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Stay fit and fabulous over forty

28 MAY 2012

Andie Macdowell, Salma Hayek, and Naomi Watts are just three of the beauties we've seen working it at Cannes 2012.

And they are all looking in fantastic shape for their forty-plus years.

The good news is that whilst you can't stop the ageing process, you can slow down, halt and even improve some of the physiological changes that take place through regular exercise. 


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Keeping healthy and active through regular exercise and eating sensibly is important at any age. As we hit our 40's and beyond it becomes vital to our well-being to maintain regular exercise and daily activity.

So here are top tips for staying fit and fabulous over forty!

1. Set yourself a goal

Having a vague notion of wanting to stay fit is unlikely to be enough to keep you focused. Setting a specific goal can be great for motivation and gives a purpose to each training session. It can be as simple as improving your distance over a given time on an exercise bike, rowing machine or treadmill in the gym, or taking part in a more ambitious event such as a 5 or 10km run.

There are plenty of fitness charity events to take part in too such as Race for Life, The Moonwalk, and The Three Peaks Challenge. Taking part in a big organised event can offer a huge incentive and the camaraderie and sense of achievement afterwards will do wonders for your social life and self-esteem!

2. Ditch the diet

A recent survey showed the average woman has been on 61 diets by the age of 45.

Diets don't do your metabolism any favours, and result in yo-yo weight gain and loss. The key to successful weight management is adopting a healthy eating plan and sticking with it – for life! A well balanced diet includes plenty of fruit and vegetables, healthy fats, proteins, calcium rich foods and water.

Try keeping to fresh and unprocessed foods as much as possible, as anything that has been processed will contain calorie laden unhealthy ingredients like saturated fats and sugar.

3. Train to care for body functions

The physiological changes associated with ageing need to be addressed as you approach your forties, if not before. Maintaining your quality of life in the coming decades may depend on it. So keeping your heart healthy through regular cardiovascular training is critical.

Choose an activity you enjoy such as swimming, cycling or running and complete a half hour session 2/3 times a week minimum. On other days take every opportunity to incorporate exercise into your day, such as taking a brisk walk in preference to driving, and using the stairs rather than the escalator. 

Resistance training and weight bearing cardiovascular activities are both important in maintaining and increasing bone strength; which is of particular concern for post-menopausal women who have an increased risk of developing osteoporosis.

Incorporate whole body exercises which replicate movements needed for everyday life. A squat is a perfect example of this as it keeps the legs and core strong. Another two issues affecting function as we age are flexibility and balance, so stretching every day or practicing yoga can be an excellent way to promote these.

4. Listen to your body

Whilst accepting that exercise is good for you, it's also essential that you listen to your body and don't overdo it. The body's ability to heal and recover can take longer as we age, and over enthusiastic training combined with stress, and lack of sleep can bring on injury.

This doesn’t mean you need to halt exercise with every little niggle and twinge, but don’t ignore a pain or problem that persists beyond a few days.

5. Surround yourself with like-minded people

Finding friends who enjoy the same activities as you can keep you on track. Try joining a class, bootcamp, running club or team together with one or two friends. Exercising with other people can be fun and encourages a little healthy competition as well as being a great source of friendship and support.

6. Make time for exercise

By the time you reach your forties you may have many demands on your time, with work, family and other commitments. 

Banish the guilt about taking time for yourself to exercise and plan it into your busy week like any other appointment. Exercise can also be broken down into smaller achievable chunks, such as a 20 minute brisk walk to work or a 10 minute focused ab session whilst you watch your favourite soap!

7. Un-plug, disconnect, switch off

The ability to check social networks, emails, messages and calls anytime, anywhere, means many of us never get a break from technology.

This over-stimulation can play havoc with our family life, free time and sleep. Numerous recent studies have shown that most of us are getting less sleep than our parents and grandparents did. Poor sleep and lack of sleep can also affect weight management as well as increasing levels of stress, lowering our immune system as well as making us feel tired and irritable.

Combat this by following a night time ritual that relaxes you. Take a break from the computer, mobile and TV and take some light exercise, followed by a warm shower or bath, and end your evening with a good book for a restful and replenishing night's sleep.

8. Step out of your comfort zone

Don't be afraid to try something new. Mental stimulation and exercise play an important role in improving brain function and may protect against cognitive decline.

Taking on a new challenge, hobby or sport will help keep you energized and motivated.

Thanks to mum of 5 and personal trainer, Jacqueline Hooton for her top tips.

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