Staying active becomes increasingly active as you age. In your 40s and 50s your are fighting against some natural effects of ageing, such as muscle loss and weight gain.
Remaining active will help to offset the effects of ageing and may even increase fitness which commonly results in a reduced risk of disease and an increase in life-span and, more importantly, health-span.
However, keeping active may be a challenge, particularly if you have lead a sedentary life to this point. Check out these helpful tips that will help you build a sustainable routine.
#1 – Set realistic goals
Setting a realistic and achievable goal for an active lifestyle is important, particularly if you’ve been less active in the past. You need a target this provides benefits, but is sustainable and doesn’t instil a sense of dread or guilt.
Your target also needs to be within reach. When you were in your 20s and 30s, recover from physical activity was probably not a primary concern, but as you age it’s really important that your build up to a level of activity in a way that won’t result in you quitting or getting injured.
Consider setting a goal that your can build up to with micro-goals as milestones. Start from a point that you can achieve with ease.
For example, if your goal is to be able to jog 3 miles in a specific time within the next 3 months, start walking 1 mile every other day for 2 weeks. Then walk 2 miles every other day for 2 weeks, and so on. Later, move on to a half mile jog, and build up from there.
As always, discuss your goals with a medical professional will give you the peace of mind you need to succeed.
#2 Mix up your exercise routine
Nothing kills a well intentioned change of habit like boredom. The real benefits of an active lifestyle come from consistency, so riding a wave of enthusiasm for a few weeks and then quitting will get you nowhere.
Being active doesn’t have to feel like an exercise regime without end. If you can include variety in your active lifestyle, it’s much more likely to become a natural part of your life.
For men in their 40s and 50s, we recommend some form of regular strength training to offset the natural muscle loss that occurs at that age, but beyond that, walking, jogging, cycling, playing golf or swimming are a few activities that may feel a bit less like exercise.
To be honest, if walking the dog gets you away from your sofa or computer screen then if qualifies!
#3 – Find a fitness friend
It’s often said that a workout buddy keeps you on track at the gym, but if that is not your thing, having someone to enjoy some less focused activities with is still going to help maintain a consistent routine.
An active lifestyle is just that, a lifestyle. If you try to get all of your exercise in one place and in isolation, the odds are good that eventually you might start to slip. A lifestyle activity is better if it incorporates more than one aspect of your life – Combining physical and social activity has been shown to delivery fantastic physical and mental benefits.
I shudder to thing how much money I have wasted on gym membership fees – It’s just not a routine I can maintain week after week.
I have a biking and hiking friend. Now we might take a few more refreshment breaks than is strictly necessary, but I don’t even regard our trips as exercise and my Apple watch counts the burned calories all the same!
#4 – Incorporate strength training
As already mentioned, there are some inescapable natural processes that take place as you age. In particular, in your 50s you will tend to lose muscle mass. In fact, from the age of 40 onwards, you can expect to lose 3% to 8% muscle mass each decade.
Your metabolism is, to a great extent, regulated by the amount of muscle you have because your muscles are constantly burning calories whether you are active or at rest. The less muscle you have, the fewer calorie you need. The result is that your metabolism effectively slows and, as you age, you put on weight.
Strength training is a class of exercise that puts muscles, or groups of muscles, under strain for a period of time using resistance. Think weight training or body weight exercises such as calisthenics.
Aside from arresting the loss of muscle or even building more muscle, strength training has been shown to positively affect metal state and protect the body from conditions associated with ageing, such as heart disease, diabetes and hypertension.
#5 – Make exercise a habit
This sounds obvious, but if you can build activity into your life, you make it consistent and sustainable. As long as it is something you do in addition to your regular routine, you are at risk of dropping it.
This is perhaps one of the most critical changes you can make to how you see activity – People who are naturally active don’t think about it, it’s just something they do. If you can, you need to be that person.
The good news is, habits can be created, so this is really about creating a virtuous cycle – activity creates positivity and energy – energy allows for more activity – activity produces results.
