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Getting & Staying Fit Over 40

So you're over 40 not sure if keeping fit is the same as it use to be.

For me things started to change in my early 40's, mainly recovery started taking twice as long as it use to. Since then it's only got worse, I can now strain a muscle twice as easily! Not an achievement I'm proud of.

There are three specific categories of fitness for people over 40.

How does an over 40 body:

  1. Work out as effectively as possible but avoid injury?

  2. Gain muscle and flexibility?

  3. Work out for the best cardiovascular health?

How does an over 40 body work out as effectively as possible but avoid injury?

Older humans can still train hard, but not as frequently. Recovery from intense workouts, even when supported by proper sleep, nutrition, and soft tissue work, will take longer.

Crudely, this means it’s ok to go really hard 1x-3x per week. Trying to smash it every single day is no go! To be clear, I fully support (and recommend!) more frequent training bouts. There’s nothing wrong with being active every day. You just don’t want to train at all-out intensity every day.

In addition to variations within a week, it’s important to vary intensity within a month or quarter. It’s ok to purposely push your limits some weeks. Balance these weeks with other weeks of lower overall intensity.

Warming up is important for every age group, but to state the obvious, it gets even more crucial as we age. Your body needs more time to “rev up.” Raising your core body temperature, elevating your heart rate, and mobilizing your joints will help keep you feeling good AND lead to better workouts.

Also of note: recovery from injury takes longer as we age. While some bumps and bruises are inevitable for highly active people, there are ways to mitigate this. Namely, the strategies above!

How does an older body gain muscle and flexibility?

Gaining muscle, while not impossible, does get harder as we age. In addition to the factors mentioned above, our hormones change over time. However, we can maintain much of our muscle mass with adequate strength training.

Is it possible to gain muscle over 40? While everyone is different, if you cross your i’s and dot your t’s with appropriate volume and intensity of training, sufficient protein and caloric intake, and get your rest, modest gains are also possible. And in fact, if you’re relatively “de-trained” and haven’t been doing any weight training, you can expect to see progress here.

When it comes to flexibility, our tissue quality also changes over time. No longer the rubber of our youth, our muscles and joints will need extra care and time to maintain mobility. Once again warming up, training with a full range of motion, and attending to soft tissue work become even more important.

How does an older body work out for the best cardiovascular health?

As discussed above, cardiovascular health can be supported with 1-3x hard (and shorter) workouts like HIIT and a few more days of less-demanding “steady state” training where the heart rate stays mostly in the aerobic zone (crudely 110-130 bpm).

A final thought…

Now that I’ve addressed the mechanics, let’s touch on your mindset.

Genetics and luck will always play a role. But you can improve both the quantity — and quality — of your life by adopting the lifestyle habits that promote your fitness.

Too much of our social conversation around ageing treats physical and mental decline as an inevitable fact of life. True, it would be living in denial to disallow any slowing down as we age. On the other hand, we have no shortage of models in our world of people continuing to live full and vibrant lives into their 80’s and even 90’s.

I don’t know about you, but I’m committed to giving my body and brain the inputs necessary to keep thriving for decades to come. At the time of this writing, I am 54 years old. Based on life expectancy models, the overwhelming probability is that I have decades of awesome life to go.

Am I going to be beating my personal deadlift records from my early 30’s? Probably not, but in part, because I just don’t care. For the record, there ARE people who set performance records into their 40’s and sometimes 50’s. But that’s not in line with my goals, which are more focused on longevity, health, and mental performance.

I care about feeling like a million bucks and having all-day-long-energy, and the pride and personal confidence that comes from the compounding interest of years and years of investing in my fitness.

But what if you’re over 40 and relatively new to the fitness game?

If you think it’s “too late” to make strides with your fitness… you’re wrong!

There’s documented evidence that you can make massive strides even if you start as late as your 70’s or 80’s!!

Yes, the best time to plant a tree was two years ago.

But the second best time is NOW.

I suspect some of you don’t need this pep talk. And that’s awesome!

But if you DO find yourself getting nostalgic and feeling like your best years are behind you?

I want to invite you to create a compelling vision and a big future for yourself.

(And if you need help in building your fitness foundation for the decades ahead? See our website fgor some ways you can work with our team of friendly experts.)

You can do this!


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