When you turn 40 years old, your body starts to change. You physically and mentally take longer to recover from a late night; your immune system has to work harder to get over a cold; and those nightcaps that used to hardly affect you now give you quite the buzz. And if you don’t pay attention to how your body is changing, you might just put yourself in harm’s way by continuing to do activities you previously didn’t think twice about. To help you stay in fighting shape well through your 40s, 50s, and beyond, we’ve rounded up some of the most dangerous activities after 40 that you should steer clear of.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find an adult of any age who doesn’t enjoy a good Netflix binge every now and again. However, as far as your 40-year-old body and brain are concerned, spending the entire day inside on the couch is one of the most dangerous things you can do.
In one 2018 study from UCLA, researchers studied individuals between the ages of 45 to 75 and found that sedentary behavior, especially for long periods of time, was associated with a thinning of the region of the brain associated with forming new memories. And in another 2017 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers discovered a strong link between time spent being sedentary and mortality risk. So if you’re not already, it’s time to get moving.
Here’s yet another reason not to sit around all day watching Game of Thrones: When researchers from the National Cancer Institute studied more than 221,000 disease-free individuals between the ages of 50 and 71, they found that during the duration of their research, individuals who watched 7 or more hours of television per day were 47 percent more likely to die from things like cancer, stroke, and diabetes than those who only watched one hour or less.
Sports like football, basketball, and soccer are some of the most dangerous activities for people over 40. That’s because, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, these result in the most traumatic brain injury-related emergency room visits every year. And while anyone is susceptible to this brain trauma, the institute notes that the older you are, the more likely you are to suffer serious long-term damage. “Adults age 65 and older are at greatest risk for being hospitalized and dying from TBI,” they note.
CrossFit is a dangerous workout for anyone who does it. In fact, in a 2014 study from the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, researchers surveyed 386 CrossFit participants and found that 75 of them had been injured while doing CrossFit—that’s a 20 percent injury rate! Seeing as older bodies take longer to recover, anyone over 40 should especially think twice before signing up for CrossFit.
But if you think that you can stick to a healthy eating plan via foods prepared in restaurant kitchens, think again. In a 2014 study from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, researchers surveyed more than 9,000 adults and found that those who only made up to one dinner a week at home consumed an average of 137 more calories, 3 more grams of fat, and 16 more grams of sugar daily compared to those who prepared dinner at home six to seven times a week.
Once you’re in your 40s, you need to work extra hard to keep your brain and memory sharp. However, if you’re staying up late every night and tossing and turning when you finally do make it to bed, you might just be sabotaging your cognitive function.
In one 2019 study published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, researchers concluded that the worse a person’s sleep quality was, the worse their memory performance was—and this was especially the case for the older adults in the study. “Taken together, maintaining good sleep quality is especially important for memory performance in older adulthood,” the authors noted in the study’s summary.
Wearing sunscreen is something that you need to take especially seriously now that you’re in your 40s. As dermatologist Robert A. Norman, MD, notes in an article for the Skin Cancer Foundation, anywhere from 40 to 50 percent of Americans will have dealt with skin cancer by their 65th birthday, and “each successive tan or sunburn raises the risks [of skin cancer] further.”
What’s more, a 2004 article published in the journal Oncology found that from 1969 to 1999, melanoma mortality rates rose 19 percent in middle-aged women and 66 percent in middle-aged men despite medical advances. So the next time you hit the beach or pool, make you have that SPF 50 at the ready.
Binge-drinking is never a good idea, but it’s an especially dangerous activity after 40. According to the National Institute on Aging, it takes less alcohol for older individuals to feel inebriated. And if people over 40 aren’t careful, this “can make them more likely to have accidents, including falls and fractures and car crashes.”
Just because you smoked cigarettes all through your 20s and 30s doesn’t mean that you have to keep going in your 40s and beyond. It’s never too late to quit this notorious habit—and there’s proof! In one 2018 study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, researchers followed subjects for nearly 30 years and found that compared to current smokers, long-term smokers who quit were 39 percent less likely to develop lung cancer in the five years after they quit. Seeing as lung cancer is the deadliest cancer for men and women alike, quitting is an option anyone over 40 should consider.
No, using ridesharing apps isn’t going to send you into an early grave. However, if you rely only on these apps and stop driving altogether, then you could be aging your body without even realizing it.
Per a 2016 meta-analysis published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, “driving cessation in older adults appears to contribute to a variety of health problems, particularly depression.” After researchers analyzed 16 studies on this subject matter, then concluded that adults who stop driving are at a greater risk of everything from physical and cognitive decline to social isolation. And to make sure that you don’t fall victim to these dangerous activities, brush up on these 40 Signs of Poor Health No One Over 40 Should Ignore.