Fit, fabulous and 40: how to look good at a certain age

Fitness in middle-age more than doubles the chances of a healthy retirement

 

Two months before turning 40, I competed in the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii. If someone had suggested to me seven years earlier that I would be on the starting line of such a prestigious race, I would not have believed them.

I couldn’t swim a length of a pool let alone do a 4km open water swim. No matter what goals you have, proper preparation, consistency and self-belief can go a long way towards achieving them.

I feel young and I attribute this to my healthy lifestyle and general fitness. Exercise has many health benefits, but what really draws me in is the energy I get from keeping fit. Yes, exercise can be tiring, but it promotes better sleep, improves your mood, increases your metabolism and develops a healthy appetite. When I am feeling fit, my body automatically wants healthy nutritious food. It’s a positive cycle that once you experience it you will want to continue it.

It’s clear that keeping fit mid-life more than doubles the chances of a healthy retirement.

Low volume aerobic exercise such as running can help increase bone density

Small choices can help in developing a more active lifestyle. Walking is the easiest form of exercise to incorporate into your day. Walking more and faster will increase fitness. Make it a habit almost like brushing your teeth or washing up after a meal.

For competitive individuals. there are numerous fitness apps available now that can track your progress and count your steps, thereby motivating you to improve and in which you can set yourself daily goals.

Whether you are a runner or a walker, the ParkRun network of free 5km runs at 9.30am on Saturday in most parks around the State are a fantastic opportunity to get out and challenge yourself.

Low volume aerobic exercise such as running can help increase bone density, which is particularly helpful for women as we age. Strength training is also beneficial in maintaining muscle mass and bone density, and will pay off if you experience any falls or trauma. The stronger your bones and muscles are the less likely they are to be injured.

Once developed as a habit, it won’t even occur to you that you are having to make time for fitness

As a physiotherapist, I regularly encourage people to become more active and often I am told that time is an issue. There is always time for exercise whether it means getting up a little earlier or building some exercise into your lunch break. Choose an activity that is enjoyable, convenient to get to and you can commit to regularly. Exercising with friends is also a great way of catching up. Once developed as a habit, it won’t even occur to you that you are having to make time for fitness.

If you are starting into a new fitness regime, please ease yourself in gradually. You may notice some DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) following exercise. This is normal and usually eases over one to three days. Continue to keep your joints mobile and do gentle stretches.

It’s never too late to become active and the health benefits are significant with leading a healthy lifestyle.

Aileen Flynn is clinical specialist physiotherapist in musculoskeletal care at the Beacon Hospital, Sandyford, Dublin. She is also a triathlete.

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