Getting fit in your 40s…and staying that way

Fitness

After initially writing the title to this post, I felt that it was a little misleading because it’s really not just about getting fit at all. It’s about staying fit.

If you’re in your 40’s, or even in your mid to late 30’s, you may have started to struggle to get in shape, or to just simply stay in shape. People often joke about how it’s all downhill after 40, but it doesn’t have to be that way and in fact, a lot of that is just psychological. One thing to remember is that age is a just a number and today’s 40 is not the same at all as the 40 years old of the 1960’s, or even the 70’s or the 80’s. True, there are genetic and biological factors at play and your body will definitely react differently to exercise after 40 than it did when you were 20. However, when it comes to getting older, there’s no need to take it sitting down, because if you’re literally sitting down and not moving, you are already setting yourself up for failure.

With that in mind, here are some tips and things to think about if you are close to 40 and either trying to get in shape or just trying to maintain a healthy outlook.

Drive less, walk more

The whole concept of driving less and being more active is just so obvious but in fact it is one of the hardest things to achieve. For most people with cars, driving isn’t just some bad habit like smoking that you can quit. For many people, driving is a necessity, especially if you live in an area where public transit is sub par or non-existent. If you absolutely need to use your car everyday, you’re going to have to fit walking in or some kind of movement whenever you can in order to offset the minutes, possibly hours spent in the car everyday. If it’s at all possible, start by taking public transit to work 1 day a week. If that’s not possible, think about movement and where you can squeeze in some walking. Do you use the car daily for short distance errands? Consider walking instead. Do you drive to an office? If so, find places to walk during your breaks, or take the stairs whenever possible.

Pro Tip: Get a pedometer to track your steps. These things have been around for at least 20 years but they are as useful as ever to keep track of your steps. They also make it easy to set goals and targets and to challenge yourself.

Avoid the bloat…by eating slower

It’s not just about what you eat, but how you eat it. Do you sometimes notice that you’re the first person at the table to finish their meal? If so, you probably want to slow down when you eat. First off, it might come off as a rude if you’re powering through your meal while others are taking their time. So, practice some awareness and take your time to enjoy your food and chew, just like your mother always said you should!

Although many of us don’t have time to relax while we eat if we’re constantly on the go, but eating fast is actually pretty terrible for your digestive system. Think about it: as powerful as your stomach acids are, it will still take them longer to dissolve a hunk of meat as opposed to a pureed hamburger. Right? So the more you chew your food, the easier it will be to digest. One of the instant benefits of practicing slower eating is that you will feel less bloated. So just take your time and your bowels will thank you! Just be mindful of how fast you’re eating. It takes some practice but after awhile you will never go back to shoveling food into your face.

Consume less carbs

I’ve been a big fan or the Primal Blueprint for quite awhile but I take it with a grain a salt. A lot of what Mark Sisson has put forth is just plain logical in terms of exercise, eating good food and eating less carbs. The main problem with a lot of carb laden food of course are the ingredients in that the food is processed beyond belief and have just too many ingredients to count. Plus, your 40ish year old body just doesn’t metabolize carbs the way it used to in your 20’s when you can burn carbs in your sleep. Eating a lot of bread and pasta is going to bloat you, which as we mentioned is also a symptom of eating too fast. These days I don’t eliminate all carbs, but if I do consume them, I try to time the consumption of them followed by some activity like cycling or yoga that I end up using the energy that the carbohydrates provide. Another rule of thumb is the following: if you are eating bread or pasta, stick to homemade, or as natural as you can find in your local bakery or grocery store.  If there are tons of ingredients on the package, stay away. This applies to just about all store bought food.

Know your limits and avoid injury.
Probably the most important tip for staying fit in your 40’s and beyond is to know your limits. I’d say that the number 1 reason for getting injured is ignoring your body and indulging your ego. Yeah, your ego is a jerk and will tell you time and time again that you can compete with your former self, i.e., your younger self.  Many of us have fallen victim to this and have sustained an injury, or worse, because of it.

It doesn’t even matter what activity you’re doing. Whether you’re lifting weights or doing yoga, you might be working out among people much younger than you. Yeah, you still got it, right? Maybe you’re pretty fit or maybe you used to bench your weight with ease. Do not underestimate how easy it is to injure yourself and most importantly, do not, ever compare yourself to the person next to you whether they are young, old, male or female. No one is built identically and we all have different limits. All this can be summed up in just a few words, and those words are:

Say no to your ego.

And that’s it for now. What are you doing to stay fit after 40?

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