If you’re over the age of 40 and not in shape, it can be tough to start a fitness routine. You may feel like you’ve missed your chance at taking care of yourself. Or perhaps, you’d think that since you’ve already let yourself go, there is no point in trying to get fit now. But there are some great reasons why people over the age of 40 should work out. In this article, you will discover why getting fit is important past 40 and how to start now.
Benefits Of Getting In Shape After The Age Of 40
Even if you were inactive before this decade, it is still possible for you to start a physical fitness regimen and reap the benefits of exercise.
Some of the reasons to get in shape now are:
Burn Visceral Fat
You may have built up a lot of visceral fat around your stomach and internal organs by the time you hit 40. Visceral fat is stored between muscles and around organs such as the heart, kidneys, or spleen. While it is not necessarily dangerous to your overall health, it can be harmful to your cardiovascular system if left untreated (5). For this reason, getting in shape can help reduce the amount of visceral fat that has built up over time and lower the risks of heart disease and diabetes.
Improve Heart Health
Heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide (4). However, there are ways to improve your odds against developing cardiovascular problems by simply making smart lifestyle choices. Getting in shape can strengthen your heart and improve the health of your blood vessels, leading to a healthier heart.
Preserve Lean Muscle
Muscle loss accelerates the older you get. Unless you are taking steps to maintain your muscle mass, you can lose up to 3 to 8% of lean muscle every year after the age of 30 (11). This is bad for several reasons.
First, muscle loss leads to decreased strength and loss of functional ability, making everyday tasks more challenging than they need to be. Second, it reduces metabolic function. Muscle burns more calories than fat tissue, which means that if you have lost a significant amount of muscle over time, your metabolism is slowing down each day too. Finally, there are aesthetic reasons. Muscle looks good, and we all want to look good as we age (17).
The metabolism naturally slows down as the years go by (1). Because of this inevitable process, people tend to gain weight while also becoming less active at the same time. This creates a vicious cycle that makes it difficult for people over 40 to lose weight without working out consistently and eating a healthy diet. Fortunately, if you form new habits now, you will be able to drop pounds before they creep up on you.
Aging can cause imbalances in many different hormones, including testosterone and estrogen levels. Maintaining appropriate levels of these two key hormones is important for preventing diseases associated with aging, such as osteoporosis (13). Getting enough physical activity regularly can help balance your hormone levels so that you don’t have to worry about the negative effects of hormonal imbalances later in life.
Exercise acts as a natural pick-me-up because it releases endorphins into the body while being performed (2). Endorphins are neurotransmitters that bind to opioid receptors in the brain, making you feel good while alleviating pain at the same time. When starting a fitness program, you’ll want to focus on exercises that will release the most endorphins into your system.
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How To Get In Shape After 40: Tips For Fitness Success
Getting in shape after 40 is possible if you make a commitment and stick with it.
There are many factors to consider when getting started, but putting these six tips into practice can help ensure your success:
Practice Strength Training
It is advisable to start with strength training rather than doing only cardio. Strength training involves the use of weights, bands, or your own body weight to do exercises that yield three specific benefits (18):
- Builds muscle
- Muscle built will burn more calories during everyday activities
- Preserves lean muscle loss
The best exercises are full body or compound exercises that work for opposite muscle groups together. For instance, squats are great for building leg strength while also working the core.
Do Moderate Cardio
Cardio workouts are integral to your success because they can burn a lot of calories in a very short period (10). It is important, however, not to do too much cardio either. The point is to get your heart rate up for an extended period so you want to make sure that you’re getting enough cardiovascular activity, but then also balancing it out with strength training for the body to not burn muscle mass during exercise sessions.
Allow Time For Recovery
Exercise creates tiny tears within the muscles that need time to heal before the next workout session. If you work out too frequently or don’t allow adequate rest periods, your muscles will never have time to recover and grow, which means that you won’t see results as quickly as you would if you were giving your body the time it needs to repair itself (12). Be sure to rest at least one full day between each workout session and at least two or three days per week.
Be Wary Of Injury
Many people over 40 have joint and bone tissues that can be exacerbated by certain exercises. It is strongly recommended to avoid high-impact cardio, such as running if you suffer from joint pain. Instead, opt for low-impact activities like swimming or biking. Strength training also comes with some limitations, so be sure to speak to your doctor before beginning any new program if you have hip or knee problems.
Even if you have no preexisting problems, it’s wise to be cautious. Some ways of preventing exercise-related injuries include (16):
- Warming up before each session
- Cooling down after each workout
- Taking adequate rest periods between sessions
- Avoiding exercises that are known to be dangerous for joints
- Staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water during exercise sessions
Eat A Lot Of Protein
Protein is essential for building muscle mass and increasing satiety, so you don’t feel hungry and wind up snacking on unhealthy foods all day long (14). To get enough protein in your diet, focus on eating lean meats like fish and chicken, turkey bacon, beef jerky, and deli meat cuts are also great choices because they will help keep portion sizes reasonable while keeping things flavorful.
Cut Back On Carbs
Carbohydrates often get a bad rap when people talk about diets and weight loss, but it’s important to remember that carbs can actually be very beneficial. However, too many carbs cause blood sugar spikes, which lead to cravings and poor food choices as the day wears on (3). When getting started on a fitness regimen, try cutting back on carbs by half during breakfast and lunch so that you have enough energy throughout the day without feeling run down.
