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How to Get Fit and Stay That Way Even After 40

When we’re in our 20s and 30s, we do not think that someday, all we’ll want is to wake up without back pain. In those carefree youthful days, it seems easy to fit everything in from career to family to fitness. Then suddenly, you’re in your 40s, and not only do you need an eye cream (and to stop singing so loudly with all your favorite ‘hits’ that they play over the speakers at your local supermarket), you also need to shake up your fitness routine.

Even if your only routine to speak of was perhaps lifting beer or slices of pizza to your lips, you can still enact fitness changes for the better in your 40s. And even better than that, you can stay that way!

There are many little changes you can make now that you’re in your 40s to live a fit and active life. Try as many of these as you can!

- Walk more

There are definitely days where it seems like there aren’t enough hours to get everything done. On those days, perhaps you let your fitness slide, but that’s a big mistake. You have time, you just don’t know it. Instead of sitting at your desk, take a call outside in fresh air. Walk to lunch in favor of driving there. Use the stairs rather than the elevator. These little habits add up each day. Make it more competitive by wearing a step tracker and trying to beat your steps each day.

- Try a new workout

Your body can plateau during your fitness efforts, no matter your age or how diligent you are. In your 40s though, a plateau can be even harder to jump over. Shake up your workouts by doing new things. Try a new class at the gym or ask your trainer to introduce you to new techniques.

 - Stop it with the sugar

Refined sugar is horrible for the body especially the older you get. It leads to faster visual signs of aging taking hold, plus it makes it harder for you to achieve your goals. Don’t fall into the sugar trap. Do you drink it in your coffee? Now is the time to stop and switch to something better for you!

- Eat right

Balance your diet with the right foods and you’ll not only look better but feel better too. Nutrition in your 40s is a big balancing act. Make sure you’re getting lean proteins, healthy fats, more fruits and veggies, and only good carbs. You’ll have the energy you need to power through workouts, keep up with your kids, and rock at the office.

- Make TV time more productive

Lots of people turn on the TV to unwind after a long day. There’s nothing wrong with relaxing, perhaps catching up on the news or watching a show you’ve waited all week to see. But don’t just sit there! Get up and exercise during commercials or play an exercise game rather than a drinking game when your favorite characters say their catch phrases.

- Try diets that jumpstart your metabolism

No one likes dieting, and that really doesn’t change when you’re in your 40s. Still, if you’ve got weight that won’t come off, try challenging yourself to the keto diet or intermittent fasting (or both). These short-term diets can be all you need to help ignite your metabolism and get you back into a calorie-burning mode fast. 

- Get in good with water

It’s amazing that you and your best friend can drink down a bottle of wine in an hour but in a day, you have to force yourself to drink water. Still, this is a habit you need to work on more in your 40s than any other time. It helps flush away toxins, keeps skin looking fresh and hydrated, and brings oxygen to all your organs. If it’s that hard to drink for you, add some fresh slices of lemon, orange, grapefruit, or any other fruit to give it a naturally sweet taste plus more vitamins.

- Be more flexible

Not everyone is limber, even in their youth. If you never were either, now is the most critical time to work on your flexibility. It becomes harder and harder as you age to keep up with flexibility. As you get older, this will make it harder for you to stay mobile. So work on it now. It prevents injuries and leaves you feel more fabulous. Try yoga and work on those stretches to maximize your flexibility.

- Take care of your gut health

For your best fit life after 40, you should focus on your gut. And we don’t mean that extra something that you want to melt away. We mean the inside! Your stomach is basically your second brain. Inside it and your digestive system, beneficial bacteria reside to keep you healthy. When you undergo stress, take antibiotics, or succumb to the allure of junk food, you’re destroying this healthy bacteria. Make sure you remedy that by eating probiotics, preferably at the same time each day, to help your gut bacteria thrive and heal your gut.

- Don’t rely on your scale

There is nothing worse than doing all that work at the gym, eating right, and then stepping on your scale to see a number that upsets you. Don’t let the number on the scale be your only measure of your success. Use measuring tape to see how many inches you’ve lost, or try on clothes that felt snug before. When they feel loose, you’ll know you’re making progress and that’s more important than any number. Remember, the scale doesn’t tell you your lean muscle mass or body fat percentage. All it can do is make you feel sad if it’s not the number you pictured in your head. You don’t need that kind of negativity!

