Fitness across the decades: How to stay fit in your 40s

Fit for Sailing

Andrew Verdon continues his conditioning advice for Masters sailors.

Following on from our last issue, when we spoke in detail about the needs in your 30s, we move an age bracket this month.

When you reach the age of 40, physical fitness should be more of a priority than before. Regular and proper exercise comes with rewards such as the reduction of risks of many chronic health conditions and getting injured - as well as improving your performance (and hopefully your results too) on the water.

During these years, you may start having sleep problems, bone density loss, increased cholesterol levels, and feel hot flushes and mood swings. You can protect yourself and strengthen your system by adopting a healthier diet and watching your stress levels.

Aerobic Exercise in Your 40s

Cardiovascular or aerobic exercise keeps your heart healthy and helps you maintain a healthy weight, as your body slowly starts to transition from youth to middle age. Cardio training also boosts your energy and stamina so you can handle your responsibilities and the daily challenges you face without feeling exhaustion or falling ill. Experts suggest walking about 10,000 steps a day as a minimum for good health.

Keep your weight under control by focusing on developing lean muscles. Brisk walking, running, cycling, swimming, skiing, rowing, or skipping rope should help you burn calories and build muscles. Do this in moderation, and always take five minutes to warm up and another two to three minutes to cool down.

Strength and Flexibility Exercises

Bone loss starts in your 30s so you should focus on keeping the bones strong in your 40s. Doing some weight-bearing exercises should help prevent risks of osteoporosis and bone breaks. Walking is also a healthy and safe activity you can do at any time.

Exercises like yoga, Pilates, and martial arts help stabilize your core – that is, strengthening your spine and body by building muscles in your abdomen, trunk, hips, and pelvis. Core exercise also improves your posture, coordination, balance, and flexibility. You can include these exercises at the gym or develop a home body weight program specific to your weak areas or your demands on the boat.

Exercise Program Basics

As you enter your 40s your focus should be on consistent exercise each week. Within this make sure there is an emphasis on flexibility and mobility. You should aim to be doing 60-minute workouts about three times a week. Within the hour session aim for these guidelines:

25% for flexibility exercises

40% for strength training

35% for cardio or aerobic exercise

In a one-hour session, then, you would aim (roughly) for 20 minutes of cardio, 25 minutes of strength training and 15 minutes of flexibility. Most people are never close to these numbers and therefore are spending too much or too little time in certain areas, especially strength and flexibility which are generally too low.

Fitness Tips

• Care for your body, don't thrash it – especially your joints!

• Emphasise flexibility and mobility in your exercise routine.

• Watch stress levels.

• Aim for seven fruit and vegetables per day.

• Go alcohol-free mid-week (Sunday to Thursday).

• Try yoga.

• Watch too much jogging due to the impact.

A sample 60 minute session for a 45 year old sailor

Flexibility 15 minutes

Ensure you include some dynamic stretches and some mobility work especially around the spine.

Strength 20 minutes

Circuit style with minimal rest between exercises.

Select 5-6 exercises and complete this circuit three times with 1-2 minutes rest at the end of each cycle then begin again. Aim for full body - ie. upper body, lower body, and arm exercises. You could use a mixture of free weights, body weight and some machines.

Core 5 minutes

Then move onto

Cardio

5 minute warm up

15 minutes work

Try 60 seconds sprint then 2 minutes recovery - do 5 repeats.

Warm down for 3-5 minutes.

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