Getting in shape after 40 comes down to two main things
Getting in shape after 40 comes down to two main things: specific exercises and mindset. The exercises you choose should be those which set you up to live longer better, not just look good in a t-shirt.
The mindset required is that these changes are going to be a permanent part of your lifestyle driven by a desire to preserve the most valuable relationships in your life. That's why now is the time to give up CrossFit.
Fitness in your forties is about building the same capabilities that you would need to run a good time in an obstacle course. They are the capabilities which will serve you well as you enter your next 50 years.
It's getting harder to stay trim
If you are in your mid to late 40s then you would have noticed that it is getting harder to keep the weight off. This is the period when most people start to put on weight as a consequence of metabolic changes which kicked up a gear when you were about 35 years old.
Unless you counter these changes then you are heading towards developing Type 2 diabetes and other cardiovascular diseases in your early 50s. That's what happened to me. It is inestimably better to avoid these complications than to have to manage them after they strike.
You can dramatically improve your chances of avoiding lifestyle diseases by - well - changing your lifestyle. The right exercise and the right nutrition will make all the difference.
Restoring body composition is a key driver
By age 45 our bones have been getting weaker for about 20 years. Some studies put this loss in women at about 1% per year - which is a stunning loss. After menopause, the rate of loss increases. As our bones weaken, we become increasingly vulnerable to fractures which can rob us of an active, healthy life.
Exercise in your 40s needs to include strength training, which improves bone strength. Our muscles also lose their mass, at the rate of 3 to 5% per decade after 30. That means by 50 you would have lost 7 to 11% (compound) of your muscle mass by 50 if you don't exercise.
Even if you weigh the same as you did when you were 30 you have less bone and muscle, and therefore more fat - your body composition has changed. Restoring a better body composition is a key driver of how you should be exercising in your forties.
The good news is that the loss of bone mass and muscle can both be reversed, with outstanding health benefits. As we age, our skeletal muscle strength is positively associated with improved longevity. That's a compelling reason to exercise!
For exercise, resistance training is the best way to optimise calorie burning to counteract fat accumulation and reverse the loss of muscle and bone mass. One study showed that ten weeks of resistance training increased lean weight by 1.4kg, increase resting metabolic rate by 7% and decrease fat weight by 1.8kg.
An advantage of resistance training over cardio is the "afterburner effect" - where your body runs metabolically "hot" for hours afterwards and burns calories.
Ten Tips - Exercising and Eating To Live Longer Better
#1 For men, give up the Cross-Fit
For men, give up the Cross-Fit, even if you have not been injured yet. You have a whole lot of good training experience to bring across into your non-competitive new exercise routines. Maintain the strength and endurance exercises, the kettlebells, and the pull exercises, and build your body-awareness.
Add a bit of running. Steer clear of the machines. You're going to launch into your 50s with a great platform of exercise.
#2 For women, run less
For women, give up the excessive cardio.
If you've been regularly on the treadmill for an hour each session or running, and not addressing your strength training then now's the time. Compared to strength exercises, excessive running is weakening your bones and lowering your muscle mass. That's exactly what you don't want as you head into menopause.
Running for an hour burns about 330 calories. If you cut that in half then you can make it up with strength, interval and circuit training. Do free-standing strength exercises, stay away from the machines.
#3 Not exercising? Start walking
If you've not been exercising then start walking. You don't need anything except what you normally wear - just head out the door. You're aiming to build up to 30 minutes a day, and that will burn about 150 calories if you walk fast enough not to be able to talk continuously. That's a good start.
Here are some level-ups to get more exercise value from your walks. After easing into walking, add muscle-strengthening perhaps through some classes, and also balance exercises. Now is your chance, increasing physical activity during midlife is associated with 32% to 35% lower risk for mortality.
#4 Eat 20% less
For diet - if you are overweight cut 20 % off your daily food intake. Make your portion sizes smaller, and cut out the obvious snacks. Lots of small snacks quickly add up to more than you can exercise off each day, even with intense exercise.
Try to make the 20% that you cut out those foods which you know have the least nutrition and the most calories.
#5 Sore knees, build muscles
If you have sore knees, then get advice about a safe set of exercises you can do to build the muscles supporting your knees, e.g. rowing, half-squats, the kettlebell swing, or glute bridges. It depends on your specific cause of pain. Once you build opposing muscle strength, the pain is likely to stop, and then you can do more exercise.
#6 Quit added-sugar
If you are adding sugar and eating lots of industrial-added sugar, e.g. cakes and soda, then your 40s is the time to quit.
I know that there are the sugar nazis who say give up all "sugar" including that found naturally in fruit. Don't do that, eat more fruit. And there are the sugar conspiracy theorists who say that the health problems are all made up. The health problems are not made up, and if you keep eating added sugar, you are increasing your risk of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes in your 50s. Just the added calories each day mean that you have to spend more time exercising to burn them off. Unless you live to exercise, that's a waste of time.
It's hard to quit, but your body and your family will thank you.
#7 Take up running
Take up running, you get more bang for your buck with running - more than 2X the calories per minute - and it helps you tune in to your body and balance.
Our inner ear is losing its balance sensitivity from the day we are born, and the mechanosensory neurons in our ankle joints and neck joints are becoming less accurate due to muscle and tendon stiffness. Running exercises our brain-muscle-balance pathways, which will help balance better later in life.
Outdoor running is soothing for your mind, and all running has beneficial hormonal effects on your brain. Combine strength training with your running activities to help avoid injuries.
#8 Leave the gym machines for those they were built for - gym owners
Keep off the gym machines. Your muscles work in teams and those teams work with your brain. Sitting on gym machines switches off your brain, deactivates your balance circuits does nothing for your fitness or strength, and even does nothing to improve your muscle strength (compared to free-standing exercises).
Gym machines make you look good in a t-shirt and help rehabilitate those who are having trouble standing and balancing. If you are not in those categories then your 40s is the time to move on from the machines.
#9 Eat more real food more colourful food
Eat more vegetables, and more foods with more fibre content - sweet potatoes, carrots, oats. Have three different colour vegetables with each meal. Eat the whole orange, and add in virgin olive oil to your food choices.
All these will improve your brain health and the health of your vascular system. Without a healthy vascular system your muscles cannot work effectively, nor can your brain.
#10 Get ahead of your back pain
Back pain often starts in this decade so make sure that you do exercises which strengthen your core and the muscles up the back of your body - your glutes and hamstrings and lower back. Add regular planks, Pilates, glute-bridges, lunges, squats and safe sit-ups into your regular routines.
All your posterior muscles become lazy and weakened from extended sitting, including your lower back. These need to be brought back into balance with their counter-muscles down the front of your body.
The chief barrier to success is mindset. The best way to get in shape after 40 is to motivate yourself for the long-term by the most valued relationships in your life like your spouse, partner, children, grandchildren, or career.
From here, you are in it for the long haul. The earlier you start and get into your routine, the greater the ultimate health benefits.
> More posts to help you with EXERCISES
> More posts to help you with DIABETES
> If you are a @MEDIUM reader my publication Body Age Buster has hundreds of categorised posts which I have written especially for men and women over 50
No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or another qualified clinician. Disclaimer.
Since I was diagnosed at 50 with Type 2 diabetes I've been learning how to do bone-building fitness training which lowers my age. You can too. It's your choice. Walter