In this article, we will give you four simple steps to follow if your plan is to get fit or lose weight after 40. By the time you finish reading this article, you will learn how it is simpler (not easier!) than you think. Let’s go!
Step #1: Access Your (Medical) Condition
Although it is not “40 years old” but “40 years young” you are no longer 18. Think about your current state and any medical conditions or health issues you might have.
First, step on a scale. If you are severely overweight, you can’t immediately start playing basketball or CrossFit, you can injure yourself. You need to lose weight first, start intense physical activities later. You can start with some home weight loss exercises.
Also, if you had any prior injuries, especially chronic ankle and knee problems, choosing high-impact activities right away is not a good idea.
The same goes for chronic health conditions such as diabetes, hypertension or similar. Exercising is a great way to improve your health, but you need to choose the right type.
Even if you are healthy with no prior injuries, it is a good idea to consult your doctor before starting anything. Do a systematic medical checkup, and tell your doctor that you want to get fit. He/she will probably have some good advice for you, but the one you are most likely to hear is “keep slow but steady progress!.” We will get to that later.
At this point, it is a good idea to take pictures, measure your body fat, get blood tests and save all that information. You can also do a full body composition test (Dexa scan for example) that will give you exactly how much fat and muscles you have. Later, you will use these numbers and photos to compare, tracking your progress, which will serve as incredible motivation.
Step #2: Pick Your Activity
Now that you know your starting position, it is time to pick your activity and start exercising and getting fit:
If you are overweight or been completely sedentary for years and years, or if you had injuries, choose brisk walking. It is simple, requires no equipment, you can do it anywhere, but it works! Start easy, by brisk walking 15 minutes per day. After ten days, increase that to 30 minutes. After a month, increase it to 45. Make that habit stick!
What makes walking the best option for people who are out of shape at any age is that it is low-impact. Walking doesn’t tax your body as running does, but it gives you many benefits. Not only that you are burning calories as you walk, but you are also getting your heart rate up (that’s why it needs to be “brisk” walking), which will impact your cardiovascular health. However, because this is walking, not running, you won’t feel winded, and won’t get sore the next day, which will make it much more pleasurable.
You are also spending time outside, and you can actually talk as normal while waking, making it an ideal opportunity to work out with friends or your spouse.
Cycling is, like walking, low-impact activity that you can safely do without any knee/ankle/back/hip pain. What also makes it a great option is that it is fun, and can be more challenging, if you choose to.
A bicycle is also excellent for transportation, and you can use it to go to work. That way, you will guarantee to get physical activity every single (working) day. When you get better and build endurance, you can even go on short cycling trips over the weekend, enjoying the countryside. Join a local club and enjoy some group activities too.
However, cycling has one drawback – you need to have a bicycle. Although they are not expensive, if you want to cycle regularly, it is worth investing in a better model.
Our suggestion is to start renting a bike every weekend. If you do it four weekends in a row, then consider buying one. You don’t want to buy a bicycle only for it to rot in your garage, unused. Invest money only if you plan to use it regularly.
Swimming is another excellent option for people who are looking to get fit. Like cycling and walking, it is low-impact, as you are in the water.
Moreover, swimming is a total-body activity, which makes it incredibly valuable, as it counters all-day sitting, something we are all doing too much. Also, being in the water is incredibly relaxing, and your mind will rest while you work your body.
Yes, swimming is hard at first, and it takes time to learn the proper technique. But once you do, you will build endurance rapidly, and in no time at all, you will start swimming laps. What also makes swimming great is that you can get a lot done in 60 minutes or less, no matter how advanced you are.
The drawbacks of swimming are that you can’t swim anywhere, and you have to go to the local pool when it’s open. Plus, you need basic equipment such as swimming suit, towel, slippers, goggles and similar. That means you have to pre-plan the activity, you can’t do it in random hours.
If you are not too overweight and don’t have injuries, jogging might be a good option. It is fun to do, you don’t have to spend too much time on it and is a very effective form of cardio as it burns a tone of fat and helps your respiratory and cardiovascular health.
To minimize the stress on your joints, make sure to jog on a track, never on concrete. Although you can do it in anything, invest in a quality pair of running shoes that are designed for your foot type and gait. Ask people who are working at sports stores for help, they will recommend to you what’s best.
It’s essential that you focus on the form, reducing the impact. Take shorter steps, and try to distribute the force, not just hit the ground full-force heel-first.
Make sure to start slow, jogging only 1 mile, 2x per week for the first 2-3 weeks. See how it feels, and gradually increase the distance, and the frequency.
If you continue doing it for a while, think about preparing for a half-marathon. Doing something like that will keep you motivated, and you will awaken your competitive spirit again.
Step #3: Take Care Of Your Nutrition, Rest, Stress
While you will improve your fitness through exercise, it is imperative to understand that it is only a part of being fit and healthy. You will have to take care of your nutrition, rest, and stress management.
As for nutrition, the time of eating only junk, and heavy drinking is long gone. You could do it in your twenties and still stay healthy and lean. Now hangovers are worse than ever, and fat sticks to your gut at the speed of light.
It’s OK to have something sweet from time to time, and have a beer with your buddies, but try to balance out the majority of your nutrition. Eat veggies and fruits, quality meat (or other protein sources if you are vegan), and healthy fats that come from fish, olives, and similar. Don’t dwell on counting calories, just make healthy food choices and track your body composition.
As for the rest, you should get 8 hours of sleep per day. If it is impossible to do it during the night, schedule a daily afternoon nap, to sneak more hours in, it all counts. Not getting enough rest will not only ruin your productivity at work but will also stall all of your fitness progress and make you binge junk food.
The same goes for stress. One of the best ways to destress is exercising, but try to incorporate something like meditation, yoga or breathing exercises. Even a light stretch and taking 5 minutes to unwind during your working hours can do a tremendous amount of good for your mental wellbeing.
Step #4: Never Stop!
Getting fit after 40 is not about six pack abs and beach bodies, it’s about longevity. You want to stay fit when you are 50, 60 and beyond. And to do that, you need S.M.A.R.T. planning, tracking, and continual progress.
Pick the minimal amount of exercise you can do, but do it regularly. If it’s only 30 minutes, 2x per week, that’s great, just do it. Once you build up the habit, you will increase the amount per session, and the frequency.
And to stay motivated, track your progress. Pictures, weight, waist circumference, blood tests, miles covered, all of that will keep you motivated, knowing how much you accomplished.
As for nutrition, it is a good idea to create a food log. You don’t have to track every ingredient, just write down what you ate that day. And you can also track days without sweets, soda, fast food, cigarettes.
It doesn’t sound like much at first, but look here: If you don’t eat sweets only two days per week, that is a total of 104 days a year. So more than three months per year without white poison!
As simple as 1-2-3-4, getting fit over 40 is all about consistency, and making steady progress. Don’t do anything radical, but whatever you choose to do, do it consistently. You will start noticing improvements in no time, looking and feeling like you haven’t in years. It’s never too late to start living healthily, so start now!