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?