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Getting Into Shape After Age 40 The Stylish Ways to Do It

 Getting Into Shape After Age 40 The Stylish Ways to Do It

Experimenters say starting a fitness routine after forty is as beneficial as being active from childhood through adulthood. It’s never too late to get in shape and enjoy the fitness benefits of physical health. This is according to a new study published in the journal JAMA Network Open.

In fact, incorporating exercise later in life results in the same risk reduction of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and overall mortality as being active from childhood through adulthood, according to the study's researchers. The optimal risk reduction for both younger and older individuals was observed when engaging in a daily combination of 150 minutes of moderate exercise, such as gardening or housework, or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise, such as fast-paced walking, jogging, swimming, or calisthenics, said Pedro Saint-Maurice, PhD, a study author and postdoctoral fellow at the Metabolic Epidemiology Branch, Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, at the National Cancer Institute. Getting active later in life can also provide additional benefits beyond the study's findings.

According to Barbara Resnick, PhD, RN, CRNP, FAAN, FAANP, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Nursing and former chair of the American Geriatrics Society, there are many psychological benefits to be gained. Resnick told Healthline that while the benefits vary from person to person, general benefits include "an overall sense of well-being and improved psychological state," with reduced depression and increased energy. Older populations can also benefit from improved balance, fall prevention, strength, and function, Resnick added.

However, for those over 40 who are returning to or starting a fitness routine, there are some important factors to consider. Gradually easing into fitness is crucial to avoid injury. "Start low and go slow," recommended Resnick. But what does this actually mean?

Louis Bezich, the senior vice president of strategic alliances with Cooper University Health Care, offers some insights. During his research for his book, "Crack the Code: 10 Proven Secrets That Inspire Healthy Habits and Inspire Success in Men Over 50," he interviewed Dr. Daniel Hyman, the head of the Department of Internal Medicine at Cooper University Health Care and associate professor at the Cooper Medical School of Rowan University in New Jersey. Here is Hyman's advice:

  • See your doctor for an assessment.
  • With doctor approval, start an exercise program that includes:
    • Stretching before each exercise.
    • Gradually increasing the intensity with a combination of aerobic exercise (such as cycling or using a treadmill) and functional weight training, building up to a 30- to 40-minute workout, five times per week.

The best way to get in shape after 40 boils down to two main things: specific exercises and mindset. Resnick provides expert advice on the combination of activities that yield the greatest success. After gradually easing into fitness, individuals over 40 should aim to do the following regularly:

  • Engage in moderate aerobic activity for 30 minutes daily (about 100 steps per minute).
  • Perform muscle-strengthening exercises targeting major muscle groups three days a week.
  • Incorporate balance exercises at least two days a week. Resnick suggests using "The Nia Technique" book for specific exercise routine ideas.

Bezich, on the other hand, emphasizes developing a positive mindset for success. In his experience, the best way to get in shape after 40 is to "build a motivational platform anchored by the most valued relationships in your life, such as your partner, children, grandchildren, or career." According to Bezich, these relationships define your personal "why" when it comes to the effort and sacrifices of living a healthy lifestyle. He advises, "Remember, healthy living is a team sport." Bezich also suggests maintaining a strong social calendar centered around healthy activities to help stay on track with your fitness and health goals.

There may be potential obstacles to success. The new study states that it's never too late to get in shape and improve our health outcomes, so what's stopping so many of us? Bezich says that the main barrier to success is mindset. "Most people can't even maintain their New Year's resolution for more than a month or two," he said. "I attribute this to a weak cognitive association between their daily behaviors and their most valued relationships." In his own research with physically active men over 50, he found that the key to success is the ability to connect the dots between one's diet and exercise routines and their life goals. "They understand that to achieve their objectives, they need to be and stay healthy. It's the power of this positive association that keeps them going when others give up," Bezich said. Those who don't follow through with their fitness goals, Bezich says, lack a strong "why" factor. So while getting fit after 40 involves gradually incorporating specific exercises tailored for success, it's also about understanding your underlying motivation for doing so.


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