by Michelle Sutton-Kerchner
A couple kids, aging parents, and an active career do not require weight gain. Discover how to be in the best shape of your life, halfway through it …
Before you write off your waistline simply because you’re in the fourth decade (or later) of life, realize many look and feel their best right about now. Middle-age spread is not a birth right. Some approach these years assuming weight gain is a right-of-passage. With that attitude, be prepared for some unpleasantness when you cross to the other side.
Make These Your Fittest Years
If forty is the “new thirty” and fifty the “new forty,” why follow the age-old presumptions about settling down and spreading out. Living a healthy lifestyle can improve your age, regardless of the year on your birth certificate. Biological shifts are unavoidable. But, how you live gives them a forceful shove in the right direction.
Once you let go of stereotypes, get down to business. Accomplish your best self possible. Here are some simple steps for defying age-related weight gain and that kink in your back. As for the growing need for bifocals, well, pick a stylish look that suits your face. Not everything is unavoidable.
Redefine Physical Activity
Much of a middle-ager’s day may be spent running around at a crazy pace. Do not confuse this with actual exercise. Fitness cannot be accomplished by a morning dash around the house looking for keys, followed by an evening sprint to your train platform. Lugging kids and bags to and from a list of daily destinations does not count. Neither does transporting your older relatives to doctor appointments. The body needs to be fatigued in a healthy, productive way. Heart rate needs to be elevated and a good sweat needs to ensue– for at least 20 minutes daily.
A successful workout includes cardio, strengthening, and stretching. In order to reap the health benefits of true exercise, a workout should challenge the body to perform at a higher intensity. Physical activity throughout your day is important, as is a well-rounded fitness routine. At this life stage, much of the day may be spent sitting in an office environment, behind the wheel, or as a spectator to our family’s many activities. Increase movement during these times, and be sure to schedule time for a formal fitness routine– to counteract the stress of all the other physical activity in your day.
Change It Up
Doing what you’ve always done does not do it anymore! To the surprise of many, a mix of hormones and metabolism sabotage the ability to eat ice cream with only a daily walk to burn it off. Pounds suddenly may creep on, especially in the waist, for those who never previously struggled with weight issues. Age makes one susceptible to easier weight gain, but it is avoidable.
Offset your aging metabolic rate. Metabolism decelerates at about 5 percent every decade after age 40 years. Your resting metabolic rate is the rate at which you burn calories while inactive, such as while sitting or sleeping. A person whose resting metabolic rate is 1,200 calories per day at age 40, will decrease to 1,140 at age 50. The fix: To maintain your weight at age 40, eat 100 calories less daily.
A mere 100-calorie shift contributes to the unavoidable effect of aging. The real issue with weight gain lies in lifestyle. You cannot live and eat in the carpe-diem style you may have enjoyed since your twenties, if you want to wear the same size pants. Consume 100 less daily and better maintain your current weight, even during midlife. Consume the same or 100 more daily, and easily gain about 10 pounds in one year. Small change; big impact.
Pump up the volume on metabolism by increasing muscle mass. Sure, cardio burns calories and is a great way to shed pounds. Don’t discount muscles’ role in burning fat. Muscle is metabolically active, which allows the body to burn calories more efficiently, even while at rest.
Women typically lose muscle mass twice as quickly as men their age. Menopause contributes by introducing unique hormonal factors. Combined with increased risk for osteoporosis at this life-stage, strength training is an excellent solution.
Middle-age women likely were not exposed to weightlifting during their bone-building years. Weight training only recently became popular for the average exerciser, as opposed to the athlete or diehard fitness veteran. Pick up those weights, use arm bands, incorporate resistance equipment. Build muscle, protect bones, and burn away midlife threats to your waistline. That goes for men, too, of course. Make cardio routines much more effective with muscles to accelerate the burn.
One pound of muscle mass has the ability to burn between 35 and 50 calories daily. One pound of fat burns about 5 to 10 calories daily. It is time to make that personal training appointment.
Doing the same exercise every day transforms it into mere physical activity. To burn calories and increase strength, you need to stimulate beyond the familiar. Use the Center to add variety and increase intensity to your tried-and-true routine before it is no longer “true.” Now more than ever, you must exercise to the capacity your body deserves.
Never Too Late
Many members enthusiastically share how they have become their fittest self later in life. Research proves you can decrease muscle loss, at any age, with a consistent fitness program that includes cardio and strength training. Good news, especially considering between ages 30 and 50 years, an individual may lose between five and 10 pounds of muscle mass. Starting at age 40, muscle performance deteriorates at approximately five percent per decade. This accelerates after age 65 years.
Longtime fitness buffs tend to preserve cardiovascular health twice as well as their sedentary counterparts. One study proved six months of endurance training reversed all diminished aerobic capacity thought to be age related in 50-year-old men.
The pizza you lived on during college years did the job. You avoided cafeteria food, enjoyed every bite, and didn’t spend a fortune. As a young adult, just starting out, following the latest fad diet seemed to acceptably counteract visits to the corner hotdog stand. Those days are long since justifiable.
With the plethora of healthful choices made conveniently available, even packed days and overtired nights are not a good excuse to eat junk. Quite the opposite. It is time to consume foods to increase longevity, of both daily stamina and long-term health. Eat for better health and well-being. Use snacks wisely to gain satisfying protein and, perhaps, improve energy level and mood. These foods exist. Put nutrition to work for your current body.
To maintain your current weight, or lose excess pounds, you may need to consume a little less. Remember those 100 calories we analyzed. Eating less should not sacrifice good nutrition. Be sure the calories consumed are full of vitamins and minerals. Produce, whole grains, and lean protein are wise choices at any age. Treat yourself to the occasional dark chocolate. Surely, they will one day find it also helps defy aging. (Or not.)
Life Is Still Half Full
Midlife is a stage of progress for many. You may be on your way to having it all. You often feel like you are doing it all. Power through by making health a priority. Embrace the opportunity to be your best, with half your life still ahead of you.
“Fighting 40s Flab,” by Neil Osterweil at www.webmd.com.
Glasses with style: www.flickr.com/photos/pevelpetros/8179954008/
Time runs: www.flickr.com/photos/khalidalbaih/6025442590
Woman with weights: http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/ARw1VFJiLc0jSU7veq6NtA