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8 ways to keep healthy in your 40s

Ditch the diet and start making some simple life changes

A happy couple walking down a ramp and laughing after exercising
A happy couple walking down a ramp and laughing after exercising

For most of us, the 40s come with a wave of some changes. Your metabolism could be slowing down (typical for females) or your immune system peaking (often for males), you might find silver hairs start to show up on your head (and other places...), and your sex drive could be on the up and up.

Fellow 40-somethings, it’s time to ditch the dieting and damaging lifestyle choices, and start making some simple life changes that’ll have you looking and feeling better than ever.

1. Get to know how your body is changing 

Our bodies change at every age, but at 40 you may start noticing more obvious changes like thinning or greying hair, hot flashes or that you’re shrinking! These are all normal changes so educate yourself about how your body is changing by speaking with your GP either in person or conveniently via telehealth.

The more you know about the changes your body is experiencing, the better equipped you are to spot anything irregular and get on top of it.

2. Add your health checks to the calendar 

We know you’ve got a lot on but booking in your health checks should be top of the list. You should be having your cholesterol and lipids tested every five years from age 40. Women aged 40 and over who do not have any breast cancer symptoms are entitled to a free mammogram every two years through BreastScreen Australia. 

While there may be some new tests to add to your routine, it doesn’t mean you should ignore tests like skin checks, dental check-ups and cervical screening tests. 

We've put together a list of health checks that are important for people in their 40s so you have all the information you need in the one place.

Not sure where to start? Complete your free online HealthCheck and get personalised insights and recommendations.

2. Pump some iron 

Strength training is a fantastic way to build and maintain muscle mass, keeping bones sturdy and resilient against osteoporosis-related fractures. Don't forget to monitor your calcium intake – as we age, our bones lose calcium, so topping it up becomes essential. Include calcium-rich foods like dairy, soy, leafy greens, nuts, and seeds in your diet. While dietary measures can't reverse age-related bone loss, they're a great preventive step. Consult your GP for personalised advice.

3. Carve our time for mental health and relaxation

Navigating your 40s can be mentally tough – you might be caring for your kids and ageing parents at the same time. For those with ovaries you may also be entering the perimenopausal period which is often marked by increased symptoms of anxiety and depression. While you balance the needs of everyone around you during this period, remember that the best way you can take care of your family and friends is to take care of yourself first. If you experience a change in your mental health, speak with your GP. 

Relaxation exercises – like yoga, meditation and mindfulness – are great ways to manage your stress levels, but we know they’re not everyone’s cup of tea. It’s all about trial and error when it comes to finding a relaxation activity that you enjoy, and it could be as simple as listening to music, reading a book or having a coffee catch-up with a friend.

Our advice? Whatever you do to relax, make sure you switch off the technology around you – that means your phone, computer and TV. Ready to de-stress? Take our Five-day stress less challenge.

4. Maintain a healthy diet

That old chestnut. We constantly get advice on our diet, and while most of us know that fast food and soft drinks are not the healthiest options, it’s harder to know exactly what should be on the menu

Try these simple suggestions.

  • Aim for at least two serves of fruit and five serves of veggies each day. For a simple meal that’ll bulk up your vegetable intake, try this 7-ingredient rainbow salad recipe.

  • Make sure you're eating the right portion sizes for you, and consult your GP or certified dietician if you're unsure.

  • Try to eat fish a few times a week if it's within your dietary preferences or chat with a certified healthcare professional about alternatives.

  • Include fewer refined foods and refined carbohydrates in your regular diet.

  • Make sure you get enough calcium in your diet. Calcium is important for bone strength, which starts to very gradually decline in your 40s.  

Looking to improve your diet? Have no money for fancy ingredients and no time to cook? nib foundation partner No Money No Time has you covered. Take the Healthy Eating Quiz today to see where you can improve your diet and unlock access to personalised recipes from leading Nutrition and Dietetics experts – all without paying a cent!

5. Move your body

Obviously exercise is a good idea at any age, but in your 40s, there are a few things to consider before you don your active wear and pick up a dumbbell.

Make sure you do some aerobic exercises (such as jogging, brisk walking, skipping, dancing, soccer, netball or tennis) to keep your heart healthy. Mix this up with some strength (or resistance) training, which can also improve your bone and muscle strength. Activities like yoga and pilates can improve strength and flexibility and help with balance.

Not only will keeping active help keep you fit, but it can also improve any issues you might have with back and neck pain – both common problems among those of us of a more 'seasoned age'.

Struggling to stay motivated? Don’t worry; it happens to the best of us. The trick is to choose an activity you enjoy – and better still, do it with a friend or neighbour so that it’s harder to say “not today”.

As a general rule, try and fit in 150 minutes (30 minutes a day) of aerobic exercise into your week, as well as strength training twice a week.  

6. Monitor alcohol intake

Cutting down on alcohol helps reduce your risk of several health problems, including certain cancers, liver disease and heart problems. You don’t have to cut it out completely to retain health and wellbeing. A great reference is the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) guidelines to reduce risk of harm from alcohol related disease. They suggest no more than 10 standard drinks a week, and no more than four standard drinks a day. (These guidelines are for those who do not deal with or are diagnosed with addiction illnesses. If you need support with alcohol, the Australian Government has curated a list of organisations that offer support, counselling and more).

Is it time to rethink the amount of alcohol you drink? Find out more about the long-term effects of alcohol

7. Get vaccinated

Unless you’re planning an overseas trip, the main vaccination that healthy people in their 40s need to think about is the flu jab and keeping up their COVID-19 booster shots. Not only does a flu shot reduce your risk of infection, but it can help protect those around you from contracting the flu.

Under the National Immunisation Program, people classified as "at risk" are eligible for a free flu vaccine, but for everyone else, the cost is around $25 and some workplaces offer a free flu vaccine program.

Related: Everything you need to know about the flu vaccine

Your 40s can be the best time of your life and focussing on a healthy lifestyle can mean you’ll have the zest to live this decade to its fullest. Someone wise (and probably in their 40s) once said, "Age is not how old you are, but how many years of fun you’ve had".

Is it time for a health cover check-up?

At nib, we’re committed to keeping you at your healthiest, which is why we’ve put together a list of health checks that are important for people in their 40s.

Everyone’s health cover needs are different. To help you understand what level of cover is best suited to you, get in touch with our cover experts today to learn more about what people like you are commonly claiming on and what cover would be the best fit.