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Tips to Stay Fit and Healthy After Age Forty
Our bodies change as we age, and to remain vigorous, active and healthy in our middle years and beyond requires that we supply them with good nutrition and regular exercise. It’s almost too simple, isn’t it? However, staying faithful to a healthy lifestyle requires commitment and self-discipline, and an understanding that you are the one who must make the appropriate choices. When you enter your middle years at age forty, you can no longer ignore the relevance of diet and exercise to health even if you did so in your youth.
There is an overwhelming amount of information on nutrition and exercise readily available to all of us. There are information articles in the daily newspaper, in magazines, and on the Internet. There are even CDs you can buy or rent and play on your computer if you have the right software. As well, there are TV programs and innumerable books devoted to these subjects. If you want an education on nutrition for life, the best vitamins for your age and sex, the best practices for weight loss, or a diet and nutrition guide complete with charts showing health-boosting and health-harming factors in your diet, it’s out there. While health professionals don’t agree on everything, they are united in their support of general health rules governing what you should eat, the benefits of remaining active, and health risks to avoid. Don’t bother to search for anyone who will champion endless TV watching, smoking, guzzling beer, and a fast food diet as acceptable lifestyle choices. You won’t find anyone. (I’ve already looked.)
The benefits of exercise cannot be overrated as a means of staying young and energetic. However, fitness at forty doesn’t require taking up bodybuilding or becoming a crack golfer. Involvement in sports is certainly pleasurable, and if you have any interest in pastimes like playing golf or tennis, cycling, kayaking, skiing, or baseball – to name a few – you can find lots of other people who share your interest and whose enthusiasm will keep you coming back for more. However, if you have never participated in sports in your youth and don’t feel confident enough at forty to join a team, or you haven’t the time to invest in becoming skilled enough at some particular sport to enjoy yourself, don’t be discouraged. There’s one thing you can do at which you are already very skilled – you can walk. Brisk walking is one of the best ways to become fit and to stay that way. It is also one of the least expensive activities to pursue, and if you really enjoy it, there is a natural progression to – wait for it – hiking. Walking and hiking can also be group activities and you may have friends or family members who decide to join you and increase their fitness levels as well. Don’t overlook health clubs, aerobic classes, dancing lessons, or aquatic classes. There are fitness classes for every age group and level, and there are personal trainers who will design a fitness program just for you. If you ever thought you would like to tap dance or belly-dance, get out there and do it. Time is moving on, and to stay healthy, you must move with it.
Eat Well and Take Your Supplements
Eating nutritiously means choosing foods that provide you with the right amounts of carbohydrates, proteins and fats, as well as vitamins and minerals. Minimum levels that are required to keep you from suffering from a deficiency in one or more of these elements is not the same thing as obtaining sufficient quantities to reach an optimum level of health and to maximize your body’s ability to fight disease. Even if you make a conscientious effort to choose foods from each of the food groups so that you are eating a balanced diet every day (and how likely is that?), you might still lack a particular nutrient that your body requires. Soils in which we grow fruits and vegetables are often depleted in nutrients, which means the foods grown in these soils are depleted, too. Nutrients can also be lost in the shipping, storing, preserving, and even the cooking of food. Does this mean you have to eat only fresh, organic food – preferable grown by yourself – and most of it raw? Yum, yum. Fortunately, there is another way. You can add nutrients to your diet by taking a multivitamin supplement, and you can choose one that has been formulated for your sex, your stage of life, and your particular needs.
Vitamins and minerals are known as micronutrients because only microscopic amounts are needed in comparison to the amount of protein, carbohydrate and fat we should consume and the quantity of water we should drink each day. As small as these amounts are, they are essential to life and health, and you may need more than normal amounts of some of them because of your particular circumstance: you are recovering from surgery or an illness or you are under a lot of stress; you smoke or drink a lot; or you are on a restricted diet or trying to lose weight.
Women in their forties are usually still menstruating and may also be bearing and/or raising children as well as working at full-time jobs outside the home. They need particular nutrients for this stressful stage of life, and must also prepare their bodies for the following decade which brings the menopause years. Women in their forties, therefore, should eat foods low in fat, cholesterol, and sodium, and high in complex carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Women should also take a daily supplement that includes:
• Calcium (300 to 1200 mg) to protect themselves from osteoporosis
• Magnesium (400 to 800 mg.) to assist in relieving PMS, or premenstrual tension
• Iron (40 mg.) to ensure sufficient iron levels which may be lowered by menstruating
• Vitamin E (200 to 600 IUs) to protect against cell-damaging free radicals
In their forties, men, like their female counterparts, are also stressed by combining work and parenting roles and need the same well-balanced diet, low in fat, cholesterol, and sodium, and high in complex carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Men should take a daily supplement that includes:
• Beta-carotene, or vitamin A (5,000 IUs) to help prevent cancer, stroke, and heart disease, and to help lower cholesterol levels
• Vitamin E (400 IUs) to protect against coronary artery disease and poor circulation
For good health nutrition is of paramount importance, which means eating balanced meals and taking one or more daily supplements designed with your needs in mind. A multivitamin will give you all the vitamins and minerals necessary to sustain life and health and you should choose one that has been formulated for your sex and your stage of life. Remember to take your supplements with water at mealtime to help increase their absorption and to take advantage of the synergy that occurs when nutrients act together. For a healthy lifestyle in your forties, you should also make time for regular exercise. Go for it.
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