The Best Way to Stay Fit After Age 40

Tips to help you combat the loss of muscle mass

Older woman lifting weight while her trainer looks on

You’ve exercised all your life. This is how you’ve always maintained a healthy weight. Now that you’re past age 40, you’re finding that the weight doesn’t stay off as easily as it used to ― even though you’re still exercising.

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Muscle loss as we age is to blame, explains health coach Kevin Heine, ACSM EP-C, of the Center for Functional Medicine.

“We lose as much as 3 to 5 percent of our muscle mass each decade after age 30, and this has a significant impact on metabolism,” says Heine. If you’ve always exercised you’re at an advantage, he says, because having more muscle increases your resting metabolism. This means if you have more muscle, you’re not just burning more calories while you’re exercising, you’re also burning more calories while in a resting state. But there is still a metabolism drop off with each decade.

Keeping that muscle mass

The good news? It’s possible to boost your resting metabolism by increasing your muscle mass. Heine recommends adding strength training to your weekly routine. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends strength training at least two times per week on nonconsecutive days.

“The saying is true ― if you don’t use it, you lose it,” says Heine. In your 40s, it is important to include weight-bearing exercises in your routine to create the muscle mass and keep restoring it because you are losing naturally as you age.

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Doing strength training exercises, what’s also called weight-bearing exercises, does not mean that you have to be a body builder. Gym machines and free weights are great, but there is plenty you can do to build muscle with a couple of dumbbells at home, some resistance bands, or even your own body.

If you weren’t very active in your 20s or 30s, Heine says to start with moderate exercise, such as brisk walking or stair climbing. Keeping the blood flowing also goes a long way toward preventing cardiovascular disease and other conditions as you age.

“When it comes to exercise, the most important thing is that you find something you like to do,” Heine stresses. “If you hate it, you won’t stick with it to see any long-lasting results. Try to find an activity that gets your heart rate up, makes your muscles work and brings you joy.”

A balanced diet

Nutrition also plays a key role in staying fit after age 40. This means eating a balanced diet that includes proteins, healthy fats, smaller amounts of carbs, and minerals and vitamins from fruits and veggies.

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“When you’re exerting energy, you want to make sure that you restore those calories and restore those components of the nutrition in a way that best benefits your body,” Heine says.

To get started on a strength training routine, be sure to talk to your doctor and/or seek a fitness trainer.

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