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Although everyone wants to be in great shape, it is easier said than done. When you hit age 40, staying fit can be even more difficult. But becoming fit after 40 can have several health benefits and keep you younger longer.

Staying in shape can be hard at any age. When you are over 40, it can be a real challenge. But with the right knowledge, motivation and effort, you can reclaim your fitness level or become fit for the first time.

The Challenges of Being Fit After 40

In your 20s and 30s, it may have been relatively easy to stay in shape and not gain weight. Your metabolism is often higher in your early adult years, which means you can take in more calories and not gain weight.

Although everyone wants to be fit as they approach their 40s, it is not always easy. For instance, some people may have been fit in their early adult years and slowly gotten out of shape. It is often not one factor that causes people in middle age to become unfit, but rather a combination of several things. Consider some of the following reasons why people over the age of 40 may see a decline in their fitness level.

Decreased Metabolism: After about age 30, your metabolism gradually decreases. A lot of factors determine how fast you burn calories, such as your muscle mass, age, genetics, exercise level and height. But all things being equal, by your 40s, you probably have a slower metabolism than you did in your 30s.  

Hormone Fluctuations: Women are especially prone to hormone fluctuations in their 40s, which can contribute to weight gain and a decreased fitness level. Men also may develop hormonal problems, which affect metabolism and weight.

Muscle Loss: According to the National Institute of Health, after age 30, there is a gradual decrease in muscles mass.

Sedentary Lifestyle: Your 40s is often a busy time in life. Between work and family responsibilities, there may not be much time left over for exercise. Pretty soon, your workouts become fewer, and the pounds start to add up. 

Stress: Stress and lack of sleep can increase cortisol levels in the body, which can increase body fat.

Why Fitness Matters In Middle Age

Although you may be busy with other responsibilities, fitness in your 40s should be a priority.

Staying fit not only means preventing excess weight gain as you age, it also means preserving muscle mass, flexibility and cardiovascular health.

For example, regular exercise can reduce the midlife weight gain that commonly occurs in men and women. According to Harvard Medical Center, most adults in midlife gain about three pounds a year. Although three pounds may not seem like a lot, over time it adds up. Carrying excess weight can also increase your chances of developing high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes. Exercise paired with a healthy diet can prevent middle age spread and health problems associated with weight gain.

But exercise does more than curb weight gain, it can also strengthen bones and prevent fractures as you age. Bone density decreases with age, which means bones break easier. Adding weight bearing exercise to your fitness routine can help decrease your chances of developing brittle and weak bones as you age.

Common medical conditions, which can develop in middle age, such as arthritis, can also be improved by certain types of exercise. Exercise may also help decrease symptoms of other conditions including back pain, heart disease and chronic stress.

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