As you may be able to attest if you’ve reached middle age, bodily changes take place as you grow older that aren’t always conducive to staying in shape. Men and women gradually lose lean muscle mass and gain body fat as they age, and a large portion of that fat can tend to settle in the midsection. To get fit in your forties and achieve better health, you’ll need to take measures to counteract that natural phenomenon.
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It’s easy to knock walking as an ineffective form of exercise because it burns fewer calories than more intense activities, but there are a host of benefits to picking up your feet and moving more, no matter how slow your pace. Frequent walking lowers blood pressure and cholesterol levels, reduces the risk of diabetes, improves strength, boosts your mood and helps keep your weight in check. For middle-aged men and women, walking is ideal because it minimizes strain on joints and muscles, meaning it carries a very low risk of injury.
Because of the natural shift that occurs in body fat and lean muscle mass as you age, it’s important to preserve the muscle you do have and attempt to build more. Thus, strength training is particularly beneficial in your forties. If you’ve never lifted weights or worked with resistance before, it may take some adjustment, but most exercises are simple to learn and easy to do. The National Institute on Aging recommends starting with lateral raises, overhead raises, arm curls, rows, pushups and leg raises. Use light weights until you get used to the movements, and try to complete 10 to 15 reps of each exercise.
Exercise can take you a long way toward getting and staying fit in your forties, but it isn’t the only component in the equation. Healthy eating also makes a difference, especially because your metabolism naturally slows as you age. One way to cut down on total calories and get more nutrients is to prepare your own meals. According to HelpGuide.org, processed foods, prepared meals and restaurant dishes tend to have more fat, sugar, salt and calories than homemade foods. For the most vitamins and minerals and the fewest net calories, focus on whole and natural foods such as whole grains, lean proteins, beans, nuts, nonfat dairy, fruits and vegetables.
To ensure that your personal fitness plan has the best chance of success, talk it over with your doctor before starting and heed any personalized recommendations that you receive. Listen to your body as you adjust to the new plan, and go easy on any exercises or foods that seem to cause you discomfort. Finally, remember that getting and staying in shape is a gradual, continuous process, so if you deviate from your plan, just get back on track as soon as possible.