Healthy and Fit at 40 and Beyond

November 11, 2008
Category: Health

”Aging is not for sissies,“ said Bette Davis.

As I approach my 55th birthday, I can relate more and more to her sentiment with each passing year. However, it is helpful to remember that age by itself is not a disease.  It's not something to be feared or avoided. I have known men in their 60s in better shape than men in their 20s.

While aging is a natural part of spending time on this planet, keeping fit and healthy into our mature years is to some degree a choice. Time and again I’ve heard much younger men tell me how attractive they find an older man who takes care of himself. (I personally find men who take care of themselves at any age more attractive than men who neglect their health, but I certainly understand how a man with the experience and knowledge that maturity can bring is even more appealing when he’s physically fit.)

It is important both for our own personal wellbeing as well as for our social and sexual lives to keep our aging bodies healthy and fit. But it is not always clear just how to do this safely as we come to realize that older bodies require some special care to maximize our fitness gains without risking injuries that can interrupt training, not to speak of other enjoyable activities.

Physical fitness at any age consists of three chief components, strength, flexibility, and endurance. A complete fitness program will include workouts that target each of these areas of fitness along with a reasonable, sustainable diet.

To develop and maintain strength and lean muscle mass, there is simply no substitute for weight training. It is not necessary or even desirable to pump iron like Arnold once did to attain and maintain healthy musculature and bone density. But some weight-bearing exercise will be necessary. Stretching exercise of some kind, whether as in yoga, dance, or martial arts, is the best way to develop and maintain flexibility and maximum mobility in muscles and joints, and these activities can also help develop and maintain one’s sense of balance, so important for avoiding falls later in life. And cardio-vascular training, any activity that elevates one’s heart rate and respiration for an extended period of time, is necessary to keep the heart and lungs working optimally, keep unwanted body fat under control, prevent or help reverse Type-2 diabetes, and relieve stress and the mild depression and fatigue that can occur with the gradual loss of natural levels of testosterone and growth hormone.

In my articles I will discuss strategies for employing various types of exercise and nutrition to maximize health and fitness and to avoid many of the negative effects often attributed to aging but more properly blamed on neglecting the special needs of our maturing bodies. It is never desirable to overtax our bodies, especially if we have been relatively inactive. Therefore, I’ll begin with methods suitable for men who want to begin or renew fitness programs with special emphasis on caring for maturing bodies that have carried us this far in life and can continue to serve us for years to come with the help of some knowledgeable maintenance.

Tags: Health, Fitness
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Post written by William Schindler (View Author Profile)
About this author: William Schindler, a.k.a., Brother William, founder and Spiritual Director of Ashram West, obtained a B.A. in Sanskrit from UC Berkeley (1975), where he also studied Hindi and Bengali, and a Master's degree in clinical psychology from Antioch University (1986). He has been studying and practicing traditional Hindu Tantra since 1969...
View all posts by William Schindler

Comments

I never did anything more than <em>'piddle'</em> with fitness until January of this year. I'm 58 and since then have lost 35 pounds, developed a shapely musculature and become quite flexible. For me it was Nutrisystem for 10 weeks while phazing in my own new-style, portion contolled cooking, yoga, biking everywhere I can and a little resistance training every day. I'm in the best shape of my life (as they say in that irritating BowFlex commercial) and have discovered the wonderful world of <em>geezer attractiveness:</em> I usually hook up with guys in their 20s and 30s a couple of times a week. If you are wrestling with the decision (as I was) about whether to just give up and become a fossil or devote some energy to making positive changes, I'd urge you to do the latter. Start with a yoga class. Choose one with emphasis on strength and flexibility (as opposed to dim lighting and new age music). In a few weeks you'll be feeling better, looking better and will be in a better place to take the next two or three steps.

I've just discovered this blog and am excited. At "our" age(s)...........I'm 61, sometimes physical challenge and watching what we eat isn't all that appealing. Working at a health club (my second career) is strong motivation and staying around 200 or a bit less at 6 ft 3in still takes some focus on my part.

In addition to the atmosphere at work my time is also spend doing weights, some swimming/running/hiking and for the last ten years participating in the Bare Buns Fun Run. October and November are taken up with the addition of elk and deer hunting trips.

This is never easy. Most mornings have a little time set aside ramping up the motivation and overcoming my laziness, but I encourage everyone to start their own fitness program. The rewards are immediate. Just don't overdo it.

At last there are a few of us sounding off that it's never to late to get started back to the gym.
It's tough as we grow older, as I well know my self, starting at the age of 48 was doing real well till the heart gave out one me..oh yes open heart surgery Ouch...! major set back for me...but the thing that helped me was the great physical shape I was in, speeded up the recovery process..2 mo. after surger back into the gym doing weight lifting and cardio agin under the dr.'s supvision,slow and easy. As of today going full force again. My advise to some of you is to find a gym close to your home, higher a trainner for a few sessions to learn some of the proper lifting positions, setting short and long term goals, and quit makeing excusices not to go to the gym...btw: look at some of thoes young guys challenge them...put them to
shame, show them that we are just as good if not better then they are. Its fun to ask for a young spotter once in a while, nice way to tease some young ones, doing a few sets with them. Must admit I am spending on a average of 90 mins 6 days a week now, made some new friends, at at the age of 59 now, I must admit I am in better physcial condition now then when I was in my 20's

Great series of articles. Guess us middle aged guys have got it going after all.

I made a promise to myself when I turned 50 that I would strive to be in better physical shape than the year before. Too many of my friends were becoming sedintary and lazy. I joined the local gym, and hired a peronal trainer to get me started right. I chose a woman trainer as I knew my ego would require me to always show her up. We started off slow. I weighed in at 170 and was tired of having sand kicked in my face at the beach. lol

I have honored that pledge every year. Just turned 55 on Monday and feel great. I have more stamina, less injuries and have a better attitude on life. Up to 185, lean and mean. I still see guys checking me out in the mirrors. Guess that's a testiment to persivering.

I have a great friend who enjoys hiking and skiing as much as me. A sports bud. That kind of relationship is fantastic.