How to lose weight and get fit in your 40s

By Andrew Dickens

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Entering your 40s doesn’t mean entering one-way train to physical decrepitude. Here’s how to lose weight and get fit in your 40s

It’s easy, even reasonable, to assume that reaching 40 will mean reaching a fitness cliff-edge from which to plummet. That exercise and sport is a ‘young person’s game’. But this need not be the case. Look at 46-year-old James Cracknell winning the Boat Race or 45-year-old George Foreman winning the world heavyweight title.

In fact, more and more people over the age of 40 are beginning to realise that they might be not only capable of being in good shape, but in the best shape of their lives. Laugh not at the MAMILs!

Here are five top tips on how to lose weight and get fit in your 40s. Enjoy, you absolute beast.

1. Lift weights

woman over 40 lifting weights in gym

According to ‘celebrity trainer’ (does that mean he trains celebrities, or is a trainer who is a celebrity?) Matt Roberts, middle-aged men who want to lose weight and get fit should be aiming for three or four intense weight sessions each week. These increase testosterone levels, which begins to fall after 40, and help fight both ageing and the flab.

“As a middle-aged man, you’re effectively becoming a bit more of a female as your oestrogen levels are out of sync with the testosterone,” he said. “If you increase it, it burns fat and builds muscle mass. There’s no reason why guys in their 40s, 50s, 60s, can’t feel like guys in their 20s, 30s, 40s.”

In fact, The Telegraph claimed that ‘lifting is the new running for dad-bods‘. And if that isn’t enough for you, it also has the advantage of being able do it in front of the TV.

Read more: 7 reasons to go running every time you travel abroad

2. Go the distance

men in 40s and 50s running a marathon

If you want to stay competitive in your 40s and beyond – and who doesn’t? I know I do, more than anyone – then long-distance endurance sports are ideal. You might not have the explosive (or at least mildly combustible) sprint speed you had in your 20s, but people’s endurance ability dips very slowly. In fact, if you weren’t an elite athlete in your youth, you might not have peaked yet. Long-term goals ahoy.

A study for the University of Sydney found that, while top marathon runners begin to dip after 35, recreational runners’ performance can keep improving up to the age of 50. And when you get into ultra-endurance sports, like ironman and ultra-marathons, another study says that peak performers go up to the age of 44 and decline very little after 50.

Not only that, but running will keep you trim and healthy. Studies have shown that runners are protected against age-related weight gain and that it boosts survival rates from breats cancer. Which is all good.

3. Concentrate on recovery

man stretching on balcony

Some effects of ageing are unavoidable, sorry: one of which is the fact it takes longer to recover. So, the answer is to spend more time recovering, moving away from the standard ‘three weeks build, one-week recovery’ model. Life’s so simple sometimes.

Julia Shaw, who took up competitive cycling in her 30s and won a bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games aged 45 (!!), said:

“Older athletes should put more emphasis on recovery, with definite rest days. I often change the training periodisation pattern to a two-week build with one week easier, to help with recovery and management of training load. Or in some cases if possible, a 10-day cycle instead of a seven-day cycle. You also start to lose elasticity in soft tissues, so things like stretching, pilates and yoga, or using the foam roller, are good to incorporate if you can.”

Read more: 10 amazing things that happen in your 30s, according to science

4. Watch what you eat

women over 40 holding beer glasses

Not specific to people over 40 this, but as anyone of that age who occasionally looks down towards their shoes knows, once you hit the big 40, what goes into your mouth takes a lot longer to take off your middle. Body fat becomes a stubborn opponent. Ergo, you need to reduce the burger, cake, beer and general calorie intake if you want that magic weight-loss.

The good news is, because you are older, wider and hopefully richer, you can go for quality over quantity, making your treats rarer, but much, much better: better beer, better wine, better cheese, better chocolate, all savoured rather than savaged.

Oh, and if you want to avoid losing muscle as you age, add protein to your diet. Protein make you big strong boy.

5. Take it easy

man and woman embracing on grass

This piece of advice is twofold. First, look after your increasingly injury-vulnerable body by adopting some low-impact, low-intensity exercise. Swimming is great, but you need a pool. So just try walking more. Where you might get the bus or train or cab, think, “Can I walk this?” If you can, do. You might even enjoy it, especially if you get to avoid the pungent fumes of commuters’ armpits.

Secondly, do everything you can to reduce stress in your life. Stress makes you more likely to eat bad food and drink too much booze, which, as we’ve already pointed out, is very much a bad thing. Stress also means less or worse sleep, which makes you fat. So ease that heart rate. Meditate or do yoga or listen to some nice tunes or read a book or walk around a bit or just lie in the park and think about puppy dogs. Whatever calms your seas.

Read more: 5 great reasons to embrace group travel in your 40s

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