Updated: May 20
As men age, their bodies undergo a number of physiological changes. These changes are a natural part of the aging process and can have an impact on various aspects of health and well-being. With age, it can become increasingly difficult to maintain fitness levels. However, getting fit for the first time, or maintaining your fitness as a man over 40 is not impossible. With some dedication and the right approach, it is possible to achieve your fitness goals and maintain your health and well-being. Maybe you have been the type of guy that was never drawn to a gym, or perhaps it has been a couple of years since you lifted a barbell. Regardless of your situation, age is just a number when it entails fitness and healthier lifestyle choices. In this article, we will look at fitness for men over 40, how their physiology changes, and how they can make certain lifestyle changes to achieve their fitness and physique goals:
Physiological Change #1: Declining Testosterone Levels
Testosterone is the hormone that is responsible for many aspects of male physiology, including muscle mass, bone density, and sex drive. According to the Mayo Clinic, after the age of 40, testosterone levels start to decline at a rate of about 1% per year. This can lead to a decrease in muscle mass and strength, as well as a decrease in sex drive. As men age, their bones become less dense and more fragile. This can lead to an increased risk of fractures and other bone-related injuries. Lastly, muscle atrophy or muscle loss starts at the age of 30, where muscle mass decreases 3-8% every decade after, and even more after 60.
Lifestyle Change #1: Consider Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT)
This change requires talking to a healthcare provider to determine if this is an option for you. Checking your testosterone levels could reveal a lot about your current hormonal health. Most doctors agree that normal levels fall between 300-1000 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dl). If your testosterone levels are lower than this, you will most likely experience a lot of symptoms of lower testosterone which include lower sex drive, reduced muscle mass, low energy and fatigue, and even depressed feelings. TRT has been shown to have positive effects on mood, energy levels, well-being, sexual function, lean mass, and strength, as well as higher bone mineral density and benefits on cardiovascular risk factors (1). At the very least you should live a testosterone-friendly lifestyle by lifting weights, increasing vitamin D, and following a whole-food diet while avoiding processed foods and avoiding estrogenics.
Physiological Change #2: Decreased Metabolism
The days of having fast food every other day are long gone. It’s not that you can’t indulge in this kind of food in moderation, but the fact is that it is rougher on your digestive system. The process of food digestion takes longer with age, according to Michigan Medicine, this could be associated with weaker peristalsis (muscle contractions that move food along the digestive system) of the digestive tract. In addition, as men age their metabolism tends to slow down. This means that the body burns fewer calories at rest, otherwise known as your basal metabolic rate, which can make it more difficult to maintain a healthy weight.
Lifestyle Change #2: Pay Attention to Your Diet
Men over 40 may need to adjust their diet and exercise routine to account for this decreased metabolism. This just means having a little more discipline with your diet. Furthermore, eating healthy does not need to be boring, don’t be afraid to try new recipes and spices. Focus on eating a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. Avoid processed foods, sugary drinks, and excessive alcohol consumption.
Physiological Change #3: Changes in Body Composition
With age, men tend to lose muscle mass and are likely to gain fat. These changes can impose functional limitations and increase morbidity (1). This is partly due to changes in hormone levels as well as lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise habits. Studies have demonstrated a correlation between bioavailable testosterone concentrations and fat-free mass (1). Maintaining muscle mass is important in maintaining optimal metabolism and health. After the age of 45 men can lose an estimated 1% of muscle mass each year.
Lifestyle Change #3: Have a consistent Weight Lifting Routine
Live by the saying “Use it or Lose it”, or if you’re just starting out, “Grow it and Hold it”. Having increased muscle mass requires more energy, or calories, to maintain. With a higher percentage of muscle mass, you will have a faster metabolism, meaning you will burn more calories at rest. Having a consistent weightlifting routine will encourage muscle growth and maintenance. Focus on lifting for strength and muscular hypertrophy, while eating a high-protein diet for recovery and growth. Strength training can help to build muscle mass, increase bone density, and improve overall strength and mobility (2). Include exercises that work for all major muscle groups, compound exercises such as squats, lunges, push-ups, and pull-ups. When setting fitness goals, it is important to be realistic. This means setting achievable goals that are within your capabilities. For example, if you have not exercised for a while, it may not be realistic to set a goal of running a marathon. Instead, start with smaller, achievable goals and gradually work your way up.
