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Get fit, not fat

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The choices you make in your 20s, 30s, and 40s will affect your quality of life into your later years.

The choices you make in your 20s, 30s, and 40s will affect your quality of life into your later years. Photo: Jennifer Soo

Last week while on holiday in Byron Bay, I celebrated the big 40.

But rather than feeling miserable about reaching this landmark age, I reflected on my own health and fitness and decisions that younger versions of myself have made throughout the years.

I've been both fat and fit and I know as well as anyone how hard it can be to stay in shape when life has other plans, but I’ve also learned that you often have a better chance at achieving fitness if you can tailor it not just to your lifestyle, but to your life-stage too.

After all, the choices you make in your 20s, 30s, and 40s will affect your quality of life into your later years, so here are my tips on finding your path to fitness.

When You're 20 Something

The start of your health and fitness journey, and you think can do it all. You've got some cash in your pocket, and life is about having fun. Fitness? Yeah, it's time to get involved, but it's secondary. Parties and the social life, and diving in at work are the primary drivers in life.

You think your body is invincible. Then inevitably, some party kilos hit the waistline because the metabolism at 20+ just isn't the same as it was when you're in your teens.

My Advice: Work hard and play hard, but get involved in fitness. Find a team sport full of 20-somethings from work or in a social group to meet new people. Have fun while maintaining a healthy weight. Move your body because you enjoy it.

When You're 30 Something

The dirty 30s are the formative years of your health and fitness plan. You might be able to party a bit, but the hangovers start to hurt – a lot. And partying and late nights makes us all look tired, worn out, and unable to exercise.

Do you join that gym? Do you play in that soccer league? Or do you become a 30-something future heart attack with a size 40 waist. These are the years for big decisions. What you put into your body and how you exercise it creates the energy you need throughout a day and a night. The body sends us messages…and it's up to every individual to listen, then make a change.

My advice: Decide now whether it's a life of fitness or fatness. Family and work may take up a lot of time, but you must make time for your body and your health.

Get involved in CrossFit, strength or hypertrophy training, or check out the varied group classes at a gym. Don't use 'time poor' as an excuse - instead think about running, walking, or cycling into work.

When You're 40 Something

I am only a few days into my 40s, but I know that the metabolism starts to slow, and it takes a bit more work in the gym and kitchen in order to shift a few kilos, so you must move your body with efficiency and intensity to fight fat.

My advice: Commit to a fitness plan to fight fat. Skip the lazy cross trainer workouts, and do something with intensity. HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) on the treadmill, rower, or outdoor sprints are key, as well as circuit style training that incorporates functional, weight bearing movements. Avoid fitness trends and realise that simple, bodyweight exercises like push ups, sit ups, and squats still work.

When You're 50 Something and Above

The big question lurks – how healthy do you want to be in your 50s and beyond?

There are some who are still competing in the City2Surf and marathons at a professional pace and my own mother, who is 68 years old, still does 150+ push ups every single day of the year. The lesson here is that you are never too old to stay in shape.

My advice: Functional movements like squats and planks to develop core strength will become more important than ever, and strength training will combat muscle atrophy. If you're just starting a fitness plan, look into lower impact movements to begin with to protect your joints. Staying flexible with stretching and/or yoga is vital during these years.

I've been fat, I've been fit, and I've been somewhere in the middle. And what I've learned is that being healthy and respecting your body is a challenging but fun journey. And it's the only journey. The easy road? The easy road is laziness. But that easy road is full of pot holes and steep cliff faces better known as diabetes, heart disease, and other self-inflicted ailments.

I've learned that I have a lot more to learn. But no matter what, I need a healthy body and a clear head to live the life I want into my 50s, 60s and beyond.

Do you find it a challenge to squeeze fitness into your life?

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75 comments so far

  • Or you could just eat leas....

    Commenter
    SilverTail
    Location
    UpperNorthShore
    Date and time
    July 05, 2012, 1:04PM
    • Eating less is a good idea, but it won't give you the fitness you need as you get older. Bodies were designed to be used, and if you don't use it you will pay.

      Commenter
      tenorboy
      Location
      sydney
      Date and time
      July 05, 2012, 1:41PM
    • Bodies weren't designed at all...

      Commenter
      David
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      July 05, 2012, 2:34PM
    • Eating less won't help your flexibility and strength either.

      Commenter
      Pecan
      Location
      sydney
      Date and time
      July 05, 2012, 2:54PM
    • Eating less and doing no exercise other than walking is how I ended up with a severe iron and vitamin B12 deficiency. It's really unhealthy. Much better to eat 3 healthy meals and exercise out the excess calories.

      Commenter
      Sally
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      July 05, 2012, 3:19PM
    • Sorry, did you mean eating fleas? Hmmm, a flea diet would have possibilities for nutritious weight control.. All that protein from the blood engorged ones. Rounding up enough for a meal could be time consuming though. Maybe you meant eating LIKE a flea. Blood-sucking, in other words. Kind of like a derivatives trader.

      Commenter
      McDuff
      Date and time
      July 05, 2012, 3:31PM
    • I think the title said it all. Get FIT.
      Didn't really read that did you? Lazy? Unfit?
      Thought so.

      Commenter
      Timothy
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      July 05, 2012, 3:54PM
  • I work long hours. 6am to 6pm ,5 days a week.
    I always make an effort to go to the gym after work. I feel that if I didn't go to the gym for an hour after work, I wouldn't be able to handle the long hours and stress involved. Working out regularly also helps with sleeping. I may not get the average of 8 hours, but the 6 hours of solid sleep is better.

    Commenter
    Very Fit and Muscular Civil Engineer
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    July 05, 2012, 1:04PM
    • Simple rule of fun: it's not meant to be easy. So don't try to make it.

      You're not going to get fitness served to you on a silver platter. Get off your backsides and work for it!

      Commenter
      limited
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      July 05, 2012, 1:04PM
      • I disagree, it is easy and should be fun and something you derive enjoyment from. As someone who has dropped from 76 to 58kg over the last couple of years i can tell you it you don't need to sweat your but off or ruin yourself at the gym.I eat five moderate healthy meals a day and exercise 4-5 times a week for about an hour. This is never more than a 45 minute walk listening to my radio and some pushups, crunches, leg raises and stretching. I also have take-out about once a week and treats like ice-cream 3-4 times a week. A low calorie diet is key to weight loss, most people would drop steady weight if they simply stopped removed all sugar from their fluid intake. Exercise is key to health, you cannot exercise yourself thin and sustain it. I feel sorry for people who put themselves through hell purely for appearance. If you enjoy it, then that is another story.

        Commenter
        Trav
        Location
        Melbourne
        Date and time
        July 05, 2012, 4:46PM

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