Your body in your 50s
At this age you will find it takes a lot more diligence to stay in shape. Weight creeps on, often imperceptibly, in your 40s and by the time you reach your 50th birthday you are likely to be 4-7lb (2-3kg) heavier than you were a decade previously. Partly, it's down to the fact that your body needs 200 fewer calories in this decade than it required in your 20s, but there are other factors at play.
Your metabolism slows by 2pc per decade from your 40s onwards and hormonal changes - dwindling levels of oestrogen for women and testosterone for men - lead to the accumulation of belly fat and also to male moobs and female back fat.
Female fat distribution changes most markedly between 40 and 55 with many women finding they become a classic apple shape - rounder in the middle than they were previously - which should set alarm bells ringing. In both men and women, an expanding midriff is a sign that fat is settling not just visibly, but more dangerously around the internal organs where it can raise the risk of problems like diabetes and heart disease.
There are changes in your capacity for exercise, too. From your 40s onwards, your maximal aerobic capacity (the efficiency with which your body uses oxygen) begins to drop steadily, declining by as much as 10pc each decade. Your joints are likely to become stiffer with age as wear and tear on the body takes its toll.
The good news - and there's plenty - is that there's a lot you can do to offset these side effects of ageing. Weight and strength training is a must. Forget all preconceptions about it making you bulky - it won't, but it could help you blast fat and will definitely stem the freefall in muscle mass that occurs with age. A study published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise showed that weight training three times a week coupled with a healthy diet helped a group of middle-aged people shed more weight than those who walked or jogged on a treadmill for the same duration. Weight training stimulated the burning of extra calories, but interestingly it also resulted in better movement patterns and walking posture.
Aerobic activity remains important, but you can cut down on duration or distance and aim for a maximum of 45 minutes cycling, swimming or running. Do as much walking as possible - it is a panacea for good health at any age.
It's also weight bearing so helps strengthen bones that begin to lose mass from the mid-30s onwards and which nosedive in strength among women in the 50s who have reached the menopause. Regular brisk walking can lower your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes as much as running according to a six-year study in the American Heart Association's journal. Aim to do as much of it as you can.
Sunday Indo Living