It’s often the case that we take good health for granted, until it’s gone. As we age there is a natural tendency to become less active and to succumb to middle-age spread, so much so that many people expect and accept it.

However, maintaining fitness and a reasonable body weight plays a significant role in general health and quality of life.

The benefits of making health a priority after 40 are maintaining mobility, avoiding debilitating disease and cognitive decline and ensuring you lay the foundations for well-being in later life.

You don’t have to become a gym rat or starve yourself to stay fit, but taking your health seriously requires some effort. So what do you get in return?

Does being overweight put your well-being at risk?

The extent to which your weight is consider normal, overweight or obese can be measured by calculating your Body Mass Index score, or BMI. BMI is a ratio of your weight over your height. More specifically, it’s your weight in kilos (kgs) divided by your height in meters (m) squared.

People with a BMI of between 18.5 and 24.9 are considered of normal weight. A BMI of 25 to 29.9 are classified as overweight while anyone over 30 is obese.

According to the U.S. Department of health, over 30% of Americans are overweight while a whopping 42% are obese. Men aged 40 to 59 fair worse with over 46% in the obese category. A study conducted in the UK found that people who are severely obese are 50% more likely to die early.

Everyone who is now obese was once overweight. The risks to your physical and mental health are many.

Chronic disease

Whether overweight or obese, you run a much higher risks of chronic ill-health, which will very likely lead to disability, poor quality of life or early death.

The list of health related problems is pretty long, but overweight and obese people could well develop one or more of the following in their life time:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Cancer

Each of these come with a plethora of unpleasant associated conditions or debilitating symptoms. For example, diabetes often affects vision with glaucoma and cataracts associated with the disease.

Even if your life is not cut short, chances are you will live a portion of your life in a body that has lost the ability to take you where you want to go and do what you want to do; a body in debilitating pain that requires medication or to undergo procedures that are unpleasant at best or more possibly torturous.

The risks associated with being overweight or obese are significant. It is thought that increased insulin is linked to the development of kidney, prostate, uterine, colon cancer, etc. In fact, being overweight or obese doubles your risk developing cancer of the liver or kidney.

Mental well-being

Much is written about the physical effects of a poor diet or an inactive or sedentary lifestyle. But as always, body and mind can’t be separated. It should not come as a surprise that the effects of being overweight or obese often lead to emotional or mental well-being issues, which can be debilitating in their own way.

Negative body image is closely linked to depression and low self esteem. This can in turn have an effect of personal relationships and lead to anxiety, a sense of loneliness or frustration.

It’s a vicious cycle – Bad health habits lead to negative feelings, an absence of exercise results in a lack of mood boosting endorphins, lower quality sleep and diminishing physical and mental energy – Suddenly your mental and physical state is that of someone much older that your chronological age might suggest.

Staying fit and healthy after 40 is about maintain the energy you have for life. Poor diet and a lack of exercise robs you of physical energy while negative emotions and depression rob you of mental energy.

The benefits of taking a proactive approach to your mental health and fitness are perhaps less immediately obvious, particularly in your early 40s, but the impact of slipping into bad habits can be hugely detrimental.

Longevity. How long will I live?

Many studies have found that being overweight leads to a drop in life expectancy. It’s not surprising really, given the long list of diseases and conditions associated with being overweight or obese.

A average figure of between 3 and 3.5 years of life lost is often quoted. That probably doesn’t sound like a huge number when your in your 40s or 50s and the overall lie expectancy number is between 77 and 83 years of age, but bear in mind that it is an average – Any particular person may loose much more of much less of their life.

What strikes me a more worrying are the years spent in poor health. Even if you are only slightly overweight the study found that, on average, you can expect over 7 years of ill-health.

The benefits of not letting yourself go

It’s true that you are by no means certain to develop a chronic disease if you are overweight in your middle age, you are just more likely to. Healthy, active slim people are not immune from disease either.

However, in addition to reducing your risk of ill health, taking proactive steps in your 40s to ensure you are fit offers a great many positive benefits.

A flab free physic, the ability do sports, mental clarity that will allow you to pursue personal or professional goals, the ability to maintain an active love life. All great things, if you are willing take responsibility for your health rather than expecting youth to automatically taking care of you.

Personally I came to fatherhood later than most and I’m very motivated to stay fit in order to see my kids grow up. I’m motivate to be able to keep up with them too! I’d hate my kids to be the ones with the slowest dad, physically and mentally! I would also hate to be a burden.

Conclusion

It’s a no-brainer. Whether in your 40s or older its high-time to get or stay in shape, unless you are ok with your 60s, 70s or 80s being a disease ridden car crash.

But I get that it’s not easy.Keeping your heath in check in your 40s and 50s can be hard, particularly if it’s the first time you have really thought about it.

I have a theory that it’s tough to stick to make the decision to manage your health and to stick to it every day because the marginal cost of one more cookie of one lost date of activity is really small. Nobody is overweight because of one more cookie. They are overweight because they put off the decision until tomorrow.

If you are interested in your health and fitness, check out our habits for health resources.