- Be active every day in the best way you can

There will certainly be days when you just don’t have that full hour to do your workout. But on those days, even squeezing something in is better than doing nothing at all. When things are hectic with the kids, even just taking 10 minutes to do bodyweight exercises or your yoga routine makes all the difference.

- Train your mind for fitness

Good fitness and health aren’t just physical. They impact the mind too. We have so many stresses that tax us each day. Whether your boss just slammed a nasty deadline on your plate that you’re struggling to make, your kids need help with schoolwork, the house is a mess, and countless other things, it’s so important to deal with the health of your mind too. That being said, make time to meditate and relax the brain. There are healing frequencies you can listen to for everything from aches and pains to stress and anxiety. Try it for a week and you’ll be hooked on a healthy feeling!

- Make a splash

In your 40s, your joints will start acting up. You’ll find that working on your flexibility helps for mobility, but if you just dive right in, you will also find relief and exercise in one. We’re talking about swimming of course! Even if you live in a chilly climate, join a gym with an indoor pool and you can swim year-round. Consider signing up for a water aerobics class. Don’t try to train without an instructor though or you could wind up pulling a muscle or herniating a disc in your back. The water makes it easy for joint support but you can also injure yourself without ever feeling it.

- Be good to yourself

We’re not talking about buying yourself an ice cream here, though once in a while it can’t hurt. Still, the best way to treat yourself in your 40s is to show yourself love with a gift to yourself. Take time to go to the spa, get a massage, buy new workout clothes or shoes, or anything that makes you focus on feeling good about yourself. It doesn’t need to cost a fortune either. Even if all you’ve got in the way of spare cash is perhaps enough for a quality shower or bath product, then that will work too. The idea is not to reward yourself with food and give yourself something that makes you feel good inside and out.

- Don’t push through pain

When you’re working out, if you feel pain, you have to stop. We’re not talking about a little muscle burn either. We’re talking about, “Ouch! That hurts!” As mentioned before, it’s a lot easier to hurt yourself now in your 40s than ever before. You don’t even need to be exercising to cause yourself pain. A simple sneeze or one wrong move with your neck will do it. So when you feel that pain, stop. And if pain persists, don’t put it on the backburner. Make an appointment with your doctor to have it checked out. Speaking of your doctor…

- Get your yearly checkup

Nobody likes being poked and prodded, but going to the doctor after your 40s is even more important. You need your hormone levels checked (both men and women!) so you can make sure you’re in optimal health. Once you know, you can train even better and avoid eating things that may be making fitness harder for you. Problems abound with insulin and cortisol levels, which can make losing weight nearly impossible. Get those sorted out with your doctor and you’ll be in much better shape all around.

- Start strength training

Weights aren’t just for bodybuilders. They’re for everyone. And especially when you’re in your 40s, you start losing muscle mass. Work in two strength training sessions each week to start. You can use dumbbells or resistance bands (or even alternate between them). Plus, strength training can speed up your resting metabolism which will serve you well down the road.

- Catch your z’s

Remember all those naps you refused as a kid? If only you knew how joyful it is to sleep! Well, now you do, don’t you? Yet your schedule keeps you burning the candle at both ends. Time to stop the vicious cycle and get that sleep each night. Ideally, you want to aim for 7 to 8 hours of shut-eye. Getting enough sleep is important for both mental and physical health, especially in your 40s. You run a greater risk for diseases if you don’t sleep enough, plus you’ll feel hungry and more prone to eating foods you shouldn’t while your energy levels drop off.

- Turn to plant-based solutions

It’s no coincidence that you’re seeing more plant-based options all around you. Plant-based foods have tons of vitamins and minerals you need and can help you lower your risk of heart disease and cancer, prevent diabetes, and help with weight loss. If the thought of giving up steak for good seems too daunting though, try making some of your meals plant-based and cutting down on meats a bit. Plant-based meals give you ultra-clean energy to burn during even the busiest days.

- Change how you feel about fitness

Getting fit and staying that way after 40 doesn’t mean you have to run on a treadmill or elliptical every day. In fact, if you hate the gym environment, you won’t be inclined to go. You have to do something you enjoy. Fortunately, there are so many activities that can keep you fit. Find one that you like and do it. Find more than one? Do them all! Anything that keeps you from being sedentary is a great choice!

