition to exercise, you have to develop and stick to a healthy eating plan if you are to lose weight and get fit. You gain weight when you consume more calories than you burn during the day. Unused calories from food are stored as body fat. Many of us consume hundreds of empty calories every day. Empty calories come from foods and snacks that are high in calories, but low in nutritional value. Cookies, soda, cake, chips and candy are high in calories but provide little nutrition. Clean out your pantry and refrigerator. Remove all the fatty foods, processed foods and unhealthy snacks. If you don’t want to throw these foods away, store them in an inconvenient place, like on the top shelf of the pantry or cabinet, or give them away. Replace unhealthy foods and snacks with high fiber, low-fat, nutritious foods including whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans and dairy. Kick the sugar habit by substituting soda for flavored water or sugar-free soda. Drink more water to keep your body hydrated. Drinking water before meals will help you feel fuller, faster. Try fresh or dried fruits instead of candy and cookies as snacks and don’t snack while watching television. It’s easy to overeat if you snack while watching television because you aren’t usually thinking about what you are eating or how much you are eating while watching your favorite program. Reduce the size of your meal portions and use smaller plates. Cutting 100 to 200 calories per day can be a tremendous step toward achieving your weight loss goals.
You’ve set goals and changed your diet. Now it’s time to assess your physical fitness and plan an exercise program that works for you and your lifestyle. Start slowly and don’t push yourself beyond your physical and emotional limits. You probably won’t be able to do 30 full minutes of aerobic exercise after years of inactivity. Think about ways you can get a few minutes of exercise throughout the day. Park your car a little farther away from your work or from the entrance to the grocery store than you normally do. Take the stairs instead of the elevator when possible. If you work on the 5th floor, try taking the elevator to the 4th floor and climbing the last flight of stairs to your office. The following month, try taking the elevator to the 3rd floor and climb 2 flights of stairs to work. Go for a walk for 15 minutes after lunch. You will feel energized and burn off some calories. Select one day each week when the whole family does something together such as playing badminton, riding bikes in the park or playing a game of softball. Be consistent and don’t make excuses not to exercise. Schedule your daily exercise and don’t let something like rain keep you from working out. Use rainy days when you can’t go outside to do some bodyweight exercises at home, such as push-ups, squats and sit-ups.
Adults typically need 150 minutes of moderate aerobic physical activity each week to stay fit. Thirty minutes a day, 5 days each week might be a bit too much if you haven’t been exercising regularly or haven’t exercised at all for years. Remember to start slowly and don’t push yourself beyond your physical limits. Exercise regularly and your endurance and muscle strength will increase. As you lose weight, you will also feel more energetic. You might strive to exercise just 10 minutes each day and gradually increase exercise time to 20 minutes. Choose activities that you enjoy. Do you like to dance? Then do dance aerobics. Do you have a bike gathering dust in the garage because you haven’t had time to go for a ride? Dust it off and ride around the block a few days each week. Is window shopping a pleasurable past time? Walk in the mall for 30 minutes, 2 to 3 days each week. You might need some support from like-minded people who are also trying to lose weight and get fit. Think about joining a gym, doing group aerobics or taking a yoga class. Whatever type of exercise you decide to do, you’ve already made the first big step by deciding to get fit.