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Fitness in your 40s – Is it downhill from here or is it all in the mind?

I’m turning 40 this year. Lockdown has scuppered any lavish birthday party or mini break plans. Instead, I’ve been wondering, amongst other things, how my body is likely to handle the unforgiving female ageing process over the next decade and whether I will need to adjust my exercise routine to accommodate the seemingly inevitable changes to my body.

I don’t even feel ‘nearly’ middle-aged. I still have young children to care for and I have numerous friends in their 40s who are still hoping to carry their first child or additional children. Mentally, I feel as fit as I was BC – before children (and, yes, before Covid 19). Yet the science seems to scream out that your 40s are, biologically, your ‘transitional’ years – transition from child bearer (or barren shrew) to little old lady. Being a woman means that, once menopause arrives, your biological use just fades away.

The NHS website says that menopausal symptoms last an average of 4 years from the date of your last period. However, around 1 in every 10 women experience them for up to 12 years. 12 years?! I could be nearly or over 60 by the time my body adjusts to a new ‘normal’. That is brutal.

When I read this, I had a mild panic and started searching the internet for the elixir of youth. There is plenty of material on fitness and lifestyle sites to guide the middle-aged woman through the menopause marathon and how to embrace it or starve it off. Some commentators encourage you to ignore the science and focus on your mindset – if you believe yourself to be young and maintain good posture and a clean lifestyle, you may be able to trick your body into believing that you can fight the ageing process or at least delay it for a few more decades. Other sites seem to be more matter of fact about ageing – accept your fate and deal with it.

Perhaps a happy medium is to accept your fate, but make the landing a graceful, gentle one. In the meantime, I’m planning to continue with my usual mix of cardio and resistance training with a sprinkle more of stretching before and after a run. I might even do more TRX or weight training – just to give my ageing back a fighting chance of handling (hopefully) many more years of running, cycling and other forms of exercise. I believe that there are ‘senior’ ballet dancing classes available out there, so maybe I could join one of those classes. If anything, it’ll give me something to talk about at a post lockdown belated birthday party.

Image by Pam Simon from Pixabay