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Staying Fit Requires More as We Age

September 3, 2013

Originally published Dec. 5, 2011

As we age, it is no secret that it becomes more and more challenging to lose weight and keep it off. According to experts, a slowed metabolism combined with a less active lifestyle, is a major factor contributing to the difficulty in maintaining a healthy weight. According to a Mark Macdonald, a fitness and health expert, as we age, we should modify our diet and exercise regime to continue living a healthy life.

Your 20s are the best time to establish your healthy lifestyle habits. During this time, it is much easier for you to lose weight. “Anything you do, you can drop the weight pretty quickly,” Macdonald told MSNBC in a recent interview. “The longer you keep the weight on, the harder it is to lose.”

Although many 20-somethings can usually eat whatever they want and still maintain a healthy weight, Macdonald recommends eating an hour within waking and eating low-calorie meals (approximately 250 calories) every three to four hours thereafter. Macdonald explains that people in their 20s should focus on calorie intake per meal rather than calorie intake per day. As for exercise, he recommends 30 to 40 minutes of cardio four to five days a week and strength training, such as yoga or Pilates, three days a week. Strength training should be followed by another 30 minutes of walking, alternating between sprinting and slow paces.

Your 30s are the time to build upon the healthy lifestyle habits you established in your 20s. Heather Bauer, nutrition counselor and founder of Nu-Train in New York City, tells MSNBC that any unhealthy habits practiced earlier in life, such as eating junk food and skipping meals, must be broken in your 30s. “You are not in a state of growth anymore so it’s important to listen to your hunger cues and not eat because you think you’re supposed to eat,” Bauer told MSNBC.

Bauer recommends people in their 30s load up on phytonutrients found in fruits and vegetables. While snacking is not ideal, if you must snack, choose snacks that are high in fiber and protein, such as an apple with low-fat string cheese or a tablespoon of peanut butter. This will help keep your energy levels high. As for exercise, you may have to build more muscle to increase your metabolism. Bauer recommends adding more weight-bearing exercises to your cardio routine to increase your metabolic rate.

During your 40s and 50s, exercise and diet remain highly important. However, Bauer recommends loading up on more omega-3 fatty acids. They provide anti-inflammatory benefits and can help with depression, which often leads to weight gain. Bauer also reminds women to get enough calcium for healthier, stronger bones.

People in their 40s and 50s should decrease their caloric intake by 100 calories per day. “This can be done easily by choosing low-fat snack options and eliminating carbohydrates from one meal,” Bauer tells MSNBC. Bauer also recommends low-impact exercise options, such as walking and Zumba.

Once you are 60 and older, maintaining a healthy weight becomes all about caloric intake because you may not be able to move like you did previously. “Eat optimally and do what exercises you can,” said Macdonald in the interview. “If you can do high intensity, do it,” he concluded.

Macdonald recommends walking five days a week, or getting on an elliptical machine or stationary bicycle. However, people in this age group should always consult with their physician for a guided exercise plan, especially if they are at a greater risk for falls.