So, you’re in your 40s? Or maybe you are a few years either side, but one thing is for sure, exercise should be an essential part of your lifestyle.

We get it, your working hours are long and the available time at home with the family is limited, but if you want to stay around to enjoy your loved ones for as long as possible, take some time out for yourself too.

In this series, we will look at the importance of maintaining your fitness levels as life goes beyond 40. Factors such as mobility, metabolism, and recovery are all important issues that we will face head-on in future, but unless you get started, nothing else can follow. It’s never too late, so let’s make a pact and #BeFitOver40.

Our 40s are a bit of a rollercoaster. On the one hand many of us are becoming better settled in our jobs, and more financially secure, but on the other hand, those management-level roles serve to bring more stress into the home, and we are potentially living with emotional teenagers and at the same time wondering why we never managed to write that best-selling novel or split the atom. On top of this, our participation in sports and exercise is likely to have dropped off as a result of the sheer number of plates that we must juggle on a daily basis.

Still, make no mistake, our 40s are a challenging time for our bodies.

Frailty After 40

A 2021 study conducted at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia, found that the road to frailty could begin at age 40, with results showing that 45% of the 40–49-year-olds tested showed signs of “pre-frailty”. Shockingly, that’s the same percentage of those tested that were in the 70-75 age group.

As if that weren’t sobering enough, our blood vessels will begin to stiffen, and blood pressure is likely to creep up as we travel through middle age. In midlife, most Americans put on 3 to 4 pounds of weight per year, and since we are more likely to lose muscle in our 40s, we are not talking lean mass gains. This all contributes to bad cholesterol and increases our blood sugar levels. So, sitting your 40’s out on the bench is not an option if you want to enjoy a healthier, longer life.

It’s Never Too Late

Back in 1966, a groundbreaking study by the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School found that even college students who were subjected to three weeks of bed rest found it difficult to perform at their previous levels when returning to an active lifestyle. Researchers found higher resting heart rates, increased blood pressure, and also observed an overall drop in cardiovascular capacity.

Encouragingly, these negative factors were shown to reverse after engaging in an exercise plan. Decades later, these same men, now in their 50s, were put on an exercise program once more and, after six months, the men had lost an average of 10 pounds. The group also showed improved functions such as lower blood pressure and a maximum heart pumping ability that was level with their previous baselines back at 20-years-old.

In these studies, the key to improved health was endurance focused exercise, all thanks to its positive effects on oxygen delivery and maintenance of the heart and arteries. The Dallas researchers recommended walking, biking and jogging. Similar types of endurance training include racquet sports, rowing, dance, and even partaking in a round of golf. While the obvious key to improved wellbeing is to ramp up your activity, you should start slowly if you feel that you are completely out of shape, but the main thing is to simply make a start. You can build your training up gradually to three or four hours a week, and take it from there if you feel able.

Life Begins at 40

So now you’ve had a reality check. Sure, you may be feeling fine, but there will be a gradual decline in your health if you are not active. The good news, as the studies illustrate, is that your health outcomes can be drastically improved through regular exercise.

Jason Parrish is a 42-year-old husband and father of four. In 2009, he was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia, forcing him to miss the gym and become confined to bed rest. “After entering remission, a couple years after diagnosis, I didn’t like the now overweight guy in the mirror,” he says. “So, I took back what was taken from me… with added interest. The gym is my church, my therapist and my lifestyle. My main health goal is to inspire others who find themselves in a similar situation. To let them know, it’s not too late.”

Far from letting middle age and life’s obstacles weigh him down, Parrish is inspiring thousands of followers on Instagram as Gentleman Jacked.

He is in training to get his pro card as a bodybuilder and entered his first competition in 2019. Parrish won first place in the 2020 NPC Masters USA Championships but missed out on the pro card by just one point in the overalls. It’s a stimulating journey that is giving him a new lease of life.

“Now, I’m just working to make improvements, but I’ve changed my perspective a little,” says Parrish. “I will no longer pick a show to train for with an unnecessary timeline, but rather I will work hard until I’m confident with what I see, and then go for it.”

So, you may be in your 40s, but whether you are looking to make small strides in becoming more active or you still have dreams in bodybuilding, or any other sports to chase, it’s never too late to start training.


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