Physiological Change #4: Changes in Sleep Patterns and Cognitive Function
As men age, they may experience changes in their sleep patterns. This can include difficulty falling asleep, waking up more frequently during the night, and waking up earlier in the morning. Sleep is essential for muscle recovery, this is when your body repairs and rebuilds muscle tissue. Poor sleep can affect muscular hypertrophy, hormone balance, and stress levels and can speed up cognitive decline. As a normal part of the aging process, men may experience a decline in cognitive function, including memory, attention, and processing speed. Decreases in bioavailable Testosterone can predict an age-related decline in visual and verbal memory (1).
Lifestyle Change #4: Prioritize rest, Supplementation, and Activity
Your body releases many hormones during sleep that are essential to muscular hypertrophy, and overall recovery and repair. Aim to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night, and try to establish a consistent sleep schedule. During sleep, your body regulates hormones like human growth hormone, testosterone, leptin and ghrelin, and cortisol (the stress hormone). Testosterone is important for cognitive function, including memory, attention, and processing speed. Low testosterone levels can lead to a decline in cognitive function.
In terms of supplementation, nutrition entails consuming all the macronutrients and micronutrients necessary to maintain an anabolic and hypertrophic state. Supplements fill in the gaps in our diets and allow us to recover better and more quickly. Supplements such as creatine have been shown to elicit positive effects on strength, and memory, and have further influence on neurodegenerative conditions (4). Although it remains to be seen if creatine has the ability to alter the conditions of individuals in intermediate or later stages of disorders (4). Lastly, physical activity has been shown to improve cognitive function in a number of ways. It can improve memory, attention, and processing speed and reduce the risk of cognitive decline as we age. In fact, more leisure time physical activity is associated with longer life expectancy across a range of activity levels and BMI groups (3).
While these physiological changes are a natural part of the aging process, there are steps that men can take to maintain their health and well-being as they age. This includes staying physically active, eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and staying up-to-date with regular check-ups and screenings. Men over 40 should also consider speaking with their doctor about any concerns or changes they may be experiencing, as early detection and treatment of health issues can be key to maintaining optimal health as they age. Getting fit as a man over 40 requires dedication, consistency, and a realistic approach. By developing a fitness routine that includes strength training, cardio, stretching, and a healthy diet, you can achieve your fitness goals and maintain your health and well-being. Remember to consult with your doctor before starting any new exercise program, especially if you have any health concerns or conditions.
Before starting any fitness program or making dietary changes, including supplementation, please consult your physician for a thorough examination.
Nazem Bassil, Saad Alkaade & John E Morley(2009)The benefits and risks of testosterone replacement therapy: a review,Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management,5:,427-448,DOI: 10.2147/tcrm.s3025
Krzysztofik M, Wilk M, Wojdała G, Gołaś A. Maximizing Muscle Hypertrophy: A Systematic Review of Advanced Resistance Training Techniques and Methods. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019 Dec 4;16(24):4897. doi: 10.3390/ijerph16244897. PMID: 31817252; PMCID: PMC6950543.
Moore SC, Patel AV, Matthews CE, Berrington de Gonzalez A, Park Y, et al. (2012) Leisure Time Physical Activity of Moderate to Vigorous Intensity and Mortality: A Large Pooled Cohort Analysis. PLOS Medicine 9(11): e1001335. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001335
Smith, R. N., Agharkar, A. S., & Gonzales, E. B. (2013). A review of creatine supplementation in age-related diseases: More than a supplement for athletes. F1000Research, 3. https://doi.org/10.12688/f1000research.5218.1