Lose Your Thirty-Something Weight Gain

Facing your 40s with some excess baggage? Your body’s changed, and so should how you eat and work out. Here, the switches that will slim you down.

By Alyssa Shaffer
stomach tape measure picture

Getting Fit Again

Your 30s went by in a flash. In the whirlwind of work, family, and social obligations, exercise was often the first thing dropped from your daily schedule. Now you look at yourself in a mirror and wonder, what the hell happened? Your jeans feel tight, your waistline’s got a jelly roll, and there’s some disturbing flapping coming from where your triceps used to be.

"At the end of the 30s, your hormones start to change. With estrogen levels dropping and testosterone levels rising, women often begin storing fat the same place men do — in their middles," says Michele Olson, PhD, an exercise physiologist at Auburn University in Montgomery, Alabama. Factor in your slowing metabolism, and it looks as if the numbers on your scale might only head upward.

The good news is that you can reverse course. While dropping excess pounds won’t be as easy as in your 20s, just a few changes in your activity level can bring about big results.

"Exercise is like your personal fountain of youth," says Geralyn Coopersmith, an exercise physiologist and the national manager of personal trainer education for Equinox Fitness health clubs. "It retards the aging process on a cellular level." A recent Spanish study found moderate exercise boosts the functioning of the cellular engines called mitochondria, which helps counter the signs of growing older. Similarly, British researchers working with 2,400 twins found that the more physically active of each pair had significantly more youthful telomeres (the tips of chromosomes inside cells) than the less active sibling.

There’s no reason to overhaul your whole routine. "You simply need to adjust what you’re doing to get more out of every workout. It’s a matter of working smarter, not necessarily harder," says Keli Roberts, a Los Angeles-based trainer and spokesperson for the American Council on Exercise. Start with easy tweaks to your routine. You’ll soon become stronger, slimmer, and healthier, for your 40s and beyond.

Changes to Make

If you spent your 30s: Vowing to exercise three to four times a week
From now on: Do a little something every day

The best intentions can be thwarted by your calendar; if it’s overscheduled, no wonder you’re missing those triweekly dates at the gym. A better tack: Vow to do something that will get you breathing hard for at least 10 minutes, seven days a week. "Even if you just set the timer on the kitchen stove and vigorously clean the house or run up and down the stairs, you’ll do something good for your heart — and your waistline," says Andrea Metcalf, a Chicago-based trainer and MORE magazine contributing editor. (An added benefit: If you aim for a 10-minute session, you’ll often end up exercising for 15 or 20 minutes, which is even better.) A study from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine found that women who were told to exercise for at least 10 minutes two to four times a day, five days a week, lost five pounds more and worked out on more days and for significantly longer than those who were simply instructed to exercise for a block of 20 to 40 minutes five times per week.

If you spent your 30s: Cycling through the same weight machine circuit
From now on: Use free weights

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