Now that you’re over 40 have you noticed that your weight is slowly creeping up even though you haven’t changed your eating habits and are working out? Blame it on a slower metabolism which burns fewer calories each day as you age. Your metabolic rate (the rate at which your body burns calories) slows down 5 percent for every 10 years after age 40, making it harder to fight weight gain over 40. On top of that, after age 50, the decline in muscle mass (sarcopenia) occurs at a rate of 1 to 2 percent annually.
“Since muscle burns substantially more calories than fat, muscle mass loss causes our metabolisms to slow down, says Karen Ansel, MS, RDN, CDN. “So even if you have a healthy diet you’ll still gain weight unless you either eat less or start a workout program that includes resistance training to prevent muscle loss.”
You Can Keep Muscles Strong
“There’s plenty of research out there to show that you can prevent that (muscle) loss with proper exercise; it doesn’t have to happen,” says Monique Ryan, MS, RDN, CSSD, LDN, author of Sports Nutrition for Endurance Athletes. “You can build muscle at any age. Even in your 80s and 90s, you can build muscle.”
A recent study by the Jean Mayer Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University showed that a combination of strength training, cardio and consuming high quality protein (beef was used in the study) can halt and even reverse muscle loss in people over 50. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), regular strength training can not only help in keeping your weight at a healthy level but it can also help reduce the signs and symptom of various diseases and chronic conditions including arthritis, diabetes, osteoporosis, and back pain.
Enjoy Your Workouts
Jacque Ratliff, Exercise Physiologist at the American Council on Exercise stresses the importance of enjoying whichever exercise or workout you choose. “Whether that is, rollerblading or water aerobics, whatever they enjoy doing, that’s what they should do. If they don’t enjoy it, it’s not going to become part of their lives.”
In addition to strength training at least twice a week, Ansel recommends that women over 40 perform at least 30 minutes of moderate to intense cardio four to five days a week and also increase their protein intake. “Protein provides the building blocks our bodies need to create muscle so it’s critical for preventing muscle loss that can cause our metabolisms to tank.”
Ratliff also sees benefits in practicing yoga and/or Pilates. “It helps with the mind/body connection. The relaxation aspect. The stress reduction aspect,” she says, adding that these types of workouts help women maintain balance and good posture.
“It’s really important to listen to your body to make sure what you’re doing is appropriate for it, that it’s healthy for it, that it’s safe and that you’re getting the best results as far as health and fitness goes.”
Also make sure to keep an eye on your nutrition. Consume enough protein and other essential nutrients to ensure that each decade over 40 is healthy and fit.