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Fitness after 40: Building the right workout for a better body

Exercise! It’s vital to your health and well-being, so here’s an efficient guide to what you need to do to stay (or get) in shape at midlife. If you need motivation, check here, here, and here. (And disclaimer: you may want to check with your doctor before beginning a new exercise program if you have health concerns or you haven’t exercised in a long time.)

Cardio

You’ve got to mix it up a few times a week to keep improving your cardiovascular health. Here are three ways to introduce variety into your routine.
  1. Interval training—sprinting alternated with a moderate pace. Find more here.
  2. Circuit training—alternating between different cardio activities (cycling, running, elliptical machine) that work different muscles.
  3. Speed play—a mixture of interval training and continuous training. Once you have a good basic level of fitness, you might run a mile at a strong pace, recover by walking, and then do some intervals. Although this method originated with runners, you can use it with any type of cardio.

Strength training

A prescription for pumping iron 2 to 3 times per week may be just what the doctor ordered. Around age 30, you begin losing roughly 1% of your muscle mass each year. Because muscle burns fat, this actually leads to fat-based weight gain. You can reverse this process and fight osteoporosis by weight training. You’ll need to work your major muscle groups (including legs, arms, core, and butt) with some basic moves, like this one:



As you get stronger, you must increase the amount of resistance you use to keep building strength. Your muscles should fatigue between 8 to 12 or 12 to 15 repetitions. If you don’t want to use weights, try medicine balls, cables, or bands for resistance.

Posture, balance, and core strength

Try working these into your routine once or twice a week:
  • To prevent or lessen shoulder, neck, and upper-back pain, try these moves.
  • To improve your balance, try these.
  • These exercises will help to further strengthen your core and alleviate back pain.

Stretching

Taking brief stretch breaks every day is a great idea (especially if you work behind a computer). Muscles and tendons in your legs and back tend to stiffen up, and staying flexible requires attention as we get older. Work these stretches into your routine.

And don’t forget: you'll need plenty of sleep to recover from this physical exercise, plus a healthy diet.

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