15 Jul 2021

The benefits of exercise over 40: How to get started and how to keep it up

It’s never too late to get in shape and reap the rewards of doing more exercise. Dr Juliet McGrattan, former GP and health expert at 261 Fearless, a global running network for women, explains why exercise over 40 is a good idea for both body and mind. In this article she shares expert tips to get you started, and keep you exercising and smiling!

Exercise can significantly improve health and enables a more active lifestyle. As we age, our bodies begin to change; bone density reduces, we store fat more easily and start to lose muscle but regular exercise can counterbalance these changes and provides a host of other benefits too. 

The evidence is clear about the effectiveness of regular physical activity in the prevention of several chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, obesity, depression, osteoporosis and premature death. Exercise also has an anti-inflammatory effect in the body and done regularly, it can boost our immune systems too. 

The World Health Organisation guidelines are that adults should do 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise (exercise that makes you feel a bit out of breath) per week alongside muscle strengthening exercises at least twice a week. 

Studies have shown that increasing physical activity later in life results in the same risk reduction of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and all-cause mortality, as being active from adolescence through adulthood so it’s never too late to start.

Do something for you

As well as the physical health benefits of exercise, the wellbeing and mental health benefits shouldn’t be ignored. Many people find that being more active provides an overall sense of wellbeing and often results in a boost of energy and confidence. 

Too often, women set aside their own personal goals and ambitions and prioritise those of their families. Responsibilities of daily life can take over and self-care falls to the wayside.

The power of exercise 

At 261 Fearless, we have seen first-hand the power that exercise has to change lives.  We help women gain or regain faith in their own abilities and to feel good about themselves, whatever level of activity they’re at.  

Setting realistic targets, celebrating success and encouraging women to step outside of their comfort zone in a safe, supportive environment, surrounded by other women to support them can have profound effects. 

Getting started 

We know being more active is good for our health but life is busy and stressful, and for many of us there are multiple obstacles in the way.  The linear relationship between physical activity and health, means that any increase in activity and fitness will lead to additional health improvements.  So even if you hated PE and are completely new to exercise, or it’s years since you’ve focused on fitness, it’s not too late to start and to invest in something purely for you, your health and your wellbeing. 

Embarking on an exercise regime can be daunting, whatever your age and the hardest part is often getting started, especially if it is brand new to you. Interestingly, the main reason we get from women as to why they are hesitant to join the gym or sign up to our 261 Fearless running clubs is that they think they are not fit enough, and they feel intimidated by this. 

In response to these needs, 261 Fearless has just launched a new online exercise programme called Activate You, which was designed to help women kickstart some healthy habits and incorporate exercise into their daily routine. The programme keeps all levels of fitness in mind, including complete beginners. The idea is that by the time you’ve finished the 12-week programme, you will feel confident enough to complete a 45-minute workout. 

Keeping it up 

Once you get over the hurdle of lacing up your trainers, the challenge is often keeping your new habit up. Consistency is arguably the most important component when working to accomplish fitness goals. Many people struggle keeping their new year’s resolutions, so how can you improve your chances of sticking to a new exercise programme? 

We are creatures of habit. The more we practice something, the more natural it becomes. Research suggests that for a habit to stick, it must be performed for 68 consecutive days. When taking on a new challenge, focusing on taking it day by day can be a helpful mindset.  

In our Activate You programme, the daily tasks start at around 3-10 minutes per day and increase gradually each week. Alongside the fun calendar style exercise plan, you are also encouraged to journal about your progress, so you can look back on your achievements and start noticing gradual positive changes. You can also join a private Facebook group that allows you to connect with other women on the same journey and become part of a community. At 261 Fearless, we do everything in a non-competitive environment to make women laugh, to find joy in moving their body and through this, rekindle their dreams and desires for the future. It’s both liberating and empowering!

Remember 150 minutes per week is the exercise target not the starting point and even five minutes is beneficial. It really is a case of “every little helps!”

Something is better than nothing! 

Small changes are more sustainable over the long term and add up to form new habits, enabling you to feel fitter and stronger. Our bodies adapt gradually to exercise but it’s consistency that will help you reach your goals.  

There may be days that things don’t go to plan but that doesn’t mean all progress is lost. Embarking on an activity that is energising, motivating, inspiring and makes you feel good, can help to foster a positive sense of self-esteem and fearlessness.  

There are so many benefits to starting a fitness programme, and there’s definitely one out there that will work for you. The first, and most important step, is just to start!

About the Author and 261 Fearless Activate You Programme 

Established in 2015, 261 Fearless inc. is a global non-profit organisation founded by pioneer runner Kathrine Switzer (Board Chair) and Edith Zuschmann (CEO and President). 261 Fearless unites women globally to gain personal empowerment and good health through running. They use running as a vehicle to empower and unite women through the education programs and the creation of women’s only running clubs. 

261 Fearless' new Activate You programme has been designed by women for women. A team of experienced experts have created the programme to help you create a sustainable and enjoyable exercise habit in just 12 weeks, whatever your fitness level!  The 261 Fearless community will support and motivate you throughout the 12 weeks to help you reach your goals. All this for less than £1.00 per day. For more information visit www.261fearless.org

Former GP, Dr Juliet McGrattan, is 261 Fearless expert on women’s health and Women’s running coach. She is a writer and health expert for a broad range of British running and women’s health and fitness magazines and websites, and a best-selling author of books on women’s health (Sorted: The Active Woman’s Guide to Health - Popular Medicine Book of the Year in the British Medical Association Book Awards 2018) Writer and health expert for a broad range of British running and women’s health and fitness magazines and websites.

This article is a paid partnership with 261 Fearless.

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