How To Get Fit At 40 – And Thriving Healthy Tips

This is the prime of your life – yes, your 40s are it! It’s a time when staying active and taking care of your health becomes even more crucial. As your body goes through changes, it’s essential to understand how to adapt your fitness routines accordingly.

Engaging in physical activity also supports cognitive function, keeping your mind sharp and focused as you navigate the challenges of work and family life. It can improve sleep quality, which becomes increasingly important as hormonal changes may disrupt your rest.

By incorporating exercise into your routine, you’re investing in a healthier future self by promoting cardiovascular health and supporting bone density. Plus, staying active can enhance flexibility and balance to prevent injuries that may be more common as we age.

“If you’re not engaging in regular aerobic and strength training by your forties, it’s possible there may be a shift towards insulin insensitivity,” says Dr Amal Hassan, a sports and exercise medicine consultant. Oestrogen optimises insulin levels (the hormone needed to move glucose out of your bloodstream and keep blood sugar levels regulated)

Unilateral Training

In your forties, unilateral (single-sided) moves should be front and centre of your strength training routine. “Exercises such as single-leg Romanian deadlifts and single-arm dumbbell rows, are great for improving balance and ironing out any muscular imbalances,” says McGowan. “By doing them, you test your balance and work one
side of your body at a time, which isolates and strengthens weak muscles.” It’s a game changer for injury prevention, too.

Quick, Short Bursts of Activity

Giving your metabolism a boost is the name of the game, here. “Regular activity is vital for reducing the risk of insulin insensitivity, which could lead to diabetes and weight gain, as exercise moves blood sugar into the muscles for storage and promotes an immediate increase in insulin sensitivity, rather than leaving excess insulin
floating in your body,” explains Dr Hassan. “Short walks after meals and reducing alcohol intake to within the guidelines (or lower) are powerful ways to improve your metabolism.” The thinking is that rather than aiming for longer 20-minute sessions, know that four five-minute bursts could also work wonders.

Do More Balanced Moves

Your balance may also begin to wobble a little. Research in Frontiers In Neurology found that the ‘vestibular threshold’ was more than 80% higher in participants over the age of 40.

Get Fit In Your 40s: The 10 Minute Stretch

Instructions: Complete the exercises in this yoga workout in order. Move from one to the next without resting. Rest 45 to 60 seconds at the end of the circuit, then repeat for up to three rounds

READ MORE: The 14 Yoga Stretches To Do Daily If You Want To Become More Flexible

1. Sukhasana To Half Moon

Start in an easy seated pose (Sukhasana). Sit like this for a minute with your eyes closed and hands in your lap, breathing deeply. Raise your arms to the sky and then over to your right into half moon.

fitness at 40

Repeat on the left, then inhale, raising your arms up again and lengthening your spine. Exhale as you reach your hands in front of you.

2. Cat And Cow

fitness at 40

Place your hands on the floor, then walk them forward and move onto all fours. Spend a few breaths performing cat and cow: inhale and arch your back, sticking your tailbone up.

fitness at 40

Exhale and round your back, tucking your tailbone. Continue alternating.

READ MORE: Boost Your Morning Routine With This Easy 15-Minute Yoga Flow

3. Downward-facing Dog To Standing Mountain

From cat and cow, push up into downward-facing dog .

Walk your hands back towards your feet, or your feet towards your hands, and exhale into forward fold, then roll up into a standing mountain pose.

READ MORE: This 6-Move Yoga Sequence Will Seriously Strengthen Your Tummy

Foods You Should Be Eating In Your 40s

Proper nutrition plays a critical role in staying fit and healthy, especially as you hit your 40s. As your metabolism starts to slow down, it becomes even more important to fuel your body with the right nutrients. Eating a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains can help maintain a healthy weight and provide sustained energy throughout the day.

In your 40s increasing your protein intake from 15 percent of your total calories to 30 percent can help you boost the calories your body burns during digestion.

Switch to low-GI foods rich in soluble fibre, which helps to lower bad cholesterol. These include: Green vegetables, some fruits, kidney beans, chickpeas and lentils.

Hydration is another essential aspect of proper nutrition that often gets overlooked but is crucial for maintaining energy levels and supporting bodily functions.

Habits To Avoid In Your 40s

“I often see clients putting pressure on themselves when they notice that their bodies are changing due to hormones,” says McGowan.

“Consistency is key but going all out isn’t necessary. I recommend two or three moderate to intense workouts per week, but the most important thing is to reduce sedentary behaviour – stand as often as you can and always walk to your destination if it’s an option.”

Bragg agrees: “Your body is going through a huge hormonal shift – oestrogen and progesterone levels decrease as ovaries stop producing them, and the control hormones (FSH, follicle-stimulating hormone and LH, luteinising hormone) released by the pituitary gland in the brain shoot up. This all contributes to the most common menopausal symptoms, including fatigue, weight gain and hot flushes. Doing intense workouts will only send hormonal imbalance further off-kilter as they increase the stress hormone cortisol.” Try incorporating at least one yoga session per week.

This article written by Bridie Wilkins first appeared in the July/August 2022 Issue of Women’s Health UK additional reporting by the Women’s Health SA team.

Icons at Freepik – Flaticon

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