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Many people are physically fit in their teens and twenties, but get out of shape in their thirties, forties, and beyond. It's not that it is any easier to stay in shape when you're young or any harder to get back into shape when you are older. The problem for most of us is that we have more "stuff" in our lives as we get older, and less time for exercise.

That's why the very first step in getting back into shape is finding and committing the time to exercise. If you can't find three hours a week, preferably in more than three sessions, it's going to be very hard to get back into good fit. However, if you can make a date with fitness three or more times a week, that's a good start. From there, it's just a matter of not making the whole process more difficult than it has to be. Here are some basic rules.

1. Don't ignore sprains, strains, or niggling little pains.

Exercise is supposed to challenge you. It's supposed to make you sweat. It's supposed to make you work hard. It's not supposed to give little, niggling pains that just won't go away.The basic rule isn't hard to follow. If harder exercise causes pain, try something easier. 

There are fortunately two different ways to build muscle strength. One way to is to lift heavier and heavier and heavier weights (or to work against increasing resistance of some other kind). You build muscle by maximal exertion.

The other way to build muscle is to increase the number of repetitions with a lighter weight or lower resistance. Do more and more easy, painless reps of an exercise, and your muscles will still grow.

2. Don't be afraid to be eccentric.

Eccentric exercise isn't activities like extreme ironing, alligator wrestling, and nude parasailing. Eccentric exercise involves movements that lengthen a muscle while it is under a load. For instance, lowering an overhead weight toward your body and letting a pulley take it back up is eccentric exercise. You can find out a lot about eccentric exercise by doing a search on Steady Health.

Eccentric exercises offer a braking system to protect joints and tendons against injury. They are a great way to continue exercising when you have a mild injury, and they are recommended for seniors who are returning to exercise after the age of 60. Just as a side note, I'm over 60 myself, and I'm going to spend the rest of the evening after I write this answer doing eccentric exercise in the gym.

3. Protein, fat, and carb are all essential in the diet.

The human body needs all of the macronutrients. It doesn't need just fat or just protein or just carbohydrates. As long as we tend to eat "real food," our bodies tell us how much of each we need to eat. If we don't eat enough protein, we develop protein cravings. However, if we don't eat any carbohydrates at all, oddly enough, we also develop protein cravings.

Too much protein can be a problem. The liver converts amino acids our bodies can't use into glucose (sugar). If we don't burn the sugar through exercise, it becomes fat. In other words, excess protein can be converted into fat.

However, a byproduct of this process is the production of a toxic chemical called urea. Urea is highly acidic. Our body will alkalize it. There's no risk of acidosis due to eating too much meat. However, the kidneys neutralize the acidity of urea with calcium that comes from bones. Eating too much protein can cause bone problems.

How do you avoid eating too much protein? Just be sure to eat some carbohydrates. As little as 40 grams (200 calories) of carbohydrates a day is OK when you are sendentary. You need at least as many carbohydrate calories as you burn while you are exercising. If you make sure you get some protein and some carbohydrate and some fat at every meal, you are far less likely to go wrong with diet. You need all of the major macronutrients to build muscle and stay healthy.

If you are committed to getting exercise, you aren't ignoring pain, you are doing the eccentric exercises that help you avoid injury, and you are eating a balanced diet, your health will show it. 

It may be hard to lose fat or gain muscle, but you will feel better, and your body will eventually get the message that it can change into a sleeker, slimmer, healthier contour to match your lifestyle changes.

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