The saying “use it or lose it” is true when it comes to physical fitness over 40.
“Once we reach our 40s and 50s, our joints, muscles and ligaments naturally weaken,” says Marc Schneider, MD, orthopaedic surgeon with The Christ Hospital Physicians. “This process only worsens if we don’t engage in meaningful physical activity every day.”
It’s never too late to get started or amp up your existing routine. Dr. Schneider shares three rules to help you reap the most benefits from exercise after 40.
Focus on flexibility
Good flexibility helps prevent sprains, strains, tears, poor circulation, joint stiffness, muscle spasms and fatigue. The best way to improve flexibility is through stretching.
Do 15 minutes of dynamic stretching before you exercise. It prepares your muscles for more activity by increasing your heart rate and blood flow to the muscles. Running in place, jumping jacks, toe touches, arm swings and torso twists are examples of dynamic stretches.
Do 15 minutes of static stretching after you exercise. It helps strengthen your muscles and increases flexibility. Hold each stretch for 30 to 60 seconds for the best results, and don’t bounce or make sudden movements during the stretch.
Add strength training
Strength training does more than give you a toned physique. It also helps prevent most sports injuries, weight gain, osteoporosis and falls by:
- strengthening connective tissues, such as ligaments and tendons
- improving balance and stability
- building bone mass
- boosting your metabolism
Strength training three times per week is a good goal for healthy adults. Start slowly if you're new to it.
Aim for three sets of 10 repetitions. Use a weight that is heavy enough to cause muscle fatigue but not so heavy that you lose proper form. Alternate the muscle groups every other day to allow for recovery and reduce the risk of injury.
Make time for aerobic exercise
Aerobic exercise keeps your cardiovascular system, muscles, tendons, joints and bones healthy and limber. It helps prevent chronic diseases such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes and certain cancers by lowering your cholesterol and blood pressure and keeping off excess pounds. Aerobic exercise may even slow or prevent dementia and depression.
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends healthy adults get 30 minutes of moderate exercise three to four days a week. If you’re just starting out, break it up into three, 10-minute intervals. Walking, swimming and bicycling are great low-impact options that will increase your heart rate.
Learn more about orthopedic services at The Christ Hospital Health Network.