- Set realistic goals

In your 20s and 30s, getting to your goal of, say losing 5lbs was easy. But in your 40s, it might be twice as hard. It helps to set a big end goal with lots of mini goals that lead up to it. If you want to lose 30lbs but in the first month you only lose 5lbs, you’ll feel discouraged. Consider setting up small goals that you can check off like giving up added sugar, walking more, and keeping more active. These will help you get to that ultimate end-goal faster.

- Modify it

Even if you are relatively fit in your 40s, there might be some exercises you just can’t do. You can build your way up to them but not everyone can handle jump squats because of their knees. The same goes for burpees. Instead, modify the move to your current abilities. Working with a trainer can really help make a difference here to get the best modifications. 

- Take it slow

Whether you are just starting out or you let your fitness plans fizzle out, you should always take it slow in your 40s. You can’t expect to go from lifting the lowest weights to the highest ones in a week. Pushing yourself too hard in your 40s is even worse because it can result in injury. That injury will set you back too, so don’t do it. Train properly each day and take it step by step. 

- Mix up your workouts

In your 20s, perhaps just jogging or running did the trick to keep you lean. In your 40s, you need more than cardio. A well-rounded fitness routine can help you get fit and stay that way. Do cardio that works for you and then work in some weights. Even the smallest weights can make the biggest differences. Form is important so be sure you’re doing each exercise correctly first, especially before you try to lift with heavier weights.

- Stop scrolling so much

Social media is such a time-suck. Why do you even care what Tiffany from high school is posting? Her perfect life is definitely not perfect if she has to advertise it every second. Let that sink in. You and your family are most important. Put the focus where it belongs…on you and your health and wellness. The rest will fall into place. Ignore social media while you’re working out. In fact, ignore work too. Focus on your fitness instead and you’ll get results.

- Make fitness social

Rather than social media, why don’t you turn fitness into a social call? Engage with real friends in the real world to do something active. Take a class together at the gym. Walk or run by the lake together. Try a new sport like rowing. There’s much you can do and with a friend, you not only get to catch up about life, you also get to motivate each other. It’s a great way to strengthen your relationships. Even your spouse can be your partner in fitness, or if your children are old enough, they can be too.

- Play with your kids

While we’re on the subject of kids, it’s easy to let them suck your energy from you. But you can also use that energy to keep you motivated. Instead of sinking into your chair and scrolling through social media, get up and go for a bike ride with the kids, take a walk, play catch, make a crazy obstacle course in the yard and time each other running through it, or find some way to be active together. As a side bonus, you spend more time with them and all that laughter will make you feel at least a decade younger.

- Let go of the fear of starting

If you need more work to get fit, perhaps having been told by your doctor in your 40s that you must lose weight or else, it’s hard to get started. Even though you know it’s what you have to do, you might feel ashamed or embarrassed that you didn’t keep fit. Don’t let these feelings deter you. Everyone has to start somewhere so pick up and go for it.

- Try a trainer

A trainer is a wonderful idea if you either can’t stay on task or you haven’t really engaged in fitness before. And if you’ve had a recent injury, a trainer can help ensure you won’t hurt yourself again. Working with personal trainer will be like having your own coach, someone who wants to see you succeed while also teaching your proper form and technique. It will be money well-spent when you get the results you have been searching for.

- Get the right apps

Technology isn’t all bad. You can use it to get apps that propel you through your fitness. Some allow you to make a healthy wager and win money while others can act as coaches that keep you motivated every step of the way. There are tons of apps for fitness, whether you’re on the go at a business convention and need a quick workout you can do in your hotel room or you simply need inspiration. Find one that you like! 

- Make a positive change every week

And finally, the one thing that will help you most is to not balk at this list of getting and staying fit after 40. Instead, incorporate one or two of these positive changes into your life per week. Start with maybe cutting out that sugar in your coffee first and walking more. Then add more things as time goes on.

When you take small yet meaningful steps toward your fitness in your 40s, you build a new pattern for your life. This is the age where we start to see the decline in our bodies and our health, but we can turn it around by developing healthier habits. Please do it for your kids and your spouse to have a longer life with them, but most importantly, do it for you because you deserve it!

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