By the time we reach 40, our bodies begin to change. There are plenty of reasons for this. Hormone activity changes; we tend to be less active than we were in previous decades; our metabolism slows down, so we are not burning calories at the same rate as we did when younger; and normal muscle and bone loss begin to kick in.
We can simply give in to these “normal” changes, or we can decide to change our lifestyles and prolong our good health and fitness – things that will serve us well as we continue to age.
If you decide that fitness is important, then here are the things you can and should do. Now, you may not want to incorporate all of them into your lifestyle change but choose those that you can commit to, and get going.
Start with the Basics
Just what are these basics? Bike riding, jump rope, walking, jogging, traditional exercises (sit-ups, pull-ups, squats, planks, light dumbbells for toning). You don’t need machines or a gym for any of these, and they do work.
Drink More Water
Most of us are in a rather permanent state of semi-dehydration. In this state, we are sluggish and feel fatigued, and our outer appearance is just not as good as it could be. Set a goal of 64 ounces a day, and work up to it. Drink at least 8 ounces within 30 minutes of getting up, 8 ounces about 30 minutes before each meal, more with your meal, another 8 ounces before bed, and the rest in between all of that. Tea, sparkling water, and juices count too. Coffee, soda, and energy drinks do not. Have water with you at all times, at work, during your commute, when you walk, exercise, etc.
The funny thing about this: if you get into a regimen of drinking water, your body will crave it and let you know when you need more.
Just Move – a Lot
If your job has you seated most of the time, you should get up every 30 minutes or so and just walk around your workspace or do some stretching.
Pack your lunch if you work outside of your home, rather than go to a restaurant or fast-food joint. During your lunch break, walk. Even if the weather is bad, walk around inside the building.
On the weekends, walk in the morning. Lots of malls open early to accommodate walkers, so if the weather is bad, you have that option. In good weather, though, walk outside.
Set a goal of 10,000 steps a day – work up to that if you need to. Every 10,000 steps burn enough calories to lose a pound or more, depending on how fast you walk. Of course, that will be offset by what you eat during the day, but your walking is burning a lot of those calories you are putting into your body, and you’ll have an easier time maintaining a good weight.
Balance Your Diet
Many believe that simply adding lots more protein to their diet will build muscle while they exercise. And so, they load up on protein powders and drinks. Totally not necessary. In fact, most of us eat too much protein in the form of meat.
Get your protein from other sources – fish, beans, and legumes.
Fresh fruits and vegetables should be the bulk of your intake, along with carbohydrates, as long as you are exercising. If you eat lots of carbs and don’t exercise, they turn to sugar, and sugar turns to fat.
Get the Right Amount of Sleep
Here’s a quick story. Arianna Huffington, founder of Huffington Post, operated on about 5 hours of sleep a night, sometimes less. In 2007, she fainted, fell, and injured herself. Medical tests showed nothing physically wrong. From that experience, she began to research sleep, and it changed her lifestyle. She wrote a book titled The Sleep Revolution, based on her research and the changes in her sleep habits.
Adults need at least 7 hours of sleep a night. If you stick with this regimen, you will find that you will have more energy, you will be able to focus, and your productivity will reach new heights.
Ride a Bike
You don’t need to pay for a gym membership to ride a bike. Buy one and just start, even if it’s only half a mile at first. Gradually work up to longer rides. This is great cardio exercise, and will keep your cardiovascular system in shape – you’ll live longer and healthier.
Work on Flexibility
As we age, we lose our flexibility, and this loss increases the risk of loss of balance, falls, and other injuries. Most flexibility can be maintained by regular stretching exercises. The key here is the word “regular.” You should be stretching on a daily basis.
Work on Muscle Tone Through Resistance Exercise
Again, no need for a gym. Buy some weights to have at home. Use smaller weights to tone up those arm and back muscles. Wear ankle weights while you do leg exercises. And as you develop more muscle tone, you can graduate to weight lifting right in the privacy of your own home.
Use Online Exercise Videos
God bless the Internet. Tune in to an exercise class or video that you like, and schedule a regular session on a daily basis. There is something about having someone direct you that helps you keep up your exercise routine.
Get an Exercise Buddy
If you find yourself not sticking to your commitment to stay fit through regular exercise, then find a buddy with the same commitment. You will be able to reinforce each other and stick to it. It’s great to be able to support and encourage each other. When one of you may feel like slacking, the other will keep up the motivation.
You have exercise goals and a schedule that you plan to keep. Set up a reward system for yourself. It can be anything that will keep you personally motivated – buying a new outfit, having dinner at your favorite restaurant, getting tickets to some event, taking a weekend trip, etc. Your rewards may change, but schedule them on a regular basis.
Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day and Neither Will You Be
You may have to begin on a small scale if you have not been routinely doing those things that keep you fit. But do not lose your motivation. You have to start somewhere, even if it is taking a walk every day and drinking more water. Fitness is a journey, not a sprint.
Now, About That Mental Fitness
Fitness is not just about the physical. You need mental, emotional, and social fitness too. Here are some key tips:
- People who meditate daily, if only for a short period, find themselves far better equipped to handle the everyday stressors of their lives. Take an online course in meditation and practice it faithfully
- Social fitness means getting “out there” and making new connections, especially if you are single and looking for dating relationships. Get started here to give yourself an outlet for chatting and dating online. Who knows where that might lead? Nothing like a little romance to spark up that mood.
- Emotional connections with family and friends are key to feeling supported in all that you do. Be sure to have regular activities with these people – it helps to keep your life balanced.
It’s Your Life – Make the Most of It!
Consider this a blueprint for living a happier, healthier life. Go through these suggestions carefully and see what you can do right now and what you can plan to do as you progress. Post reminders to yourself around your living space – on your bathroom mirror, on your fridge, etc. Set an alarm for that online fitness class you participate in. Get that buddy who will keep you motivated. And don’t forget those rewards. Your body, your mind, and your soul will thank you as you age.