The best ways to keep fit and healthy in your 40s and 50s

Midlife fitness tips 40s 50s middle age health diet uk 2022 expert guide exercise how to stay keep fit healthy
If you have concerns about your fitness levels, you are not alone

Many of us find that as we get older, it gets harder to stay in control of our bodies. Our lifestyles, daily routines and even our bodies change - and this affects our weight and fitness aptitudes.

The problem with exercise is that it's a slippery slope - if you don't maintain your fitness routine, it's easy to fall off schedule and then even harder to start a regime back up again.

It can also prove tricky to strike the right balance between exercising to our full potential and nursing old injuries that rear their ugly heads once again. But, nonetheless, a fitness regime is essential in everyone's lifestyles - and the advancing years shouldn't mean you should step off of the brakes.

We've spoken with various fitness experts and nutritionists to get answers to the questions you've been asking so that you can get back on track.

All your midlife fitness questions answered

‘Six months ago my knee was diagnosed as having wear and tear. Because I’m moving less I’ve gained weight, but I want to start exercising. What can I do?’

“One of the best yet most overlooked exercises is walking,” says Alex Parren, personal trainer and running coach for health and fitness equipment specialist Meglio. “It’s a fantastic form of cardio and low impact, making it perfect for those with wear and tear in their joints or those new to fitness.

“The best type is on uneven terrain (think hilly, countryside trails) as this promotes co-ordination, balance and focus, as well as including inclines and declines to work your cardiovascular system harder.

“Depending on your level of fitness and the difficulty of the terrain, an hour of walking could burn as many calories as a very fit person running on a treadmill.

“Another fantastic exercise for midlifers is swimming, which is also low impact, meaning your joints undergo little to no stress while your muscles and cardiovascular system get a great workout. When done at a moderate intensity, swimming burns as many calories as running or cycling with none of the injury risk. It’s a full body workout and also promotes co-ordination and concentration, so it keeps you mentally fit too.”

‘I walk at least 30 miles a week, but I’m finding it difficult to lose the last few pounds to hit the 11 stone mark. I cannot run because of knee damage in my youth. How can I shift the remaining weight?’

“Running isn’t necessary for weight or, more specifically, fat loss,” says Alasdair Fitz-Desorgher, personal trainer for home fitness app Openfit. “Walking can shed just as many pounds as running; it just may take a little longer.

“Fat loss gets harder as you get lighter. To lose fat, you must consistently burn more calories than you eat, as this forces your body to tap into stored calories (body fat). Heavier bodies burn more calories than lighter bodies, because muscles require more energy to move the extra weight; the same way your car burns more fuel when it’s full of heavy luggage.

“When you started losing weight, your diet (calories in) and exercise (calories out) created a calorie deficit, causing you to burn the stored fat. But now you’re lighter, the same amount of exercise burns fewer calories. Therefore, you need to adjust the balance by either eating even less, (which can be unsustainable and unhealthy), or by increasing the intensity or duration of your walks.

“I’d recommend setting yourself a walking challenge, varying the speed and intensity of the walk, and introducing hill walks.

“Finally, lift weights. It’s key to build full body strength and remain mobile, particularly core and lower leg strength to look after your knees. It will also help you lose weight.

“While many of us have a target weight, and numbers can be rewarding to chase, focusing on how you look and feel is a much better and more sustainable way to track your progress than your scales.”

‘What are the best exercises to lose belly fat and to beat tiredness due to the perimenopause?’

“You need to balance diet and movement,” says Nicki Philips, founder of fitness app Niix. “Increasing your intake of fruit and veg, wholemeal carbs, protein and good fats, and avoiding sugary, fatty food, will help. Adding movement will also shift fat and maintain a healthy weight.

“Combining cardio (HIIT, running, cycling, swimming) with lifting weights and core exercises will torch calories, increase muscle density (which means you’ll continue to burn more at rest), tone your stomach and help to create better posture, which will help keep belly fat in check. Sadly there is no exercise that specifically targets the tummy, but by moving more and consuming a healthier diet, it’s amazing what can be achieved.

“Exercise is also great for energy levels and improving sleep, which helps during the perimenopause. And move first thing: studies show those who start their day with exercise see their perimenopausal symptoms improve.”

‘I would like to put together a home gym in my garage. What would be useful, as opposed to an expensive white elephant that would take up space and not get used?’

“When putting together a home gym, it’s important to remember you don’t need to spend a lot of money,” says Parren. “Rather, create a capsule collection of key equipment you can store away when it’s not being used.

“My number one recommendation is a set of resistance bands. They come in several forms, from higher resistance ‘glute’ bands, which can be used for lower body exercises, to resistance tubes which feature handles and can be used to recreate upper body exercises done using machines at the gym.

“They can be used by exercisers of all abilities and they’re low impact, meaning they’re perfect for midlifers who need to be careful with their joints, and the resistance aspect will improve bone density and muscle repair.”

weights exercise midlife fitness tips 40s 50s middle age health diet uk 2022 expert guide
Lifting weights is key to build full body strength and remain mobile - Justin Lambert

‘I work 40 hours a week and want to start a home strength training programme. How do I begin?’

Strength training doesn’t need to be complicated; it requires very little equipment and for beginners you can start with using your own body weight,” says Nicole Chapman, personal trainer and creator of online workout programme Power of Mum. “In fact, mastering body weight moves before adding weights is key to preventing injury.

“I would recommend investing in a light/medium pair of dumbbells and a heavier pair. You are probably stronger than you realise, so don’t be afraid to challenge yourself.

“There has never been a better time for at home fitness with a huge variety of apps and online programmes available for you to follow and you don’t need to do a lengthy workout for results.

“My number one tip is to keep a record of your workout, noting how many reps, sets and the weight you used, so you can track your progression. Most importantly, enjoy it. Celebrate the little wins along the way – the first push up, lifting heavier or completing more reps.”

‘Should I be doing cardio or weights? And if both, what’s the best ratio?’

“Ideally both,” says Zoe Purpuri, an instructor at boxing club KOBOX.

“Lower impact exercises fare better on midlife bodies, so weight training is a great way to stay active without overloading the joints through high impact cardio. Strength training also helps to build lean muscle, so you burn more calories while resting, and it strengthens bones.

“Cardio has benefits too though, and keeps your lungs and heart fit, but you should always listen to your body and you may need to ease up as the years grow.

“As for the perfect cardio:strength training ratio? There isn’t one. Take into consideration your limits, strengths and listen to how your body reacts. The most important thing is to find a form of exercise you find both enjoyable but also sustainable. Just keep moving!”

This article is kept updated with the latest advice and information.

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