President Obama turned 50 on August 4th, leading to many news stories on the general topic of fitness after 40. This year my odometer rolls over to 45, an age which not that long ago was considered ‘old’ both inside and outside the boxing ring.
In 1994, a 45 year old paunchy George Foreman stepped back into the ring to win a world championship in what many people saw as simply a fluke. But this past May, my old pal Bernard Hopkins broke Foreman’s record of oldest boxer to win a world championship when he defeated Jean Pascal at the age of 46. Now there are some experts who say the accomplishments of Foreman and Hopkins should really be no surprise.
William Pollack, Ph.D., of the Harvard medical school recently noted that the 40’s and 50’s may be our best years.
“By some measures, your brain is at its most powerful, exhibiting the best combination of speed and judgment,” Pollack noted. The same article reported that there is, “powerful evidence that daily exercise shapes the successful person.”
Another common theme in many discussions of fitness after 40 is the ‘mind-body connection.” I can personally attest to that fact. Your mind and your attitude can dictate how old you feel and how old you feel can definitely impact your workout. As the president of two companies and being involved in the community where in some cases I have served for over 20 years as a volunteer, it can be real easy to start feeling old. But all it takes for me is an hour in the gym training with much younger people, to start feeling younger. Also, friends and family who have known me the longest will attest I was a bit of a practical joker in my youth and let’s just say old habits are hard to break.
So what are some of the keys to fitness over 40?
- REGULAR PHYSICAL EXAMS – If you are starting or re-starting a fitness routine your first stop needs to be for a full physical and honest discussion with your doctor(s). Even if you have been devoted to a fitness regime for years you should still make an annual physical part of your overall wellness program. A good physical should never be limited to just cardio or orthopedic issues related to your workout, it should be about every aspect of your health. Many serious diseases of middle-age are curable or treatable when spotted early.
- LEARN TO LISTEN HONESTLY TO YOUR BODY’S SIGNALS – One thing a professional athlete learns to appreciate are the differences between simple fatigue, serious fatigue and pain. Simple fatigue is something you have to learn to push past to get the most out of your workout. Serious fatigue and pain are immediate warnings to slow down or stop. Always remember, if you are well into your workout your body is producing natural pain killers called endorphins so any pain you feel may be more serious than it feels at first.
- MAKE NUTRITIONAL ADJUSTMENTS – As we age our bodies naturally undergo changes where we may need more specific nutritional support than simply good carbs and proteins. Antioxidants are essential to help slow the natural aging process and help protect the body against many diseases of aging. Ask your physician about nutrition or for a referral to a trusted nutritionist.
- ATTITUDE, ATTITUDE, ATTITUDE! – I just cannot stress this enough and modern medicine is discovering more proof every day that our attitude influences our health throughout our lives and more so as we age. It is not just about feeling younger, which is important, but it is also about having a generally positive outlook. This does not mean you are always happy and upbeat, that’s tough to do. But it means avoiding the negativity in yourself and others where possible. Our company recently worked on a training video regarding the national issue of prescription abuse. I realize many people have a legitimate need at times in their lives for powerful pain killers or prescription anti-depressants but the number of people abusing these drugs is growing alarmingly.
I always try to remind young people, whether they are athletes or not, that attitude is more powerful than any drug. A positive one can inspire you the way no pill ever will and a seriously negative one cannot be cured with just a pill. The same is true regardless of age.