Fitness Over 40 ~ Ten Important Tweaks to Make As You Get Older
Updated: Nov 8, 2020
Covid-19 and the Coronavirus has definitely put a spotlight on the importance of living healthy, specifically eating healthy, moving your body, and working toward a disease free life.
Let me just say how much I love seeing all my neighbors out and about, walking, running, biking, and just simply enjoying the beautiful outdoors. If there are any great takeaways from the pandemic, it's that your overall health and wellness need to become a top-priority!
Here’s the nice thing about getting healthy, you are never too late to start or too old to get moving!! But remember, you are not 25, 30 or even 35 anymore, so keep in mind fitness after 40 is NOT going to look like it did in the past. And while it’s important that we focus on creating healthy lifestyle habits, keep in mind that age does matter.
Going from a sendarty life to one that puts fitness front in center is going to require that you start out a little slower than you did ten or fifteen years ago, and may require a little more recovery time than you needed in the past. Now that being said, even if you’ve never worked out regularly, or haven’t done it for sometime, your body has the same ability to build muscle mass and cardio endurance as it did in the past.
It doesn’t matter if you haven’t been a regular exerciser throughout your life: You can still benefit greatly from exercise whenever you start. Your goal should be to create a habit of moving your body every day. This daily movement hopefully develops into a long term commitment to health and exercise to help increase your chances to prevent (or at least delay) age-related frailty and muscle weakness. Not only is exercise great for your body, your heart, but also your mind! There are a host of mental benefits of exercise, especially for aging women where depression and mood swings are common due to hormone fluctuation. Just another reason to get started sooner rather than later.
So what should you be aware of as an older female starting out?
Great question sis, the first thing you need to do is find something you enjoy doing! If you have no desire to sign up for Crossfit and Zumba isn’t your jam, please don’t force yourself to do something you won't enjoy! There are plenty of ways to stay healthy, so find what YOU love and go for it! Picking an activity or activities that you enjoy is going to help you stay motivated and keep you coming back creating that consistency that is so super important to maintaining good health.
If it’s been some time since you’ve been active, start off slow and progress slowly and systematically, adding to your routine as you begin to feel stronger and more capable. This may take days, this may take weeks. The key here is to listen to your body. (* please make sure you have consulted with your doctor before beginning any program.)
Now there is a difference when someone in their 40s begins working out regularly compared to someone in their 60s or 70s. A 40-year-old will be able to start at a higher intensity or do more from a cardio perspective. Keep in mind that your maximum heart rate decreases with age, this is why you may be seeing a difference in your cardio endurance.
A younger person will likely have fewer health issues to work around compared to someone starting out exercising in their 60s or 70s. Now that doesn’t mean someone over 60 should throw in the towel. Just keep in mind anyone can begin working consistently at any age. Every “body” can benefit from physical activity. Remember, every exercise can be modified to suit the individual’s fitness level, desired goals, and any limitations. The most important thing to remember here is YOU DO YOU!!
So now that you have decided on the activity you want to do let’s move on to step 2 . . . Keep it simple!
Don’t get wrapped up and overwhelmed if you don’t know what to do or feel like you don’t have a ton of time to dedicate. Do not spend an hour in the gym, do not give yourself a list of complicated exercises to knock out, and do not purchase complicated fitness trackers. You don’t need any of that to get started!! You don’t need to go to the gym or do an hour long workout session each time. Instead, make your minutes matter.
Studies have shown that three 10-minute bouts of exercise have the same benefits as one continuous 30-minute session. So if you need to, break it up throughout the day. Consistency is the most important thing when it comes to building a fitness habit. Once you’re used to incorporating exercise into your day, you can adjust the duration, intensity, and type of exercises you desire. Remember, you are in charge here!!
Even though women in their 40s and 50s are being called the New 'Ageless Generation, due to our focus on living a life that prioritizes health and wellness compared to generations of the past, we must keep in mind that while our bodies experience loss as we age (bone density lowers, metabolism slows, estrogen levels decrease, etc.), maintaining a consistent fitness routine should be at the top of our daily to-do list to help decrease internal and external aging.
It’s important that you don’t ignore your age here - age does make a difference in how you train. To help you reach your own fitness prime well into your 50s and 60s, you must make sure that you are tweaking your fitness routine to take your age into account.
