In our recent research on the health habits of 40 year olds, a third of people turning 40 admitted that they weren’t aware how crucial their 40s are for their future health.
Although it can feel like there’s plenty of time to adopt healthier habits ‘later’, it’s in their 40s that most people start to feel the effects of ageing. Even among those who had just turned 40, two fifths admitted that they struggle to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, find themselves tiring more easily, or being forgetful.
A third suffer from more aches and pains than they did in their 30s. While making changes to your lifestyle can be overwhelming, it’s important to start sooner rather than later to avoid the risk of accumulating health problems for the future.
Weight is of significant influence when it comes to future health, and one that becomes more difficult to manage once the 40s hit. Being overweight makes health issues such as diabetes, heart disease and cancers much more likely later in life.
Despite this, only two in five are prioritising healthy eating, and even fewer are trying to do more exercise. It seems to be harder for women to shift the extra pounds than men, with nearly half of women struggling to lose weight, as opposed to just over a quarter of men. This doesn’t mean it’s not important for everyone to address though.
Other lifestyle factors, such as alcohol intake and smoking, also increase the likelihood of disease. While alcohol is okay in moderation, drinking it daily adds excess calories and can also put a strain on the liver. Worryingly, only 15 per cent of 40 year olds are thinking about drinking and smoking less!
Taking care of your mental health is also important to maintain wellbeing. Women are the most likely to take this step, with 20 per cent pledging to make more time for themselves. Only 13 per cent of men made the same commitment.
Your mental health has a huge impact on your physical health, affecting hormone balances. Stress, for example, can cause excess cortisol, which affects blood sugar levels, causes weight gain, and suppresses the immune system.
Small changes can lead to big results. Think of your 40th birthday as a chance to press the reset button and give yourself a clean slate. It may take a while to establish healthier habits, but you’ll thank yourself later down the line.
Our Head of Proactive Health, Chris Tomkin’s has written some top tips for turning 40!
- Count your steps – get a pedometer and try to clock up 10,000 steps every day or 150 minutes of moderate activity over the week. It might seem hard at first, but taking the stairs and going for a quick walk at lunchtime will help you get there. The benefits include burning up to 400 calories a day and reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes, asthma, stroke and some cancers.
- Make a daily food swap – swap out a sweet treat for raw fruit or veg. It’s a simple move that goes some way toward decreasing the chances of the illnesses we’re exposed to later in life.
- Experiment with ‘vegifying’ your favourite recipes. Take a classic shepherd’s pie and balance the meat content by swapping half of it for onions, celery, carrots and perhaps some lentils. You’ll be surprised how much flavour they add.
- When it comes to exercise, find something you love doing and is a good challenge. Military Fitness and Circuits are all growing in popularity as people find these varied workouts more motivating.
- Set yourself interesting challenges like a triathlon, a wild swimming race or the assault course races that are growing in number. You don’t have to be a winning athlete – it’s all about having fun and bettering your health!