Welcome to life after 40. In most ways, the view from up here isn’t bad. We survived adolescence, acne, college and Y2K. Lots of our kinks have been worked out along the road. We’ve got four decades of wisdom and life experience under our belts. On the inside, things are rock solid. If only our bodies aged as well as our minds.
Swinging on a park swing after 40 can cause dizziness and vertigo. Try to do a cartwheel and risk a sprained wrist or twisted ankle. Even watching boxing on TV seems to inflame that old shoulder injury. The 40-year-old body certainly isn’t what it used to be. However, that’s no excuse to make cheese curls your favorite exercise and buy the 400-channel package from the cable company.
Life after 40 can be active and robust. Many 40-year-olds have the commitment and determination to get into the best physical condition of their lives. We’ve compiled a list of six terrific activities for people age 40 and older. So, forget about the comfortable recliner and whatever is available on pay-per-view. We’ve got some stellar activities to get you moving and feeling healthier than ever before.
#1 – Fitness Walking Is a Great Way to Stay in Shape After 40
Walking is a necessary part of daily life. So, it’s easy to overlook the action when contemplating exercise. However, walking for fitness is one of the healthiest things a person can do to maintain an optimal post-40 body.
Choose your path wisely. If the weather is mild, and you like to be outside, find a safe, well-lit trail and some good quality walking shoes for outdoor use. However, if conditions outside aren’t ideal or you’d rather exercise in a climate-controlled area, consider walking laps in an indoor shopping mall.
We recommend a slow, 10-minute warm up to get your body loose and ready to work. Then, speed it up to a brisk pace for a good 20 to 30 minutes. Stand tall and straight as you walk. Keep your core firm and try not to arch your back. Bend the arms at a 90-degree angle to reduce hand swelling and help you strengthen the biceps, triceps and shoulders. Cool down for another 10 minutes by slowing your pace. That will lower your heart rate gradually and help your muscles relax.
If a long walk seems boring, consider taking a friend along or listening to music as you go. Also switching up your route from time to time will add variety to your workout.
#2 – Consider the Ancient Chinese Postures of Tai Chi and Qi Gong
Not only are qi gong and tai chi excellent forms of relaxation and mindfulness, but they are also great for increasing your balance, flexibility and muscle control. Search online for videos, aimed at beginners, to help you get started. Or check out a group class for support, instruction and accountability.
There are subtle differences between qi gong and tai chi. But both martial arts are excellent, low-impact activities that help you build strength by engaging your entire body in gentle movements. You’ll build muscles in your core, arms, legs, back and glutes while practicing these Chinese disciplines. Although qi gong and tai chi aren’t considered aerobic activities, regular practice of these arts has been shown to increase a person’s aerobic capacity.
Another benefit of tai chi and qi gong is the inner refreshment and mental strength they can bring to the practitioner. Often, the disciplines are recommended for stress relief and help provide an overall sense of wellness.
#3 – Bicycling Is an Excellent Way to Stay in Shape
Even if you haven’t been on a bicycle in years, the adage is true – you haven’t forgotten how to ride. Once you swing your leg over that seat, it’ll all come back to you. Because this low-impact activity has about a zillion health benefits, it’s time to dust off the old 10-speed.
Current research shows that individuals with osteoarthritis and knee pain have reported an improvement in their condition after regular cycling. Other studies have shown that those who ride a bike live longer, suffer fewer illnesses, weigh less and have stronger hearts than those who don’t.
To start bicycling, you’ll need to obtain a few items. Of course, you’ll need a bike. Almost any bike will work just fine. Next, some padded bike shorts will make things more comfortable for you. Finally, a solid helmet is a must-have for cyclists. That should get you started.
Consider off-street paths for a safer, more relaxed ride. If your community doesn’t have bike trails, ride in residential areas where there isn’t as much heavy traffic. Bicycling is an excellent activity for any age group. But for the over-40 crowd, it’s perfect.
