Fighting fit in your forties

The “dreaded forties” – when people complain of age sneaking up on them – are not as bad as they’re made out to be. You can continue to be active and agile as ever, but maintaining a fitness regime is no longer a luxury. In your forties, fitness is a necessary investment that you need to make, to maintain your quality of life. Research shows that people in their 40s should be careful about their fitness levels because they are more prone to health related problems, such as heart disease, stroke, and bone and joint problems. So what are the specific benefits of leading an active lifestyle even after 40, and how do you get it right?

Exercise for your heart
While smoking and an unhealthy diet are primarily blamed for heart disease, inactivity is also a major risk factor. The heart, like any other muscle group, becomes stronger with exercise and is able to pump more blood through the body with each beat. Exercise helps to keep the arteries elastic, which in turn helps keep your blood pressure normal. Regular exercise also helps lower the levels of the bad cholesterol (low density lipoproteins or LDL) while increasing the levels of good cholesterol (high density lipoproteins or HDL). A recent study observed that people in good physical form after the age of 40 are at a reduced risk of stroke.

Exercise for your bones and joints
If you are over 40, you are more likely to experience problems with your bones and joints – osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, and lower back pain. Your muscles shrink by about 1 per year when you don’t maintain a regular fitness regimen. Exercise can help reduce the pain and stiffness in your joints and can improve flexibility and muscle strength. Women over 40 are particularly susceptible to osteoporosis.
Maintaining a fitness regimen can help slow down the progression of osteoporosis.
An inactive lifestyle, combined with bad posture stress, and obesity weaken the abdominal  muscles, contributing to back pain, which worsens with age. An exercise regimen focusing on strengthening the abdominal muscle group can help prevent back problems.

Exercise and obesity
As you age, you will notice a couple of inches added to your waist. Research shows that even a small potbelly puts people at a higher health risk when compared to a flat tummy.
Being active is an important component of any weight loss program.  An optimal weight has several positive implications on blood pressure, cholesterol, heart diseases, diabetes, and your overall health.

Other benefits of exercise
Exercising and maintaining a regular fitness program has several other benefits which apply to all ages, and not just to those over 40.

* Exercise energizes you. When you exercise, your brain releases chemicals, such as endorphins, which promote a general sense of well being.

Research has also shown that physical exercise is a good stress buster. Conversely, individuals who are fit, respond to stress better than those who are unfit.

* Regular exercise lowers the risk for diabetes. If you have diabetes, exercise can help by improving the insulin sensitivity.
* Exercising boosts antioxidants. It thus leaves your skin healthier and younger looking.
* Regular exercise helps in beating stress that takes the pleasure out of your daily activities.
* A recent study linked fitness levels to the development and progression of Alzheimer’s disease. If you maintain an active life even after you turn 40, you may be cutting down the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Your 40th birthday does not herald the beginning of old age. Life, sometimes, begins at 40. So gear up for some great action and habituate your body to the same!

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