After 40, your metabolism starts to slow down. This means that you’ll likely need fewer calories than you did in your 30s to maintain your weight. Eat smaller portions to ensure that you’re getting the necessary amount of food without overdoing it or depriving yourself.
Eat Healthy Fats
Healthy fats help regulate hormones and keep your body running efficiently (19). Foods rich in healthy fats include olive oil and fatty fish like salmon, nuts, and seeds. One of the most powerful sources of healthy fat is avocado, which then can be used to make a delicious salad dressing or just eaten alone with a sprinkle of salt, pepper, and lime juice.
Eat More Fruits And Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are high in fiber, which helps keep you feeling full longer so that overeating is not an issue. Not only do fruit and veggies help with satiety, but they also contain antioxidants that can improve everything from your skin tone to heart health (8). The best fruits for starting a fitness regimen are berries because they are low in sugar compared to other fruits while still being high in calories.
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Eat More Fiber
Fiber can help keep your weight in check and regulate digestion, which is especially important after 40 when the body slows down (9). To get enough fiber, focus on eating 100% whole grain products like whole-wheat bread and pasta, as well as brown rice instead of refined white varieties. As a supplement, eat oatmeal for breakfast or opt for a salad topped with beans at lunchtime.
Decrease Salt Intake
After 40, you need to be aware of how much sodium you’re taking in because that excess can lead to water retention, and not just in your stomach. Water that is retained throughout the body can also mean bloating of the face and legs; this will make you look older than you are (7). To cut down on salt, cook at home instead of eating out where foods are often loaded with sodium. Also, be sure to rinse canned beans thoroughly before cooking or opt for low-sodium versions when available.
Get Plenty Of Sleep
People tend to overlook sleep as a means for improving overall health, but lack of sleep can actually prevent you from losing weight. When you haven’t gotten enough deep, restorative sleep, your body releases higher levels of cortisol, which leads to increased appetite and cravings for poor food choices (15). A good rule of thumb is to get at least 7 hours of sleep per night, which can help balance out insulin production and help control your weight loss efforts.
Practice Stress Management Techniques
Stress has been shown to have a real impact on weight gain because it can lead to cravings for comfort foods that are high in fat and sugar (6). Try journaling, praying, or meditating to manage stress. Getting out into nature is a great way to escape from daily worries and recharge your batteries, so consider going for a walk through the park or sitting by the ocean whenever you’re feeling frustrated or overwhelmed. Plan ahead to tackle stressful situations with your loved ones when possible, but if necessary, take some time alone to clear your mind before facing another challenge.
Start Small And Work Your Way Up
It is far better to start small when embarking on a fitness program because it allows you to build up your strength gradually over time. You’ll also avoid the problem of injuries that can occur if you push yourself too hard too quickly. Starting with just 20 minutes per day will help you ease into this routine before working your way up to longer daily sessions as you continue.
Keep Track Of Your Progress
If it seems like no matter how much time you spend exercising, you aren’t seeing results – it may be time to use a fitness tracker. These apps help you track your daily activity, so you can see how many steps per day you are taking and monitor which exercises are most effective for your goal.
The Bottom Line
Getting fit after 40 is within your reach if you’re willing to put in the time and effort. However, it requires a lot more than just hitting the gym and doing cardio; you also need to watch what you eat and practice stress management techniques to see sustained weight loss results over time. By drinking plenty of water, getting adequate sleep, practicing good hygiene, and staying organized so that healthy food is always available for snacking, you will be well on your way to looking better than ever before.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- [Aging, basal metabolic rate, and nutrition] (1993, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Biochemistry, Endorphin – StatPearls (2021, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Carbohydrates and Blood Sugar (n.d., hsph.harvard.edu)
- Cardiovascular diseases (n.d, who.int)
- Cardiovascular disease under the influence of excess visceral fat (2007, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Does stress influence sleep patterns, food intake, weight gain, abdominal obesity and weight loss interventions and vice versa? (2017, onlinelibrary.wiley.com)
- Effects of the DASH Diet and Sodium Intake on Bloating: Results From the DASH–Sodium Trial (2020, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Fruit and Vegetable Intake: Benefits and Progress of Nutrition Education Interventions- Narrative Review Article (2015, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Health benefits of dietary fiber (2009, academic.oup.com)
- Is Cardio Really the Secret to Fat Loss? (n.d., issaonline.com)
- Muscle tissue changes with aging (2010, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Overtraining Syndrome (2012, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Role of Androgens and Estrogens on Healthy Aging and Longevity (2012, academic.oup.com)
- Role of protein in weight loss and maintenance (2015, academic.oup.com)
- Role of Sleep and Sleep Loss in Hormonal Release and Metabolism (2011, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Safe Exercise (2018, orthoinfo.aaos.org)
- Skeletal muscle: A review of molecular structure and function, in health and disease (2019, wires.onlinelibrary.wiley.com)
- Strength training: Get stronger, leaner, healthier (2021, mayoclinic.org)
- The Functions of Fats – Nutrition: Science and Everyday Application (n.d., openoregon.pressbooks.pub)