It seems more and more fitness programmes are coming out these days. But none of them are aimed at those who need it most. The over 40s.
It’s all high intensity this and dancing that. But you don’t need that. In fact, if you haven’t really exercised in a good few years you could seriously injure yourself.
So here are the 3 fitness ingredients that are a must once you are over 40. Oh and just because you are over 40 doesn’t ever mean it’s too late to start. Just look at the examples of some of my clients in this article.
Your body operates on a use it or lose it rule. If you don’t move you lose the ability for that movement. Now I’m not talking about walking. There’s actually very little full body movement when you look at each of your joints. And as for running, well the pain that can cause on your knees and lower back is pretty nasty.
No what I’m talking about is movement at each of your joints. Like your knees, your hips, your ankles etc.
We start to lose the range in them as we age. Heck even 30 year olds have pretty crappy range.
When we lose this range we feel stiff and sore. Maybe when you get up in the morning you feel it. Or when bending down to pick something up or put on your socks. And unless something is done this is just going to get worse and worse.
Good news is you can improve it. All it takes are the right exercises. Going dancing or running or even just walking will only lead to more pain and stiffness. But when you start to mobilise your joints you’ll start to feel better pretty soon.
Take the following as an example. This is called a hip hinge.
We lose this movement and tend to bend from the back instead. This causes extra pressure on your spine and could result in a bad back.
Contrary to popular belief, the above exercise/stretch is not good for you. But it’s never just one quick movement that causes an injury. It’s a combination of doing this day after day after day until one day you really hurt yourself.
Practicing the hip hinge will not only increase the range of movement in your hips but it will protect your back from overuse and strengthen your core.
My recommendation is to divide your age by 2 and start with that many repetitions each day. Simply hinge to the wall, pause and then return to full standing. Then add 5 more each week and work up to your current age.
One of my members, Ros (50s), came to me after having a hip replaced. In her words she had been given a second chance and wanted to maximise her new hip while looking after her old one. Which, she was told was going to need the same at some stage in the near future.
We started off with the most basic exercises. Just working on getting her joints working again. And within 6 months, the improvement was so great, she asked me if I thought she could climb Mt Kilimanjaro. 6 months later she did.
That was in Jan 2013. And at the end of 2013 she went back to her consultant for a check up. First of all her new hip had been rehabilitated to 99% of what it could have been. The old hip had minimal deterioration. So much so he said she wouldn’t need to think about having it replaced for 15-20 years.
Want to know one of the best ways to predict someones quality of life as they age? Look at their muscle mass to fat ratio.
The more muscle you have the stronger you are. That means you can do everyday tasks easier. Now, depending on your current age, this may or may not be a huge issue. But it will eventually become one.
Simple things like getting off the couch, walking up or down stairs, getting in and out of the car. They all require strength. But you lose a percentage of your muscle mass every decade. You get weaker and weaker. To the point you lose confidence in your own body.
There is some good news though. There are many studies been done on the over 40 population to see what the best form of exercise is for stopping this muscle loss.
And the winner is; Resistance Training.
Problem is the resistance training you might be shown in a gym is NOT the resistance training you need. Especially when you are new to it.
What ever way you look at it, sitting in a machine and pushing a weight is not going to help you in your daily life. The most important thing for you to be able to move and master your own body.
Exercises such as a body squat will keep your legs strong. Or stepping up on to a step and back down again. Just make sure you know HOW to do these properly. In the case of the squat the emphasis should be on keeping the knees out, if they buckle in you’ve got some strength and mobility issues that need correcting.
But the key to getting the most from these exercises is called tempo. There’s no point in rushing them. In order to build more strength you’ve got to go slowly on the down phase of each movement. Research shows this is the most beneficial way to do them for the best results. And remember, get your mobility back first before trying to rush the strength part.
Balance is actually a part of strength. The stronger you are the more you can balance. But there are ways to improve it even more. Basically your balance comes from your brain. Namely, your nervous system. And again this operates on a use it or lose it system too.
Problem is our nervous system can actually deteriorate with age too. You lose the ability to control your muscles as well as you could in your twenties. But again this can be trained.
I remember training a member with Parkinson’s quite a few years ago, Liam. He was losing his muscular control a lot faster than most. But we were able to get some of it back. To the point he went from falling over a few times a day to not falling over, or being able to stop himself when it did.
We started with simple things like standing on one leg, then closing the eyes and doing it. Sounds very simple. But it really works, and works well. Then we progressed the exercises as he did.
Fitness is much more than just breaking a sweat or clocking up hours exercised. It should make you feel and move better for your every day life. Otherwise what’s the point?