“Exercise isn’t just about extending your life span, it’s about extending your health span and enhancing how you feel every day. It’s a gift you give yourself.”
You can Be Fabulously Fit -Over 40 Edition
Fitness after 40 isn’t as straight forward as in the decades prior. The need for building strength, maintaining agility and balance, and preserving range of motion through flexibility is greater than ever. The results we got with our efforts earlier in life, can feel elusive. It’s like our body has a new rule book and we missed the announcement!
That’s what I am here to offer you, the inside scoop on getting and maintaining your results in a new chapter of life…
Before we dive deep, I want to encourage you that any movement is better than being sedentary. If what follows feels out of reach, just start with 15 minutes per day. After that is second nature, add another 30, and so on. Build on consistency! But, to go for your best health, here is a route you might consider taking….
First, you must warm up and cool down. The days of jumping straight into a workout without a thorough warm up are gone. It was never a good idea, but we got away with it in the earlier years. At this stage, the body demands a gentle introduction to the movements that you are about to do. In a mindful way, do slow movements that offer a preview of the workout to come. Tailor your warm up to the activity you are about to begin (tennis, hiking, yoga, dance, weights, etc.) for 10-15 minutes is a good plan.
You may protest and say it’s hard to find the extra time. Cut the workout shorter if you must. A thorough warm up prevents injury and that prevents many missed workouts! Prevention of injury is key to sustaining results because it preserves your consistency.
The same care must be taken with cooling down for 10-15 minutes of stretching the muscle groups you used (and those that are chronically tight). Slow holds and deep breathing are beneficial post workout. Warm ups and cool downs are essential to fitness in the long run.
Secondly, walking or hiking is the foundation of any fitness routine. It’s low impact, it can be done any time of day, alone or with a friend, after a meal (to lower blood sugar), in the morning (to set your circadian rhythms for the day and ensure good sleep at night), and with minimal risk of injury. Walking daily for exercise is a common thread for those who loose weight and keep it off over time. It doesn’t raise cortisol levels but does elevate metabolism. Aim to walk at least 15 minutes each day for multiple health benefits.
Thirdly, yoga/mindful stretching is central to fitness over 40. The key is to find a teacher who takes the time to cue you safely through proper alignment and to hold the poses long enough to “soften” or release into a fuller range of motion. Somewhere between 30 seconds and 2 minutes per pose is needed to safely and effectively expand and preserve range of motion.
Keeping our bodies open, releasing tension from areas we hold stress, and dissolving our held stresses from our physical form are all key to our wellness. If we don’t regularly empty the “stress bucket” in our body, we will store more visceral (belly/midsection) fat which raises inflammation and is a risk factor for multiple diseases.
Daily yoga also improves sleep, contributes to balanced hormones, and reduces cellulite (by increasing fascial health). Aim for at least 15 minutes per day.
Fourthly, we benefit from low weight (1-3 lbs)/high repetition work 2-3 x per week. Pilates, Barre, and similar movement styles all offer this type of training. By working the muscles this way, we build the smaller “accessory” muscles that help prevent injury and stabilize a joint through it’s full range of movement. These types of exercises build long, lean muscles and can be done throughout the lifespan safely.
Fifthly, we can do higher weight, low repetition training 2x per week. Heavier weights (safely used under skilled instruction) help build/preserve muscle mass as we age. This is key to our bone density, our metabolism rate, our blood sugar regulation, and our hormonal regulation. Muscle loss (sarcopenia) is the first sign of aging. Preventing muscle loss is one of the most important tasks we undertake if we desire to age well.
Lastly, HIIT training (High Intensity Interval Training) is beneficial 2-3 x per week. In this type of training, we alternate intense effort with recovery intervals. It is often done for a duration of 15-40 minutes. HIIT training is effective in helping burn off the extra weight that wants to hold onto our middle age (and later age) bodies. It is good for cardiovascular health and it releases hormones that uplift our mood…as well as HGH (human growth hormone) to speed cellular repair and slow the clock.
You might be wondering how you can fit all of this into your already full schedule. Here I will refer you to a quote I recently read: “Would you rather exercise an hour a day or be dead 24 hours a day?” Laughs, aside, this is a valid question. Even if its not as extreme as death, the quality of life issue stands for us all. How much energy we have, how we feel about our naked body’s appearance, how we feel IN our body all day long, and our ability to fully energetically engage with life is all at stake. Daily exercise is key to sleeping well and feeling our best while we are awake! It’s worth re-examining your schedule to find more time to dedicate to exercise.
Putting it all together:
Every day, non-negotiable are: 15 minutes of brisk walking and 15 minutes of yoga.
Then, add to this base by alternating daily between:
30 minutes of low weight/high rep/pilates type work 3x per week (Mon, Wed, Fri)
30 minutes of HIIT training that alternates between heavier weights and bursts of cardio (jumping jacks, burpees, etc) 2x per week (Tues and Thurs)
Ideally on weekends we take a longer walk and/or a group fitness class (dance, yoga, etc)
Aim for 5 days per week of breaking a sweat. On your rest days, still do the 15 min walk and 15 min stretch as body maintenance.
If you maintain a well rounded approach over the years, your body will look and feel decades younger. You will slow the clock and enjoy life so much more. You will spend more time doing what you love and less time sick, injured, and at the doctors office.
Exercise isn’t just about extending your life span, it’s about extending your health span and enhancing how you feel every day. It’s a gift you give yourself. Feeling great in middle age and beyond is on the menu—do you want it?
Cheering you on,
ps. If you’d like some support on your journey, let’s talk. Click here for details.