The Role of Exercise as We Age
Age is more than a number, especially when it comes to wellness. After 40, exercise is one of the greatest allies in the battle against age-related disease. It’s never too late to plan your fitness future. The sooner you begin, the healthier and more vibrant you will be well into your retirement years.
Though you may not be chasing the sculpted muscles of your 20s, staying strong and active in your 40s and beyond is an important key to staving off disease and slowing down the aging process. Think of fitness as an investment in your future. A healthy and active lifestyle can allow for more independence later in life, reduce healthcare costs, and decrease the risk of chronic illness brought on by a sedentary lifestyle.
The future depends on actions taken today, so it’s crucial to take time for activity and fitness now. Find out what’s really going on with your body as you reach 40 and get the action plan that will slow down the process.
The Truth About 40-Something
Whether you’re an old gym pro, a weekend warrior, or you are finally stepping away from the couch after a 10-year hiatus, after 40 the body responds differently to exercise. Recovery doesn’t come as easily, movement slows down, and energy is harder to come by.
Perhaps, along with those post-exercise aches and pains, you may have heard, “Take it easy, you’re not a kid anymore.” Even if you’ve maintained a regularly active lifestyle throughout adult life into middle age, these changes are apparent. So, what is the deal? Hitting a new decade may feel like the tides are changing, but 40 is a different wave altogether.
Your Body After 40: The Havoc of Hormones, Wear, and Tear
Estrogen decline, which begins for women in their 40s, is the leading cause of many aging symptoms women experience. At this time, fertility decreases and women may experience irregular periods, which eventually leads to menopause.
As men age, natural testosterone levels decline. Men experience many of the same issues related to muscle loss and weight gain (namely belly fat) that women do with these hormone fluctuations. Additionally, men experience a rise in SHBG ( hormone binding globulin), which leaves less free testosterone to bind with protein, and also a rise in estrogen.
Healthy bone thrives when old bone is absorbed and new bone is created. Bone loss occurs when the body reabsorbs calcium and phosphate from the bones and does not replace it. Estrogen decline is one cause of bone loss, but not eating enough calcium-rich foods or the inability to absorb calcium are two other factors.
Sleep habit changes
Insomnia is a common symptom when transitioning into menopause. Poor sleep quality can affect daily energy and mood, which leads to a vicious cycle. Lack of sleep may not only be caused by the imbalance of estrogen and progesterone, but also by chronic elevated cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone designed to help us handle stress, but constantly elevated cortisol can lead to health issues, including a disrupted restorative REM sleep period.
Many women who never had belly fat issues experience a little pouch after the age of 40, which is also due to the changes in estrogen and possible chronically elevated cortisol levels[i]. Men also experience weight gain and increased belly fat as testosterone levels decrease.
In your 40s the pace of muscle loss begins to surpass muscle gain, and it increases even more so into your 50s, a condition known as sarcopenia. Age-related muscle loss extends beyond looking lean and toned, and can lead to issues with everyday mobility as you age.
Excessive wear and tear
Not only does the body take longer to recover in your 40s, but the effects of cartilage deterioration set in as well. Cartilage is the natural cushion that protects the joints and absorbs energy during movement. As this wears away, pain may radiate where it didn’t exist before.