Here are a few simple changes you can incorporate when it comes to fitness over 40:
1 The need for longer warm-ups. I recommend you extend your warm-up by a few minutes and make sure to include more mobility moves to help prevent injuries like pulled muscles, inflammation, back, knee, or neck pain. Moves that open up your shoulders, hips, and strengthen your core will help you decrease the risk of injury, increase your quality of life, increase muscle activation, improve range of motion, and reduce pain during daily activities.
2 Include more stretching in your programming. As we get older, ligaments and tendons grow more resistant to stretching, so you may notice that you need to hold each stretch for at least 30-60 seconds to get the same benefit as you did before. Focus on dynamic stretches in your warm-up (walking lunges, jumping jacks, butt kicks, leg swings, and high knees) and save the static stretching for after the workout.
3 Put a little more focus on flexibility. The ability to easily move around is crucial for preventing injuries and back pain, increasing blood supply and nutrients to the muscles, decreasing soreness, and improving posture. Flexibility is directly linked to having full range of motion with exercises such as squats and deadlifts, both which are great for building muscle. Other great ways to add more flexibility to your training is incorporating Yoga, foam rolling, and Pilates.
4 Prepare for a longer recovery. Be prepared for a longer recovery not only between workout sessions, but also sets. It’s not unusual to have to rest 2-3 minutes between sets to maintain good form and stay injury free.
5 Incorporate more full body workouts. Ditch the arm day, leg day, upper body day, lower body fitness routines and opt for more full body workouts that target all the muscles at the same time. This way you are getting in a little strength and endurance at the same time, plus it helps you look more defined faster.
6 Lower your weights. Lower weights are a little less demanding on the body and make it a little easier to recover quicker. Now you don’t have to ditch your heavier weights 100%, but you can alternate between the two. Do 3-4 weeks of lifting heavier weight than take a break and do for the next 3-4 weeks lift lower weights. You’ll actually see more progress and added BONUS of lifting weights . . . . it can help prevent diabetes.
7 Incorporate more balance training. As we age, balance exercises become more and more important. They help make your legs fitter and help prevent falls. (Did you know that more than 300,000 people are hospitalized every year for broken hips and falling is the main cause.) Add some lunges and single-leg exercises like lifting with one arm or leg at a time really helps with balance. Grab a chair or stand close to a wall for more support as needed.
8 Don’t forget the cardio! It’s important that your regimen includes a mix of low-intensity cardio workouts as well as strength training. Add a few days of fast paced walking, biking, jogging to your schedule to help burn calories. Along with a solid strength training regimen you’ll have a well-rounded program.
9 Be more physically active throughout the day. Thirty to sixty minutes spent moving your body does nothing for you if you sit on the sofa, in traffic, behind a desk for the remainder of the day. It’s important that you are getting up and getting moving every hour or so. Set a time and make it a priority to move your body for a minimum of 5 minutes every 60-90 minutes throughout the day. Plus this will help with a quicker recovery.
10 Be consistent. Everything good becomes harder when you get older. It takes longer to build muscle and lose fat, but it’s easier to gain weight, especially around the stomach. You have to stick with exercising a little longer to achieve a goal. The hard part is showing up, the rest is just details. Even a short walk around the block is better than nothing at all.
The older you get, the more difficult it is to lose weight or build muscle, your metabolism slows down, and the thigh gap is next to impossible, but that doesn’t mean it’s not just as or even more important at this stage of the game. Even though it may look and possibly feel different, the end goal is still the same, to look and feel our best. To be the best version of YOU!
Make sure you are setting goals for yourself. Give yourself a little grace, be realistic with your capabilities, be flexible with your methods, and make sure they align with what you value. If you are no longer chasing the dream of 6 pack abs, but want to simply do 10 push ups without dropping to your knees, then make that your goal. This journey is yours and yours alone!
Do what feels good, blesses your body and mind, and most importantly HAVE FUN doing it!!
Here’s to making this season your absolute best season!
As a certified personal trainer I can help you get started, where you are, with what you have, whatever fitness level. Or if you are already active but need some suggestions on how to update your program to evolve with you, your needs, and help you get the most out of your time spent training, please reach out to me! I'm here to answer any questions you have about getting started or staying active as you age.