#4 – Swimming Is Great for Fitness and Easy on the Body
Arthritis, injuries and other ailments can make many exercises painful for older adults. Additionally, those who are carrying a lot of extra weight may find certain movements prohibitive. For people who experience pain during most fitness activities, swimming may be the answer. For others, who are looking for an extremely low-impact, full-body exercise, look no further than the pool for the ideal workout.
Swimming is an excellent cardiovascular activity and a great strengthening exercise. When you’re swimming laps, you’ll use all of your major muscle groups and burn a ton of calories. While the water helps you feel somewhat weightless, it also offers extra resistance – providing a gentle yet beneficial workout.
To start, you’ll need a swimsuit, goggles and a place to swim. If you’ve never mastered the basics of swimming for fitness, it’s a good idea to go to a class or hire a trainer to help you learn proper form. Then begin with a small goal. Maybe swimming one lap across the pool and back is a good target at first. Then, move on to aiming for 10 minutes in the pool and so on. Work up to a 30-minute swim routine, about three times a week. Swimming is a wonderful, low-impact way to stay fit at any age.
#5 – Build Strength and Endurance By Playing Golf
If you’ve ever played a round of golf, you already know that there’s a lot of walking involved. Since most courses span several acres and include hills and dips, golfing is an excellent cardiovascular exercise that also provides a great deal of muscle strengthening and balance improvement. Even if you opt to use a cart to get from one hole to the next, you’ll likely still log about a mile of walking during 18 holes. Add in the bending and swinging, and you’ve got one solid workout. Choose to walk instead of ride, and we’re talking somewhere in the neighborhood of five miles on foot. Experts say a person can burn anywhere from 800 to 1,500 calories playing a full 18 holes on a typical golf course.
Golf does require some equipment and fees. If you want to test the waters, and see if the sport is for you, consider borrowing a set of clubs or buying a “short set” of golf clubs. A short set is a set of five to seven essential clubs to get you started. It’s ideal for beginners. Golf shoes are not required on most courses. They are helpful, but you can get by with a good pair of sneakers to start. Golf gloves are also nice. Most of the time, golfers wear one glove on their lead hand. If you’re right-handed, you’ll wear the glove on your left hand and vice-versa. Gloves don’t cost much, and they help you grip the clubs properly. So, even for beginners, it’s a good idea to glove up. Additionally, some courses enforce a dress code. Be sure to call ahead and check to see if a collared shirt is required or not.
With all the calories you’ll burn on the course, there’s no reason not to take a swing at golfing for fitness. It’s a great sport for people over 40 and a nice way to spend an afternoon.
#6 – Try Your Hand at Gardening for Physical Fitness
Even if you’ve never had a green thumb, you may still enjoy tending to a backyard garden. One of the best things about gardening is that you can adjust the intensity of your workout pretty easily. For a light workout, plant some easy-care plants around the perimeter of your home and tend the weeds. If you’re looking to get a more rigorous activity, plant shrubs, rose bushes and higher maintenance plants throughout the yard on all sides.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that a person can burn around 330 calories per hour doing light yard work. Light yard work would include pulling weeds, watering and pruning plants. You can double that number easily by using a push mower to cut the grass and moving swiftly as you trim hedges, apply mulch and prune the trees in your yard manually.
Gardening can be an excellent activity for older adults. Getting out in the fresh air and moving around can help relieve stress and lower blood pressure as well as offer a beneficial, calorie-burning activity. For more on gardening for fitness, check out our guide here.
Turning 40 doesn’t mean that it’s time to get comfortable in the rocking chair and start buying elastic-waist pants. On the contrary, this can be one of the most active and healthy times in life. Even if you’ve neglected your body up to this point, it’s not too late to make some adjustments to get into great shape. Be the dad rocking a solid six-pack of abs or the mom who isn’t afraid of swimsuit season. Choose a couple of these activities to get started on your fitness goals and enjoy the advantages of an active lifestyle after 40.
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