If you’re planning to start a fitness kick then there's no better time than in your 40s or 50s when you'll be able to reap the benefits of exercise for your overall health.
The good news is that it won’t take that long to improve your fitness levels - no matter what type of exercise you choose. Within a few months (perhaps less) you should start to see some improvements to your fitness (and perhaps your waistline too if that's one of your motivations for getting in shape).
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Which activity should I choose to get fit in my 40s, 50s and beyond?
To help you choose the right activity to get you fit, I thought it might be helpful to break down how various areas of exercise helps people get fitter. I'll cover how long before you can expect to see results, and how much of a shock to the system it’s going to be at first.
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1) Weight training
This can improve aerobic fitness (for endurance), anaerobic fitness (for sprinting), strength, muscular endurance, hypertrophy (muscle gain) and fat loss.
It can be challenging and frustrating at first. People tend to feel a lactic acid build-up in their muscles like they’ve never experienced, and they also have movement patterns and techniques to learn.
To make the best long-term progress, stay patient at the beginning, then push hard later on.
As a general rule, after the first week – despite little improvement in actual measurable strength – your body starts to feel stronger. Once you've done the first month there are measurable improvements in strength and anaerobic fitness. After three months – if diet is also addressed – there’s a measurable improvement in body composition.
It’s important to be patient. Laying the correct foundation of techniques will ensure the best long-term results. After that be consistent and smart with your workout programming, train regularly and record everything to ensure you continue to make progress.
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Running makes you become more aerobically fit – that’s your body’s ability to transport and use oxygen (giving you better stamina) – and by running you are strengthening your body.
If you’re starting out or getting back into exercise after a break it will feel strange to begin with.
The most difficult part is being sensible. Many people start out covering too much distance or running too fast, or a combination of the two. They won’t want to do it again because it felt so hard. Start by running for just ten minutes and break this up into jogging or running for 60 seconds and walking for 30 seconds. As things become easier, increase this to two minutes, then three minutes, until after a week or two you are running for the whole ten minutes.
Aim to run every other day, so three times in one week and four times the next. If you feel like you need to take an extra day’s recovery then take one.
You can see a noticeable progression in two to three weeks. If on day one you complete your first run and then by the end of week three you’re running up to 20 minutes without a break, that’s excellent progress.
3) Body weight training
Regular high-intensity bodyweight training will not only make you stronger and increase endurance, it also promotes mobility, co-ordination, stability and balance.
If you’re aiming to maintain your current fitness level you will usually be able to get away with two sessions a week, as long as they are effective workouts. If you want to progress, aim for three sessions a week, and if you want to lose weight you may be looking at four.However, if you’re a beginner it is important you don’t overwhelm your body. If you’re feeling tired or sore take a rest day. Learn what your body needs and find a routine that works for you.
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Boxing helps you improve your cardiovascular fitness and muscle strength.
And it’s not just your arms that will feel the benefit. You’re twisting, you’re turning, you’re engaging your core and being quick on your feet. It all adds up to a really comprehensive training programme that will help you to get fit fast.
If you do it right, boxing is a total-body workout. If it’s the only exercise you’re doing, then maybe start out with a couple of sessions a week and build up to three to four.
'Spinning' is essentially a gym class on a static exercise bike. The class is set to music and you use the resistance dial on the bike to dial up or down the intensity and make it harder or easier to pedal the bike.
While this is a challenging class, the benefit is that you are in control of how hard it is because you’re in control of your pace. If you need a break you can sit down or back off the resistance. This means it’s easy to work your way up at a pace that works for you.
To lay the foundations and to develop some muscle memory, two to three times a week is recommended, but the best advice is to listen to your body.
Riders committing to three or more classes a week will see noticeable improvements in their fitness within a month.
Getting to know the positions on the bike and learning how to ride in rhythm are the main priorities so that you can get the most out of the workout. This can take a few classes to nail but once you're in synch with the room, you’ll fly. My top tip is to arrive a little early for your first class so your instructor can help you to set up the bike in the right position for your body and answer any questions that you may have.
5) HIIT - high intensity interval training
Finally If you want to have more control of your body, lose some weight and feel more capable, then HIIT is a great way of doing that.
Any new exercise is tough to begin with, but with the right trainer or trainers it will be manageable – and very beneficial.
HIIT training can be incredibly challenging, so it is important that as a beginner you give your body some time to adjust, heal and grow, which is just as important as the training itself.
A clear increase in fitness, stamina and perceived strength should all be very noticeable within a month of consistent HIIT training. Once you've been going for a few weeks, make the effort to increase your energy during a workout.
Whatever you decide to do good luck listen to your body and remember exercise CAN be fun!
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