Hitting your 40s and 50s is no longer the dreaded milestone that it was once. Fit and healthy 40-year-olds no longer talk about being over the hill, but about their latest HIIT workout and possible fulfilling career changes.
50-year-olds on the other hand, discuss the adventure treks they’re planning and at what high school they should enrol their kids.
So, basically, turning 40 now is like turning 30 a decade ago.
1. We’re living longer
In Australia, life expectancy is at an all-time high, with children born today expected to live to an average of 84.5 years for girls and 80.4 years for boys, up from 83.3 and 78.5 only 10 years ago.
As our life expectancy climbs, the average person gets younger in the sense that they have more years to live.
Consistent physical training and good nutrition means your body can renew and repair itself at a faster rate than ever before.
2. We’re exercising more
Regular exercise is one of the main reasons why older generations are healthier than ever. Research shows that regular exercise — strength training in particular — is good for your brain as well as your body.
According to Professor Maria Fiatarone Singh, a geriatrician at the University of Sydney, exercising as you age will keep your brain switched on and lift your mood.
“There is evidence that improvements in cognitive function and mental health in older adults are linked to strength gains, or intensity of the strength training,” she said. Age with grace, but also with gains.
3. Our immune systems remember more
Your immune system is responsible for prolonging your life. It does this by developing an “immune memory” which quickly recognises and destroys invader cells. John Upham from the University of Queensland says that immune memories are staying around longer than ever before.
“Immune systems can remember viruses for 40 or 50 years. It does begin to forget in your 70s or 80s, but there’s a sweet spot for people — particularly from your 40s through to your late 60s — where the immune system remembers the viruses experienced over the years,” he says.
This increased protection results in fewer infections. Today, over 50s average just one or two colds a year, compared to 20-somethings who get the sniffles three or more times a year.
4. We’re having children later
Thanks to fertility treatments, it’s now possible to become a parent much later in life.
Research suggests older parents are more tolerant and invest greater time and effort into raising a child. Having experienced a full life before having children is also good for us and as we age, we become less self-conscious, which means a big confidence boost good for both parents and bubs.
This story originally appeared in Fitness First magazine.