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Your Guide to Getting Fit at 40 and Beyond

how to get fit at 40If you’re teetering on the edge of 40 (or thereabouts — who’s counting?) you might be wondering why gravity has suddenly failed you. You might have eaten with abandon, never worrying about the tight waistline on your pants the next day. But that was then and this is now.

But fear not! Age does not have to and shouldn’t stop you from getting fit — you can start today.

Related: 5 Ways to Stay in Tip Top Shape at 40 and Beyond

Elisa Zied, MS, RD, CDN and author of the new book Younger Next Week, says the business of getting fit doesn’t have to be an insurmountable challenge.

 “If people think of being physically active as something they stop and start, they’re in for disappointment,” Zied admits.

take the stairs instead of elevator or escalator“But if they think of it as a routine part of their life and something that’s as vital as eating, brushing teeth and sleeping, it becomes second nature to do things like climb stairs instead of taking an elevator or escalator, walking for part or all of your commute, and getting up from your desk or taking a lunch time power walk,” she explains.

Related: Want to Stay Young? Start Moving

If the allure of looking great isn’t enough, think of the health benefits. Among the ways that regular physical activity improves your health:

  • It helps stave off heart disease. Getting active will boost your good cholesterol and decrease unhealthy triglycerides; the combination reduces your risk for cardiovascular disease.
  • It’s a mood booster. Regular physical activity stimulates the release of chemicals in your brain like endorphins, which can ease depression.
  • It puts a giddy-up in your sex life. One study found that regular exercise enhanced the sexual arousal in women who were on antidepressants (noteworthy since antidepressants can do a number on the libido) and it also makes you look & feel good.

Related: Want Better Sex, Guys? Practice Yoga

The second weapon in this arsenal to get fit has to be a healthy diet. If the mere word ‘diet’ has a negative connotation for you, think of it more as a lifestyle.

“Being healthy isn’t rocket science,” says Wellness Coach Ibis Romero. “It’s totally possible to reform your nutrition at any age. It’s just about eating healthfully,” she says.

say yes to superfoods like kaleRomero has an easy guide for those of us looking to revamp our eating habits. She offers the following ‘Yes and No’ foods for those looking to get and stay fit.

  • Say yes to the ‘superfoods’. Romero identifies these as leafy greens (like spinach, kale and collards), healthy proteins (like fish or 4-6 oz or lean meats or poultry), whole fruits, grains, healthy carbohydrates—brown rice, whole grains (in breads and pasta) and beans. These have all been identified as part of a healthy lifestyle and offer many more benefits aside from fitness.
  • Say no to processed foods. Romero explains that there are a lot of ‘hidden’ ingredients in these foods (like an abundance of sugar, salt and chemicals which preserve them) which will not contribute to a fit body.
  • Say yes to a cheat day (within reason). “Acknowledge that you’re going to cheat on a healthy diet once in a while; it will make you feel less defeated later,” says Romero. She also suggests adding some healthy substitutions, like adding fresh greens to that macaroni and cheese.
  • Say no to a ‘no fat’ diet. Romero reminds us that there are ‘good’ fats and ‘bad’ fats. Some of the good fats she recommends are avocados, fatty fish (full of omega-3s like tuna and salmon) and nuts like walnuts or almonds.

So if you’re looking to revamp your lifestyle with food and fitness remember you have the tools at your disposal. You don’t have to run a marathon or starve yourself. Try taking a walk and putting some healthy options on your plate, you just might live another 40 years enjoying it.

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Tara Weng is formerly a medical/features producer at the NBC television affiliate in Boston, MA, and National Editor of Health/Parenting channel at GalTime.com.