40 is the new 30, right? Sure, that’s what we tell ourselves, but some days you might wonder if your body got the memo. While your 40’s is a very fulfilling period of your life, the trade-off is that you can’t skim by health-wise like you could in your 20s and 30s:
Your metabolism starts to slow down, your risk factors for certain conditions go up, and it becomes a whole lot harder to neglect your body and get away with it.
Chronic illness, prescription medication and sleep disorders tend to rise in adults over 40 due to lifestyle choices made in prior years and decades.
By the time you are in your 40s, many of your health and lifestyle habits may be deeply ingrained, and by this age, you quickly realize how hard it is to break these habits—and how much you need to.
Just imagine the lost years of feeling better if you don’t put the effort in now to break these habits.
It doesn’t mean you have to let middle age wreak havoc on your well-being, but you do have to be more careful about avoiding a few common mistakes and misconceptions.
Here are a few bad habits to break so you can stay healthy in your 40s and beyond.
Too Much Emphasis on losing Fat than building muscle
We all begin to slowly lose muscle mass around age 30, and this process accelerates from 40. The problem is that muscle mass plays a big role in your metabolic rate—the number of calories you burn at rest—so when you lose muscle mass, your metabolism slows down. (If you’ve noticed it’s suddenly harder to lose weight, this could explain why). The good news is you can offset this and even add muscle in your 40’s by introducing strength training to your exercise regime.
Pro tip: Adding a minimum of 2 strength sessions each week will go a long way to reducing muscle loss and help prevent bone density loss that leads to osteoporosis which affects 50% of Australian women over 60.
Too Much Cardio
There are plenty of reasons to love (or at least tolerate) cardio—it torches calories, improves endurance, and reduces your chances of heart attack and stroke. The problem is cardio won’t necessarily lead to fat loss. The key to sustainable weight loss is you need to be able to burn more calories when you’re resting in order to drop the few extra kilos. This can only happen if you build muscle with strength training — which has been proven time and again that it improves your bone health, adds lean mass, increases your metabolism and help prevent diabetes.
Pro tip: A kilo of muscle will burn 15-20 calories in a day spent at rest, while a kilo of fat would burn only 6-9. The leaner the mass, the more calories you will burn in the long run.
You Sit Too Much
Sitting is the new smoking. Why? When you think of something that could threaten your life, you probably don’t think about your chair at work. But according to many researchers, it’s one of the biggest potential threats to your health.
Research shows that you can reduce your chances of cancer, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and back pain, postural issues all with one simple lifestyle change: reduce the time you spend sitting.
Pro tip: Read my blog on why sitting is the new smoking here
You Burn the Midnight Oil
When your schedule is hectic (and is it ever not hectic?) you may have trouble powering down at the end of the day. You’re not alone. According to the sleep health foundation, 40% of Australians fall short of the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep a night. And getting a good night’s sleep becomes even harder once you hit 40. Outside of medical conditions, poor sleep habits and poor daily choices are the main causes of sleep deprivation.
Pro tip: Set a bedtime alarm 1 hour before bed at the same time every night, then switch off the electronics and begin to wind down. The magic won’t happen straight away but keep at it and you’ll be rewarded with regular sleep cycles.
Not Eating Enough Protein
It’s important as you get older to eat protein to maintain lean muscle so we can stay active throughout our lives. There are 2 main causes for muscle degeneration – inactivity and not eating enough protein. This especially rings true for women as they’re more prone to osteoporosis later in life.
Pro tip: Past 40 it’s a good idea to aim for 1g of protein per kilo of bodyweight. It’s not as easy as it sounds, most new clients of ours fail this and is the main cause of what we call skinny fat.
Too Much Soda/Alcohol, Not Enough Water
Water is liquid gold. Like sleep, it’s so simple and effective to achieving optimal health that it flies over most people. Downing water is good for you on so many levels, it is a vital part of digesting, absorbing and transporting nutrients, which is crucial for good overall physical and mental health. Ignoring that fact can make you sick – kidney problems, dry skin, muscle cramps, headaches, fatigue, swollen feet and arms, high cholesterol, and constipation.
Pro tip: As soon as you wake in the morning, before you pee, have a tall glass of water – 15minutes later have another. This will be enough to re-hydrate you from the previous night’s sleep.
Stop With the Diets
While diets claim to have all the answers to solving your health problems, the scientific evidence behind them is pseudo at best. These diets often cut out entire food groups, which could put you at risk for a nutrient deficiency if you aren’t careful. Additionally, fad diets are often not sustainable and could lead to extreme energy and weight fluctuations.
When you’re trying to lose weight, it can be tempting to restrict your calories drastically. For most people it’s that mythical 1200 calories. But here’s the kicker, when your body is hungry, it stops burning calories, because it’s trying to conserve everything you have. When you’re not eating enough, you’d think your body would just burn through your excess fat, but in fact it does the opposite.
Your metabolism slows down and it actually starts breaking down muscle for energy as it’s metabolically expensive. As for your juice detoxes, the liver and kidneys naturally get rid of toxins every time you sweat or go to the bathroom so no need for that either.
Pro tip: To maintain lean muscle while attempting to lose weight, strength training is best. It tells the brain you need to keep the muscle as you’re lifting heavy things, so the body will be more inclined to burn fat instead during calorie restriction.
Focusing Only on Exercise But Ignoring Your Diet, Or Vice Versa
Workout all you want, but it’s simply impossible to outrun an unhealthy diet—literally. A big health mistake is believing that you can exercise enough to beat the effects of a bad diet. Why do you think Mondays are the busiest day at the gym?
On the flip, you have your nutrition in check, but how’s your strength and cardiovascular health? Are you skinny fat?
Pro tip: Skinny fat is a phrase used to describe people who appear to be a normal weight, or thin, but are actually carrying a high percentage of body fat and have a low amount of muscle mass. If your BMI is normal, but you’re unable to do a single push up, can be a good sign this could be you.
Stop Using the Scale
Want to feel more insecure about your body? Weighing yourself every day is a good way to start. No matter your age, submitting yourself to the scale every day can detract from your health. If you’ve dropped the carbs, it’s most likely water weight you’ve lost. If you’ve eaten a carb-heavy meal the night before, again you’ve most likely put on water weight. If you crash diet, as we spoke in point 7, it could be lean mass you’re losing. Also, and more importantly, as your hormones shift with age, your weight will shift, as well. More dramatically for Females.
Pro tip: Your hip/waist ratio is a better and more accurate measurement than both the scales and BMI for overall health.
Setting Unrealistic Goals
One of the most difficult phases of getting healthy is setting the right goals. You have to have a clear idea of how to achieve them realistically, otherwise they become unrealistic and are likely to end up disappointed and physically hurt. The older you get, the more difficult it is to lose weight or build muscle, your metabolism slows down, and the flat stomach is next to impossible. You’re not going to undo years of inactivity or bad habits in a few months.
Pro tip: You need to start thinking of your health like you do with your savings account – long term. Set goals that you can manage and consistently achieve for a long period of time. Slowly chip away, but never stop. The results will come.