It is not uncommon in this modern age for many of us to live rather sedentary lifestyles. This is mostly due to the advancements in technology taking away our need to be active. We wake up, sit for our meal, commute to our office, sit at work, commute home again and then spend our evening relaxing after our long day.
The problem is that the human body is essentially designed to be physically active for 12-14 hours of the day. It is this prolonged inactivity that has been linked to many of the common health conditions that we face, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, and many types of cancer. This is why incorporating regular exercise into our lifestyle is so important, because keeping our bodies active will not only help prevent disease it will also help keep us independent into our golden years.
It doesn’t matter if you are male or female, or if you consider yourself young or old, the simple fact is that exercise and keeping active, is integral to good health. Yet not all exercises are ideal for everyone and there are some practices that become less beneficial, or even detrimental, as we enter middle age.
It is an unfortunate fact of life that as we age our bodies slowly start to decline in condition. We no longer build and repair our cells, and body tissue at the rate we once did. Our muscles begin to deteriorate more rapidly after disuse, our bones start to lose their density and our joints become more fragile and prone to damage.
This is not to say that we should stop exercising, on the contrary, exercising is exactly what we need to help fight this aging process, however there are some considerations that us woman should keep in mind.
Understanding The Physical Changes
Even though you may still feel 20 at heart, the body just isn’t in the same condition it used to be by the time you enter your 40’s. Fat seems to make itself more comfortable and becomes harder to shift, especially on the midriff, buttocks and thighs. Our skin doesn’t have the same elasticity it once had. Not only that our muscles tend to waste away quicker than before and our bone density begins to deteriorate.
The onset of menopause in women also brings with it many hormonal changes which also impact upon our physical body. During menopause the hormone levels jump all around the place before dropping quite considerably and this can have a huge impact on your energy levels as well as how you feel within yourself. Another symptom most women experience from the falling levels of oestrogen is pain and deterioration in your muscles and joints. Understanding these changes that occur can give us the advantage when it comes to taking care of ourselves, both emotionally and physically.
Know Your Limitations And Progress At A Safe Pace
Unlike in your 20’s, when pushing yourself hard and quickly only left you sore for a day or so, pushing yourself too hard and fast now will not only take you much longer to heal, it can also potentially cause more serious and longer lasting damage to your muscles, joints and skeletal system. Ensuring that you progress at a safe pace that is appropriate for your fitness level, experience and age is very important. So be kind to yourself, it doesn’t mean you have to stop, just proceed with respect and awareness for your body and know your limitations.
Getting The Right Amount Of Sleep
It may not be that shocking to you to learn that you are no longer able to party all night without some physical repercussions for missing a night’s sleep. Yet even though ensuring you get enough sleep is important for people of all ages, it becomes even more important as we reach our 40s. It is during this ‘sleep’ time that our bodies are actually working to build and repair muscle cells. So if you have been exercising to tone and build strength, you need the sleep to complete the job. Remember though that too much sleep will also have a detrimental effect, leaving you feeling lethargic, dazed and possibly even irritable. So try to find the right amount (usually between 7-9 hours) and aim for that each night.
Excessive Cardio Accelerates Aging
Cardio is great way to burning calories and cut the fat, however studies show that as woman reach their 40’s excessive cardio can actually stress the muscles and encourage muscle breakdown which in turn increases the number of free radicals in the body. It is these unpleasant free radicals that have been linked to the acceleration of the aging process.
So try to mix it up and ensure you are balancing your cardio with some strengthening and muscle building exercises, such as Pilates and light weights.
So What Should We Avoid?
- Behind the head pull-downs/pull-ups: These exercises place unnecessary stress on the shoulders and neck area, which can cause injury especially in women over 40.
- Plyometric Training: These explosive energy exercises, such as box jumps, place a huge amount of pressure on the joints and ligaments, so unless your body has been conditioned to this type of movement, they are best to avoid. Step ups and lunges work similar muscles without the jarring strain.
- Heavy weights: Unless you are an experienced weight lifter, or bodybuilder, then avoiding heavy weights is important. You can gain just as much definition using lighter weights and completing more reps.
- Leg Extensions Machine: Knees are something that often begins to weaken in middle age and these exercises place a large amount of pressure on the knee cap area. Even with healthy knees, leg extensions can cause gradual wear and tear in women over 40.
- Overhead Presses: Statistically injuries to the shoulder and rotator cuff are much higher in people 40+, and overhead presses cause tremendous stress in these areas, so they are best to avoid.
- Sprinting: Again, unless your body has been conditioned to sprinting your whole life, then taking up sprinting in your 40’s is unadvisable. Sprinting places a large amount of stress on the hips, knees and ankle joints, so try power walking, swimming or cycling instead.