I remember when my mom turned 40. I was embarrassed to tell anyone how old she was because in my 9 or 10-year-old mind 40 was next to ancient. And then came that year a few years ago when I had to list my own age as…40. Good golly, Miss Molly. I was old!
Forty may be the new 20 nowadays, but somehow, it still felt like the gateway to old to me. I felt like I really was over the hill and on the downward slide, with my obese and aching body. I thought about all the things I’d hoped to accomplish by 40, like losing weight, but here I was fatter than I’d ever been in my life. I honestly felt like I had reached the end of the line and was destined to live the rest of my life overweight.
I thought I was too old to find fitness.
This week I’ve scanned different internet articles and opinions on fitness after 40. Some people say there’s a secret to exercising after 40. Others say “Hogwash” to that belief. I only know that these are a few things I’ve found to be true for me about finding fitness after 40:
- Redefine what being fit meant. I had this idea that fit meant wearing a size 2 and having a perfectly round, perky rear view. Whatever. Genetics endowed me with –let’s just say it–wide hips, and no amount of exercise is going to change my bone structure. While I can tone the muscle and tighten the booty, I’ll never have that perfect hiney. But if I think about being fit in terms of not how I look but what I can do, fitness lies within my grasp. At 45, I’m running, jumping rope, and lifting weights at levels that were beyond me at 30. So what if those saddlebags refuse to leave? I’d rather be able to run a marathon than fit into skinny jeans.
- Stop playing the comparison game. I had to realize I’m 40. I can’t compete with those 20-something year olds. They haven’t reached their peak of muscle development yet. So just forget about what other people are doing and focus on what you can do. And then do it! And keep doing it, pushing yourself just a bit more each time–like this amazing man who took up running at 95!
- Accept that you’re 40. I had to accept that I was 40, not dead. What I mean is that I had to understand and accept that there are biological changes that happen in our body as we age. Estrogen and testosterone begin to decrease. Metabolism slows. We begin to lose bone and muscle mass. Does that mean I shouldn’t exercise or lift weights? First, see #2. Second, absolutely not! The amount of weight we can lift may decrease or our mile time may increase as we age, but exercise and weight lifting are a deterrent to age related health issues, such as osteoporosis. Weight bearing exercises like walking, running, and lifting weights cause our bones to absorb more calcium. More calcium in your bones = stronger bones.
- Work within your limits. If you’re like me and put off getting fit until you’re 40, you’ve had a lifetime of developing bad habits that may be affecting your posture, flexibility and mobility. And things like arthritis or other health conditions can rear their ugly heads even in our not so old bodies. So do what you can within your limitations. This is one reason I really like working with a personal trainer. I have someone there who can point out movement deficiencies that I can’t see in myself and help me correct my technique or suggest exercises that can help improve flexibility.
- Don’t let someone tell you you’re too old. The biggest thing I’ve had to learn about finding fitness after 40 is to tune out those naysayers who want to tell me I’m too old. I’ve had people tell me how dangerous lifting weights and running are, especially at my age. Okay, maybe. But any exercise at any age can be dangerous if you do it incorrectly and if you do too much too quickly. Progressive overload is the key. Find your starting point and gradually increase from there. I went from running 1 minute to running 30 minutes over the course of 8 weeks–at the age of 41. And over the course of 2 years, I went from deadlifting 80 pounds to deadlifting 210 pounds–at the age of 45. You are NEVER too old to improve your fitness level! Still skeptical? Check out this 104 year old Pearl Harbor survivor!
- Weight loss is possible after 40! I should know. I lost 63 pounds after turning 40. Changing my diet was key, but then, at any age, diet is the key to weight loss. And maybe my metabolism had slowed. But exercise, especially weight training, building muscle, is one of the best ways to speed up that metabolism–at any age.
So my secret to fitness after forty is…that there is no secret! (Sorry if I misled you!) But I don’t think fitness after 40 has to be some mysterious, dangerous process. The same principles that work to lose weight and get fit for the under 40 crowd seem to be serving me well now that I’m well into my 40’s. Listen to your body. Use common sense. But move! I dare you to join me in this adventure of finding life and health at the not so old age of 40–and beyond!
Remember to always check with your physician before beginning an exercise program.
Talk to me:
What arguments have you heard about losing weight or getting fit after 40?
What does being fit mean you would/could do?
photo credit: https://www.pinterest.com/explore/birthday-memes/