Health and Fitness

How Do I Get Fit After Forty?

Esquire's fitness columnist and Third Space supremo Luke Worthington on working out in middle age
IMAGE 20th Century Fox
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Dear Luke,

I've just turned the big 4-0, and have decided it's finally time to get in shape. Better late than never, right? My question is how I should approach this, since running around like a 20-year-old sounds like a bad idea but equally, I don't feel ready for a game of bowls or a power walk on the beach quite yet.

Best,

Phil

First up let me jut say there really is no bad time to take up an exercise regime, so kudos to you for getting started, Phil. Secondlythere is no magical change that happens to your body on the night of your 40th. Of course there might be one that happens in your mind… but that (to a certain extent) is up to you!

That being said, a training program you start in your 40s should have a slightly different emphasis to the one that you ripped out of a fitness magazine in your student days. Our ability to recover from intense exercise does start to diminish from 30 onwardsmainly driven by a natural reduction in testosterone production (most studies show a decline of 1% per year from age 30 onwards).

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IF YOU WERE GOING TO PLAY CENTER FORWARD FOR ENGLAND, IT PROBABLY WOULD HAVE HAPPENED BY NOW

A weekly program that you’re beginning in your 40s should include some periods dedicated to recovery, whether that’s scheduled rest days (or even occasionally weeks), or more low intensity, non weight bearing, low impact activities like swimming, cycling or yoga.

Our goals in our 40s - and yes, I say 'our', because my own fifth decade is looming ominously on the horizon - are also likely to bedifferent to those in our 20s. As harsh as it sounds, if you were going to play centre forward for England or win that Calvin Klein underwear contract, the chances are it would have happened by now…. which means goal setting at 40 probably needs to be slightly more pragmatic and practical.

ANATOMICALLY SPEAKING, WE ARE ALL SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT

Running your first 10k, joining a five a side league, staving off the Dad-bod or even just keeping that niggly lower back or knee pain at bay are no less important than the dreams you had in your 20s, so embrace them. It would be wise, training for these sorts of goals in your 40s, to pay much more attention to movement quality, rather than quantityhow you perform a movement, rather than simply trying to do it for longer. I would strongly advise booking time with a trainer who has expertise in the field of biomechanics, identifying any movement limitations you have, and then working on a program that will help address any weak points.

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When I take my own clients through this assessment process, we call it 'bulletproofing'. Anatomically speaking we are all slightly different. Limb lengths and proportions differ from person to person. In middle age, we need to pay attention to specific points of wear and any changes that may have occurred from prolonged and repeated movement patterns.

In short, you can absolutely start a brand new exercise regime in your 40s, but my suggestions are that you approach it like a grown up. Work out some goals, get assessedand then get to it.

This story originally appeared on Esquire.co.uk.

* Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.

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