The 40th birthday is a milestone birthday sort of marking the halfway point of our lives. As the saying goes “40 is the old age of youth,” yet no one is saying that everyone who turns 40 is automatically over the hill – far from it! But it is an important decade that can make or break your health depending on how you take care of yourself.
If your 20’s and 30’s blew past like a strong whirlwind of activity, just wait until the 40’s. This decade becomes more complicated bringing with it growing children, aging parents, and added work responsibilities, which boils down to less time to be more physically active and paying attention to what we eat. Yet, this decade is critically important for preventing future health problems such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and many types of cancer. If you haven’t been taking the best of care of yourself until this decade, now is the time to start.
The two main ways of keeping fit after 40 is through diet and exercise. Neglecting either one during this decade is a mistake that will come back to haunt you in terms of excess weight gain, loss of muscle mass, reduced energy, and the development of chronic health issues.
Here are tips on eating well during this decade:
· Maintain a regular, consistent schedule of 3 meals a day with 2-3 snacks.
· Do not make it a habit of skipping meals – it slows down metabolism
· Make 90% of your food choices as nutritious as possible – lots of fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, lean meat and low fat dairy.
· Avoid foods composed of white flour and white sugar – these add no nutritional value and can contribute to weigh gain
· Reduce salt intake to avoid water retention and increasing high blood pressure– greatly limit processed foods such as boxed or canned items, processed meats such as sausage, bacon, and bologna.
· Choose water as your main beverage limiting sweetened beverages.
· Recognize emotional or mindless eating – stress can result in eating when not really hungry which only contributes to weight gain.
Exercise tips to stay fit during this decade:
· Make exercise a daily priority and keep it consistent.
· Carve out time throughout the day to achieve the recommended weekly 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise. This means at least 30 minutes, 5 days a week of physical activity.
· Find physical activities you enjoy – vary your exercise routine to avoid doing the same thing over and over. This helps to work different muscle groups providing a more well-rounded exercise routine.
· Strength training or lifting weights is a must for both men and women. As we age we will gradually muscle mass unless we are actively lifting weights to maintain or slow the loss.
· Always include aerobic exercise – brisk walking, jogging, running, bicycling, swimming, tennis, anything that elevates the heart rate to boost metabolism and burn more calories.