Over 40? Try these exercises to keep you fighting fit into retirement

For most people over the age of 40, staying in shape becomes a bit more challenging.

Scientists believe that over the age of 30, our muscle mass decreases by between three and eight per cent.

And when you combine hormonal and lifestyle changes as we progress through life, it’s not hard to see how middle-aged spread starts to take hold.

But the good news is, we can help offset these factors by stepping up our fitness levels.

Muscle tissue burns more calories, even when resting, than fat, so by building up our muscle mass we can make a big difference to our body shapes and feel better too.

There’s also strong evidence to suggest that people who are active have a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, and even dementia and depression.

Health experts in the UK recommend we aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate activity every week, which can range from power walking, to cycling, playing tennis or even mowing the lawn.

But what are the best ways to exercise as we get older to help us keep fit without putting too much strain on our bodies? 

Muscle building

Retaining and even adding to our muscle mass has clear benefits, so it’s important to try and include activities each week that work our muscles. The most obvious way to do that is through a little weight training. Staff at your local gym could advise on how to get started but, if you don’t want to go down that route then you could look to join a Pilates or yoga class that is aimed at toning and strengthening.

Good old-fashioned push-ups, squats, and planks – where you lie flat and raise your whole body from the ground taking the weight on your hands and feet – are also worthwhile exercises you can do at home if you’re pushed for time.

And with so many fitness experts offering free YouTube tutorials now, you don’t have to spend money to make a start on fitness. 

Cardio

Exercise that raises your heart rate, often described as cardio, helps us burn calories and keep our hearts functioning well. But it doesn’t have to be grueling.

Lower intensity exercise such as cycling and swimming will help shed the pounds and can be social too.

As we age, we can still perform at high fitness levels and do more intensive cardio exercise such as running, squash or specific training programmes, but recovery can take a little longer.

Our joints too will have a little more wear and tear, which means having a day’s rest between higher-impact exercise is important and will allow us to go the distance in reaching those long-term fitness goals. 

Walking

If you can’t get time or don’t have the inclination to head to the gym, then power walking could be the way to go.

The bottom line is the faster we walk, the more calories we burn so, although any form of exercise is better than none, it doesn’t make sense to dawdle.

While we know walking regularly helps to reduce heart disease as well as aiding weight loss, an American study also found that women who walk for seven or more hours a week had a 14 per cent lower risk of breast cancer.

Other studies have also found walking reduced arthritis-related pain and that it can even help prevent the condition in the first place. There is also evidence to suggest walking can support your immune system.