The older you get, the harder it is to become fit, especially after "the Big 4-0." Once you enter middle age, it is far easier to maintain good fitness than to get in shape for the first time. And this is even truer if you're a woman. As women enter middle age, their sex hormones begin to change.
If you're a woman over age 40, your body produces less "healthy estrogen" and more estrone, the type of estrogen produced by your fat tissue. Estrone contributes to insulin resistance, cravings for sweets, and loss of muscle mass.
Is blaming your extra flab on your hormones a cop-out? Well, there is actually some truth to it… but it's not insurmountable.
As you age, your resting metabolic rate tends to decline by about five percent for every decade of life past age 40, according to Madelyn Fernstrom, PhD, director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Weight Management Center and associate director of the UPMC Nutrition Center.8 Pamela Peeke, MD, a specialist in nutrition and stress at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, lists three primary factors that control your metabolism:
~Genetics ~Thyroid function (thyroid problems are ten times more common in women than in men) ~Muscle mass ~Recent research suggests women on average will lose muscle mass twice as fast as men the same age, which can hamper their ability to lose or maintain their weight. ~And exercising can become more challenging for aging men and women due to AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), a muscle-building process that declines with age.
But even with these built-in biological saboteurs, it doesn't mean you're destined to gain weight later in life. Good nutrition and optimal exercise help counter these biological tendencies. Exercising – even briefly – can change your DNA in a way that readies your body for increased muscle strength and fat burning. In fact, exercise can boost your metabolism by addressing all three factors listed above. Additionally, it boosts your natural human growth hormone production, which is important for maintaining muscle mass as you age. Exercise reduces inflammation, which is a driving force behind most chronic conditions; exercise also improves your strength and protects your brain as you age
In a particular study, the effects of fitness were statistically greater in terms of delaying illness than in prolonging life. While those in the fittest group did tend to live longer than the least fit, perhaps more important was the fact that they were even more likely to live well during more of their older years.