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For The Over 40’s Fast Fitness Routines & How To Stay Strong As You Age…….

From your forties onwards, trying to get fitter can feel as though you are fighting a losing battle, however much effort you put into it. The good news, though, is that Sport England’s recent Active Lives Survey has found that men are on the right track, with almost half of them doing the recommended two resistance training sessions a week and 66 per cent described as “active”, meeting the minimum 150 minutes a week activity levels for good health. Both figures have increased since the last annual survey was carried out. But now is not the time to rest on your laurels, guys. Here’s a guide to making midlife fitness work for you:
 

How much exercise really makes a difference?

The speed with which you will notice changes in your appearance and health depends on your starting point. If you are someone who spends more time sitting down, rewards will come quickly, even if you initially just aim for more daily steps.
 
If the 10,000 steps a day target that’s often bandied about seems extreme, it’s OK. According to a study by the University of Massachusetts Amherst, there’s no benefit to walking more than 8,000. But by hitting 8,000, it found, you will enjoy significantly better health benefits than those who manage 3,500.
 
If you are already active, your routine still might need tweaking to offset the ravages of ageing, says Dalton Wong, the founder of Twenty Two Training.
 
“To make a real difference you need to be exercising on five days a week and to be generally active, moving around as much as possible,” Wong says. “Some of those workout days should be easy cardio that’s not too hardcore and others higher intensity training and resistance exercise.”
 
If you can’t commit to five days a week, consistency is key. “Make a deal with yourself to commit to as many days as you can and stick to it,” Wong says.
 
Progression is another rule often ignored by the midlife brigade. “I see people who do the same workout using the same equipment and the same weights for years,” Wong says. “You have to mix things up and increase the weights used in resistance training or you will quickly hit a plateau, especially in middle age when physical changes such as dwindling muscle mass are against you.”
 
Spending more than an hour in the gym is unnecessary. “No weights or resistance session should take longer than 40-55 minutes,” he says. “People tend to get more done in a shorter time frame whereas their attention span wanders and effort drops if they linger for an hour or more.”
 

Don’t even try to lose weight and gain muscle at the same time

The holy grail of any exerciser is fat loss and muscle gain but, Wong says, from your forties you must choose one or the other. “You just can’t achieve both at the same time from midlife so you need to decide what is your priority,” Wong says. “Take a good look at your body and if you are someone who is overweight and a bit flabby your initial goal should be fat loss, whereas a man who is what I call ‘skinny fat’, with a relatively slim physique but low muscle mass, can work on gaining strength.”
 
If fat burning is your aim, Wong says you should dedicate three days (ideally non-consecutive) to strength training and include a range of bodyweight and weights exercises such as squats, lunges, press-ups and pull-ups.
 
“On one of your cardio days, aim to walk or cycle for two hours or run for an hour, which will improve your cardiovascular health,” Wong says. “On the other cardio day aim for higher intensity work such as Spinning, a session on the rowing machine or a shorter 20-minute run with sprints.”
 
Switch the emphasis if your goal is to increase muscle mass. “Aim for 4-5 strength sessions a week and just one day of gentle cardio such as a 90-minute walk or cycle,” Wong says. “Avoid cardio HIIT sessions if your focus is muscle gain as you will have no fuel reserves when you come to lift weights.”
 

Include squats for strength and fat burning

“The more muscles you use in an exercise, the better they are at burning fat,” Wong says. “And squats recruit the body’s largest muscles in the legs and glutes, which makes them highly effective for fat burning.” In a Study ” that compared the energy cost of different exercises, including gym leg press, leg extension, bench press, lateral pull-down, biceps curl and triceps extension, squats came out on top, burning 35 calories per minute, more than any other exercise. They also ramp up functional strength.
 
When researchers from Norway  compared the effects of plank exercises and squats on the activation of core muscles that wrap around the trunk and support the back, it was squats that won the day, suggesting you shouldn’t neglect them if you want a leaner and stronger middle.
 
Change the position of your feet and the depth of squats, adding resistance when you are strong enough, Wong suggests. If your knees can take it, try including some deep and sumo-style squats that were shownin a study involving over 100 men to produce greater strength gains than squatting with thighs parallel to the ground.
 

Chest exercises won’t banish Moobs

Man boobs — or moobs — usually appear because you have an excess layer of body fat that needs to be shifted. “There are exceptions and for some men chest fat is the result of underlying hormonal disorders which need to be checked out,” Wong says. “But in most cases, moobs are down to the double whammy of muscle loss and body fat increase.”
 
A mistake is to attack them with the chest press machine or with exercises such as the chest fly that target the pectoral muscles. “That will have the effect of building muscle beneath the layer of fat which can actually make moobs look bigger,” Wong says. “Instead, focus on losing body fat first with a regimen of cardio and compound moves such as squats, lunges, press-ups and pull-ups, which will leave you leaner all over and you should find your man boobs diminish.”
 

Get on your bike to reverse ageing

Latest Government Stats show that although fewer younger men got on their bikes between 2020 and 2021 for the middle-aged it remains increasingly popular, with men in their fifties cycling the most. Keep it as part of your cardio is the message.
 
Immune cell biologists at theUniversity of Birmingham  have shown that committed cyclists aged 55 to 79 had much more youthful immune systems than sedentary people, while a study at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital and University College London revealed that the effect of regular pedalling on the leg muscles of middle-aged men is profound.
 
