When you’re growing up, “40” is definitely the number that looms in the future as a giant stop sign. It’s like there are regular milestones in life before that—finish school, get established in a career, buy your first home, partner up, start a family—and “after 40” can seem like a big, scary blank slate.
But take a look around at actual women in their 40s: Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Lopez, Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Aniston. They’re radiantly healthy, energetic, and fit, living interesting lives—basically, they’re killing it.
How do they do it? Our experts say your 40s is the time to clean up your act, if you haven’t already—treating yourself well is the best way to do damage control. That means eating whole foods (Cheetos are going to have much more of an impact on you from here on out), making sleep a priority, and getting regular endorphin boosts from straight-up fun—so make time for feel-good hangs like workouts you actually love, sex, and of course BFF time.
How else to feel fab in your 40s? Read on for our experts’ full regimen for fitness, nutrition, skin care, and more.
When you reach your 40s you often still have the drive and energy to crush your workouts, but this is the time when joint issues can start creeping in, says trainer Laurent Amzallag (who has gone on tour with Oprah Winfrey and was named one of the country’s top 50 trainers by the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports). “The body isn’t what it used to be, and my clients often start to notice some issues with their knees, shoulders, and backs at this age,” he says.
To prevent injury, he suggests that those in their fifth decade make a point to do longer warm-ups, more stretching, and more core exercises when they work out. He says resistance training is still key as the metabolism starts to slow, and that exercises that work the stabilizing muscles should become more of a priority—think Pilates or strength training while balancing on an exercise ball.
At this age, holistic nutritionist Elissa Goodman says her clients’ biggest concerns are symptoms related to perimenopause (which starts around age 47—although hormone production can slow beginning at 35), a down-shifting metabolism, low energy, and difficulty sleeping. Her number-one rule? “In your 40s, avoiding processed and junk foods needs to become non-negotiable,” she proclaims. “They are empty calories, offer no health, beauty, or longevity-promoting nutrients, and at this point will only have a detrimental effect on your physical and emotional wellness.”
“In your 40s, avoiding processed and junk foods needs to become non-negotiable.”
Okay, so that doesn’t mean you need to completely give up your chocolate habit—Goodman highly recommends raw, organic cacao as it’s loaded with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and mood-enhancing tryptophan (which is why it’s the latest club drug—seriously). She also advises filling your plate with fermented foods for good gut health, as well as phytoestrogen-packed edamame, which can be beneficial for women who are showing signs of menopause. She explains: “The health benefits of edamame and other whole, organic soy products include a lowered risk of osteoporosis, fewer hot flashes, and even cardiovascular health benefits.”
Omega-3 supplements should be a staple for women in their 40s, says Goodman, due to their protective effect on the brain. Digestive enzymes are also important, since our bodies naturally slow production of them as we age, and she loudly sings the praises of milk thistle, too. “This antioxidant and anti-inflammatory [herb] supports liver function and metabolism and promotes healthy cholesterol levels—all very important in your 40s,” she says.
“This decade is often when people are at their highest productivity in outer life, with children, work, and passions,” says Heather Peterson, chief yoga officer at CorePower Yoga. “But often, things become so busy that peacefulness is missing and perhaps your health and energy become depleted.”
That’s why your 40s are a great age to start adding restorative yoga poses into your routine, she says. “Try a supported child’s pose—stack four pillows from your bed, two long and two deep, and then lay your belly over them. Stay in that pose for four to eight minutes, and then try ‘legs up the wall’ pose for four to eight minutes.” To take it to another level, add a guided meditation to the mix. (Here’s one that’s great for the upcoming holiday season—or you can always try one of the many meditation apps on the market right now.)
If you’ve developed a consistent skin care routine before 40, reaching this milestone is no big deal, says aesthetician and therapeutic skin coach Hayley Roy. But if you haven’t? “We start to notice a huge shift in our elasticity and oil production here, so it can feel overwhelming when it seems like your skin is aging overnight,” she says. “Signs of sun and environmental damage, along with collagen loss, are huge concerns for this age group.”
In your 40s, she says, you’ve got to up your hydration game—she loves Kahina Giving Beauty’s Night Cream—and do regular masks at home. “The Laurel Whole Plant Organics Brighten Mask is loaded with healing herbs such as camu camu, acerola berry, and gotu kola, which makes it excellent for repairing damaged skin while gently restoring firmness,” she says. Another pro tip: Oxygenate your skin and release toxins by sweating daily and dry brushing.
If you really want to detox, fans of infrared saunas say there’s no better way—we investigated for ourselves. Or try this digital detox plan to let your body do its thing, sans smartphone.