Middle age generally brings a stiffening of your blood vessels and a drop in testosterone levels accompanied by a loss of lean muscle tissue and increase in body fat. However, Harvard Health Publications says that a regular exercise program can help combat some of these unwelcome changes. Cardiovascular exercise will help keep your heart and lungs strong and burn fat, and strength-training exercises will help retain and increase lean muscle tissue. Consult your doctor before starting a new exercise program.
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If you are a beginner, or haven't exercised for a while, Professor Marcas Bamman Ph.D., of the University of Alabama in Birmingham, emphasizes the importance of starting slowly and building your strength and fitness gradually to minimize the risk of injury. Don't try to immediately do what you could do 20 years ago at college or high school. He recommends cardiovascular exercises such as running and cycling three or four times a week and strength training twice a week.
A Healthy Heart
After the age of 25 to 30, the average man's maximum heart rate starts to steadily decline, and the ability to pump blood drops by 5 to 10 percent every 10 years, according to Harvard Health Publications. Keep your heart strong and healthy with a cardiovascular program of indoor or outdoor activities such as brisk walking, jogging or cycling. A study by the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, reported in the September 2001 issue of "Circulation," found that these activities improved the heart function of 50-year-old men. Brisk walking gently elevates your heart and breathing rates, and is ideal if you are a beginner or have joint problems. Introduce jogging as you get fitter and stronger.
Take It to the Gym
A total-body gym workout program of cardiovascular and strength-training exercises helps middle-aged men lose weight and regain lost lean muscle tissue. Start your workout with a 15- to 20-minute cardiovascular routine on the treadmill, stationary bike or elliptical machine. Apart from burning calories and fat, this helps warm you up in preparation for your strength-training routine. Use a combination of resistance machines and free weights to work the major muscles of your chest, upper back, shoulders and legs. Pushing exercises such as the seated chest press and the seated dumbbell shoulder press also work your triceps. Pulling exercises such as the lat pulldown or seated row also hit your biceps. The seated leg press works your quadriceps with a secondary effect on your hamstrings.
The Joys of Yoga
If you prefer less strenuous activities, yoga may help improve your fitness. According to a study published in the July 2005 issue of "Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine," yoga may help overweight middle-aged men control their weight. Your muscles become less flexible and you lose joint mobility as you get older, and by the time you hit 50, years of bad posture may lead to neck and back pain. Yoga helps combat these problems by moving your joints through their full range of movement with gentle stretching exercises and advanced breathing techniques, says the "Yoga Journal."
- Harvard Health Publications: Exercise and Aging: Can You Walk Away From Father Time?
- UAB News: UAB Doctors Share Fitness and Exercise Advice for the Middle-Aged Man
- Circulation: Effect of Age on the Cardiovascular Response to Exercise
- Alternative Therapies In Health and Medicine: Yoga Practice Is Associated With Attenuated Weight Gain in Healthy, Middle-Aged Men and Women
- Yoga Journal: Yoga for Boomers and Beyond