Personally, I make sure I don’t every fail. I don’t ever miss a planned activity, because if life gets in the way, I trim down the activity rather than skip it.. It’s just a question of keeping my promise to myself, which ends up being easier and easier to keep.
#6 – Listen to your body
You are not 20 anymore. That means that rest days and recovery are really important and worrying a bit less about keeping progress perfectly on track may be a little less of concern. Consistency is key.
Making the right decision about what and how much you do is about listening to what your body is telling you. Not listening can lead to injury, which can put you back weeks or even derail your plan completely.
If you have not been active recently, even a brisk walk or some light strength training can lead to some post workout pain. Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) will probably be a familiar feelings, even if the name is not.
The point is, start slow and expect to modify your activity, particularly in the beginning. It might feel like your are wasting time if you are brimming with enthusiasm, but there really is no way to safely accelerate the process of reacquainting your body with a much increased level of activity.
#7 – Stay hydrated
Your body needs to be sufficiently well hydrated to fight infections, manage body temperature, lubricate joints and keep your organs working well.
As we age it’s important to actively manage your level of hydration. Indeed, studies show that older people tend to be less sensitive to the body’s signals that indicate increasing dehydration. It suggests that older men should drink water even when they are not thirsty to negate the risk of dehydration.
Being physically active obviously requires that we replenish our bodies. Older people respond differently to exercise and may sweat less, which can obscure the need to rehydrate.
The best fluid to dehydrate is water. Other liquids contain substances that the body has to remove, which reduces their effectiveness in hydrating the body. Even sports drinks which often contain large amounts of sugar are probably best avoided.
#8 – Get enough sleep
Sleep is your body’s opportunity to relax, repair and rejuvenate. Getting enough of it is essential for good health, managing mood, weight and energy levels. If you want to achieve you goals of an active fulfilling life, sleep is fundamental.
Sleep both supports an active lifestyle, giving you the energy you need to pursue your goals and is supported by active exercise. Exercise tends to improve the quality of your sleep.
Most adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night to function at their best. Ensuring you get your quota will move you a long way towards reaching your health and fitness goals.
To give yourself the best chance of a restful night’s sleep, try to go to bed at the same time each night and avoid alcohol, caffeine or eating too close to your bed time.
#9 – Get your regular check-up
It goes without saying that older bodies are more prone to health issues and injury through exercise. Prevention is so much better than trying to cure or correct a problem.
Your annual check-up is an opportunity to make sure your health remains on track and to get an early warning of anything that might need attention.
Your goal to stay active is to be applauded. Exercise can do so much to extend your healthy life and keep you in tip top condition, even as you move through your 40s and 50s. But there are some things it can prevent.
I can’t stress this enough – Nobody regrets spending a hour or two each years to get a clean bill of health. It’s a no-brainer.
#10 – Have some fun!
Your active lifestyle should be a fun lifestyle. I hope this is the most obvious tip of all.
Living a long and miserable life is not much of a goal. Indeed, maintaining a routine that you can live with for your whole life is going to be tough if it’s not something you enjoy. Exercise is a great habit to form, but few people can consistently practice a fitness regime year after year if that’s all it is.
Personally I do enjoy seeing the results of my labor. Reduced weight. A leaner, stronger physic. But that is not my motivation – I enjoy what I can do with my body as a result. Engaging in sports like swimming, tennis, sailing or just chasing after my kids, and later on, their kids.
Having set some goals, tracked your progress and enjoyed some success, it’s important to remember why you wanted to be more active in the first place.
Staying active as you get a bit older requires a bit of thought and some proactive planning and action, but the results are well worth the effort.
Remember to set some realistic goals and start with a target that is achievable. Most of all make is safe by listening to your body and your doctor!
If I were to recommend one thing for older men it would be to use your muscles so your don’t lose your muscles – It will add useful years to your life and give you some an energy that a lot of younger guys are just missing out on.
Make your fitness a habit and have fun with an active and engaging life.
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