Results published in the journal BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders found cyclists had stronger leg and gluteal muscles as expected, but also that they had much lower levels of harmful fat between the muscle fibres that makes muscles weaker and contributes to the acceleration of sarcopenia or age-related muscle loss. “Indoor and outdoor cycling are fantastic exercises without loading the knees in the way you do when running,” Wong says. “And you can vary the demands of a bike ride by adding hills or sprints for intensity.”
 

Do single-leg squats and hops for better balance and stability

Figures from the NHS show that a third of people over 60 fall over at least once a year. Diminishing balance is partly down to loss of muscle mass but also to poor control of muscles as our brain’s control of movement deteriorates with age.
 
“Don’t assume that just because you stay fit you will be immune to worsening balance,” Wong says. “We all need to work at it as we get older. Try sitting cross-legged on the floor and getting up without using your hands, which challenges balance, stability and co-ordination in one movement.”
 
Lateral hops will improve stability. “Hop forward, backwards and sideways as a form of low-level plyometric training, which will help to strengthen muscles and reactions to prevent falls as well as build stronger bones,” Wong says.
 

Vary the cardio machines you use at the gym

If you head straight for your favourite item of cardio equipment, you should force yourself to change and use one you’d rather avoid. “Different machines offer different challenges, yet so many people stick to the one they know,” Wong says. “Switch between the step machine or Versaclimber, the bike, the rower and the treadmill or cross trainer to get the most out of the equipment.” Just as weights should get heavier as you get stronger, so cardio should be progressed as you get fitter. “Reassess every few weeks, picking up the pace a bit or increasing the duration of a cardio session by a few minutes to make it a bit harder.”
 
 

Take up yoga

If you are resistant to trying yoga, it might be time for a rethink. Ten weeks of twice -weekly yoga classes improved the flexibility and balance of one group of men but it has also been found to boost mental health. Melissa O’Shea, associate professor in the School of Psychology at Australia’s Deakin University, found in research published last year that men represent less than one fifth of participants in yoga classes, but that those who do practise it have less stress and anxiety.
 
Despite many taking up yoga after the age of 40, a lot of male participants reported initial health benefits that extended to stress reduction. “The study tells us that yoga can be an effective means for men to self-manage their mental health,” O’Shea says. Stress causes the body to produce more of the hormone cortisol which, says Wong, is notorious for exacerbating fat accumulation around the belly. “Yoga is great but gentle and passive relaxation techniques such as meditation are also effective and should be included alongside exercise as part of a holistic plan for stress lowering,” Wong says.
 

Golf constitutes gentle cardio

Good news if you prefer clocking 18 holes rather than 10,000 solitary steps. Researchers from the University of Eastern Finland have found that a round of golf beats a regular 3.7-mile walk and a 3.7-mile Nordic walk performed with poles to work the upper body when it comes to lowering blood fats and keeping blood sugar levels stable.
 
Reporting in the British Journal of Sports Medicine theresearchers fpund that all three forms of exercise  improved cardiovascular health and lowered blood pressure in participants who were in their sixties but that the “longer duration and higher energy expenditure” of an 18-hole round of golf — golfers clocked up an average of more than 13,000 steps compared with 7,000 on the walks — had better all-round health benefits. “Golf is a great way to get your low-intensity cardio exercise,” Wong says. “And if you carry or push a cart you get a bit of added resistance too.”
 
 

The 6 top tips for fitness over 60

Now is the time to do press-ups, says the trainer Wayne Lèal, 65
 

Do 30 press-ups and 23 squats — every single day

That’s what you should aim for. These exercises work multiple muscle groups so they’re perfect for overall strength and endurance, and you can do them anywhere. If you can’t manage the full range of movement at first, use a wall or sofa to push up against to take the weight. Then, before doing a press-up on the floor with your full weight, try on your knees. Squats are good for joints and mobility. Plus they slow down ageing.
 

Get outside for 5 minutes a day

Do your cardio outside. And I don’t mean running. Nature is so stimulating and it’s as important for your body as it is your head. Even if it’s a five-minute walk, get outside every day — the longer, the better.
 

Brush your teeth standing on one leg

When you age, your posture tends to get a lot worse and this is connected with your balance. Practise standing on one leg while you’re brushing your teeth. If you’re a bit wobbly at first, use your pinkie finger, resting it on the sink edge, until you become steady so you don’t lose balance. As your balance starts to improve, so will your posture — and eventually you can try it with your eyes closed (like me).
 

Get a mini trampoline

Try stretching and yoga on top of a mini trampoline — I recommend one from Jumpga, which is a form of rebounder. They’re also great to work out on for the cardio component in your fitness routine, working all 650-plus muscles. It’s great for over-60s because it takes pressure off the joints and helps with those who have osteoarthritis. Just 20 minutes on a rebounder is more beneficial than an hour-long jog because, unlike running, it won’t overload your lower back and knees. As people age they tend to become less flexible, a rebounder can help you access movements you couldn’t normally do and prevent you from overstretching your hamstrings.
 

Use water for its resistance benefits

Moving in water is amazing for your body, like t’ai chi, yoga and martial arts rolled into one. Try to move for 30 minutes. The faster you walk, the greater the resistance so your muscles work harder. It’s great for joint mobility and wellbeing. The key? Breath awareness. It helps you have better control over your mental state too.
 

Challenge yourself

Sign up to a challenge or create a fitness contract with a friend, such as a certain number of sit-ups and squats every day. It creates a behavioural habit.