An easy guide to staying 'matchfit' and healthy after turning 40

Every year I work with thousands of people who tell me "I wish I was fitter and healthier so I could play with my kids, have more energy, not get sick on holidays, feel better about myself…" and so the list goes on.

Traditionally derived from competitive sport, the term 'matchfit' means being ready to play and compete at a consistently high level. Translated into the workplace, being matchfit means being able to effectively negate the biological decline of the body and brain post 40 years, and continue performing at your best both on and off the job.

This blog is all about inspiring you to be matchfit, especially at the critical age of 40 plus.

Why 40?

This is the time where executives' health and wellbeing habitually decline, due to four major factors:

Promotion into more senior roles

Hitting 40 is typically the age where executives are being promoted into more senior management roles which come with expectations of longer hours, corporate travel, and interactions on a global scale operating across multiple time zones.

Relationships and family life

Around this age, executives often have the added pressure of life outside the workplace with permanent relationships and young families to care for, not just in terms of time, but also the financial pressures that come with mortgages, childcare costs and school fees.

Reduction in physical activity

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All too frequently executives tell themselves that they are "too busy" to play sport or do regular workouts and physical exercise is one of the first activities to be cut out in an attempt to squeeze in their other commitments.

Natural biological changes

Increases risk of common health conditions, meaning we have to counterbalance natural decline and the ageing process to keep operating at our peak.

These four factors create a 'perfect-storm' where executives and senior managers feel overloaded, fatigued, and distracted. Rising stress levels, coupled with reduced levels of physical activity and a lack of strategic recovery means the body and brain declines at a much faster pace than in normal healthy ageing. If executives don't start to combat this at 40, it makes work and life much harder at 50, 60 and beyond.

Noticeable changes

From the early 30s, our physical abilities begin to decline. Some of these changes may not be so noticeable until the mid-40s, when the rate of decline can be accelerated by lifestyle and psychological stress.

This can mean everything from reduced muscle mass (thanks to a slower metabolic rate with tendency to store body fat) to lower water content of ligaments and tendons contributing to inflexibility, tendonitis and muscular injury.

The incidence of depression and anxiety also increases, at times triggered by a combination of life stress and a number of these physical body changes.

Steps to staying matchfit in your 40s

Prioritise

Dedicate time to planning the week, ensuring there is enough time between meetings to read and respond to emails, and time to take regular breaks.

Lock specific time into the diary each week to plan, think, focus on strategy, and batch high level cognitive tasks together and work without distractions.

Minimise meetings

Remove unnecessary meetings from the diary, start and finish meetings on time, compress meetings so they don't automatically all run for 60 minutes, aim for at least one walk and talk every day, and talk to people, or at the very least text them, when it is urgent (rather than sending countless emails).

Set time for yourself

Set the 'do not disturb' online status for a set timeframe per day, reducing distractions of IMs, phone calls or email notifications popping up.

Plan for your personal life and prioritise hobbies and passions, relationships and interests outside of work.

Move more 

Aim for 10,000 steps each day. Try walking to work, have walking meetings, use a standing desk and take the stairs between meetings. Physical activity doesn't have to be an hour blocked out in the diary.

Prioritise and commit to exercise. On top of your 10,000 steps each day, aim for three fitness sessions each week and choose a balance between cardio, strength and flexibility. Resistance training in particular has been shown to stimulate HGH and reverse muscle decline.

Choose the healthy option

During weekly planning sessions, look through your diary and see how many corporate breakfasts, lunches and dinners are scheduled – consider whether the choice of restaurant will have healthy options available. Choose protein with plenty of vegetables.

Invest in a piece of wearable technology that can measure daily activity and sleep levels. Measuring yourself gives the motivation to see results and continue with lifestyle changes.

Plan your diet

Organise your food in advance, avoiding white sugar and refined carbohydrates which play havoc with energy levels, cholesterol levels, insulin levels, mood and concentration. You should aim for five or six different types of fresh seasonal vegetables a day and lots of antioxidant foods should be consumed.

Matchfit is much more than just a catchy slogan; it is a way of approaching life and a way of gaining a competitive advantage in the workplace. Make just one change today.

What changes are you willing to make to keep matchfit after 40? Let Andrew know in the comments below.

Workplace performance expert Andrew May is a Partner at KPMG Performance Clinic, a best-selling author and keynote speaker. He has spent the past 20 years helping business leaders and their teams improve performance, productivity and wellbeing.

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