fitness and aging in your thirties, forties, and fiftees

Fitness and Health In Your Thirties, Forties, and Fifties

This is part three on our series that has been covering aging and the the role it plays in fitness and health. Adolescence is a period marked by rapid growth and high levels of hormones – helping to set up the framework for an athlete in their young twenties before the body starts to decline in the mid to late twenties. For part three on our series on aging and fitness and health, we’ll be covering how the body responds to age related changes when it comes to fitness in your thirties, forties, and fifties so you can make the best of your workout.

Fitness and Health In Your Thirties, Forties, and Fifties

This is part three on our series of aging and fitness and health between the ages of thirty, forty, and fifty. We started off talking about the teenage years which are marked by a period of a strong rise in hormones which help contribute to peak performance and muscle growth. The best time to take advantage of these hormones takes place during your twenties before the growth hormones start to decline in the mid-twenties.

Fitness In Your Thirties

If taking advantage of growth hormones wasn’t your thing during your teen years or even in your twenties, don’t worry, the thirties are still a great time for someone to take advantage of your overall health. However, things might just be a little bit harder for you. Since the neurological pathways that are formed during adolescence were never enhanced, you might be a little bit behind when it comes to balance, agility, and all around body awareness than someone who fine tuned their motor skills during the teen years.

If fitness was your thing during your twenties, those neurological pathways will still be there for you, however, you might start to notice a slight drop in speed and power from your early thirties and progress into your forties. Unfortunately, for nearly everybody, the body begins its steady decline in the twenties and our bodies DNA has already begun the slow and steady game of biological aging. The effects can be compounded even more through smoking, drug use, a poor diet, and lack of exercise. Another thing that slowly starts to decline during the thirties is the body’s connective tissue. Your muscles slowly start to become less elastic so warming up and stretching becomes even more crucial to help with your body’s performance.

Fortunately, not everything is all doom and gloom. For those that did take advantage of your health during your twenties, the early thirties is the time to really capitalize on your peak performance levels. While your fast twitch muscle fibers (the types of muscle responsible for strength and power) start to decline, your slow twitch muscle fibers (responsible for endurance activity) are still at their peak. Many athletes have the best portions of their careers during their thirties.

Fitness In Your Forties and Fifties

Congratulations, you’ve made it this far already. If you still have never taken the time to go for a jog once in your life, you REALLY might want to think about doing so at this point to help prevent an early death. Hey, you have to start somewhere, right? For those that have been physically active during this time, now is when you’ll really be noticing quite the difference in your physical activity.

Neurological pathways continue to slow down

What this means: keep them sharp by incorporating movements that incorporate an unstable surface and balance related movements into your workout routine (make use of a stability ball, bosu ball, or single leg exercises).

Growth hormones continue to drop

The steady decline in growth hormones means you may have already had a reduction in muscle mass somewhere between ten to thirty percent by this point. Your fast twitch muscle fibers also aren’t what they used to be. So, you have to work much harder to maintain muscle mass. You might also need to think about getting a little more protein to help keep on what you have. Your drop in hormones also means your metabolism is less than what it used to be. This means those late night pizza or burrito binges won’t be as forgiving as they were in your twenties. As you continue to age, take into consideration your overall calorie expenditure – over time, you don’t need as many calories as you used to take in when you were in your twenties. Many people don’t account for this and the same eating habits that were in place in your earlier years can cause unhealthy weight gain in your later years. Give your metabolism a boost by incorporating anaerobic exercises into your workout routine.

Bone Loss

All the bone that you had accumulated peaked when you were in your twenties. During your thirties to fifties, you can experience quite a drop in the percentage of your bone density. As the mineral content of the bones begin to decline, they become more porous. Sorry women, you lose more bone density than men – especially once you reach menopause (estrogen helps with bone mineral absorption and lack of the hormone means less of it). There can be a reduction in bone density during the thirties to the fifties around eight to twelve percent for men and twenty to thirty percent for women. Of course, as with anything else, diet and exercise can have a profound effect on the amount of bone density lost. Moderate and heavy resistance exercises can help keep muscles strong which in turn helps keep the bones strong and help to increase bone mineral re-absorption (3).

Changes In Elastic And Collagen Fibers

Your tendons and ligaments continue to have decreased elasticity which leads to a decrease in mobility, flexibility, and stability in your joints. What can you do about it? Spend more time warming up before your workouts. Incorporate a well planned ten minute warm up routine – trust me, your workout will benefit from it. What you also need to do: spend more time in general on flexibility, whether it’s a part of your general workout or a separate portion of your day. Carve out time to keep your joints loose.

The changes in elasticity also take place in your arteries that help supply blood flow to the rest of your body. For the average person, this means your blood pressure will slowly increase as you age as well. For the seasoned athlete/fitness nut, regular physical activity helps to maintain blood pressure at healthy levels. The same decrease in elasticity also happens to your heart – meaning it doesn’t contract as hard or as fast as it used to and it has to work harder to supply blood to your muscles. The good news is that if you’ve spent your earlier decades with a regular fitness routine, your heart has become more efficient at delivering oxygen to your body so you’re ahead of the game when it comes to keeping a strong healthy heart. As a general rule of thumb, at twenty, a max heart rate is around two hundred beats per minute. Each decade that goes by the max heart rate decreases by about ten so when fifty hits the corner, the max heart rate for an average person is about 170.

While we’re on the topic of blood flow, there is about a ten percent decrease in blood flow to the kidneys each decade after twenty and the kidneys have a harder time responding to changes in electrolyte levels such as sodium and potassium. Electrolyte replacement after intense exercise or extreme heat conditions becomes even more important.

Make The Most Of Fitness In Your Thirties, Forties, and Fifties

-DO continue to keep yourself limber by incorporating flexibility programs into your workouts.
-DO start to spend more time warming up to prevent injuries.
-DO consider making a well rounded diet a part of your lifestyle.
-DON’T do nothing – fitness is much like a ROTH IRA – the compounded effects are much more noticeable over time and keeping a healthy fitness routine can help slow age related changes and keep your mind and body sharp.
-DON’T smoke, drink excessive alcohol, or eat a diet high in refined sugars which do nothing but increase the body’s inflammatory process and speed up the aging process on a cellular level.

Questions, comments, or concerns? Leave a comment. What are some of your favorite ways to keep your aging body healthy?


1. Fitness In Your Twenties
2. Fitness and Nutrition In Teens and Adolescents
3. Berk, L. Development Through The Lifespan. Bostom: Pearson Education Inc. 2007. Print. 502.


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