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Healthy Living

Midlife Minute: How Exercise Can Help Preserve Your Muscles (and Much More)

By Sheryl Kraft

Created: 04/18/2011
Last Updated: 08/13/2012

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Strength training gets so much more important as we age because we lose muscle. It starts in our late 30s or early 40s; after age 40 the average woman starts losing about ½ pound of muscle per year, even more if she does not actively use her muscles. And if you don't replace the muscle you lose, you'll increase the body fat percentage in your body. As you gain muscle, your body burns calories more efficiently.

Strength is not just about being strong enough to lift groceries and open heavy doors—it's about health. Loss of muscle mass affects balance, coordination and the ability to do simple things like get up out of a chair and even open a jar. Strength training can increase your bone density and reduce the risk of osteoporosis. It helps strengthen your heart and control blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes. Some research points out that regular strength training even sharpens your focus and memory.

This matters
. We're all getting older and with that comes taking responsibility for our health. I look at it this way: there is a choice. Yes, choosing to stay strong takes some work, but the payoffs are huge. It's absolutely possible to stem the loss that comes with age by both building and preserving your muscles.

Tune in tomorrow, when I talk with fitness guru Kathy Smith and she reveals her secrets to staying one step ahead of aging.

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"After age 40 the average woman starts losing about ½ pound of muscle per year, even more if she does not actively use her muscles."

Good to know (um, I think.) I better get the weight out.

A woman over 40

This is so important and something that I've let fall by the wayside. I get out and walk with the dogs, but have faltered in my yoga. I'm a person who needs the structure of a class, but I've had transportation issues and let it go. You've made me want to start it up again.

I've always been a fan of Kathy Smith. I used to do her video workouts in the '80s!

Excellent points. Sure, being a little firmer in spots would be great, but it's really about health. Strong girls rule!

I would love to see a post about a training schedule...maybe with the exercises you recommend (hint, hint!).

Behind the scenes, forces are already at work to develop quick-fix solutions for the Baby Boomer market. As the medical community strives to create techniques for diagnosing "sarcopenia" (the natural loss of muscle that occurs with aging), pharmaceutical companies have non-steroidal "muscle drugs" in the pipeline and food giants are producing products to support muscle strength. But why would you want to take another pill or supplement when there is a safe, effective solution at hand? Experts say that exercise, and specifically strength training, is the best approach to restoring or maintaining muscle mass and function.

It's amazing how so many women are very keen on aerobic exercise but neglect strength training. Even doing push ups every day is better than nothing. Regular strength training is key to a healthy body. Great post.

I love your little reminders - so very timely to me. I'm definitely feeling out of shape!

strength training is something i don't focus on and know i should. i have a set of hand weights gathering dust at home. i don't know why i find it so hard to work that into my routine but as i head towards -- gulp -- 50 know that i really must.

I know you're right! Just wish I enjoyed it.

For me, the secret is... TV addiction! I keep my weights and stretch bands in a basket by the TV, and do strength training while I watch my favorite shows, like Castle and The Good Wife. I make it a reward; I can't watch my show unless I get out the weights. Works for me!

This is such a good reminder, because I tend to fall into the habit of just walking a few times a week and doing yoga once a week, but not much else. Gotta get the weights out.

Thanks for this valuable reminder!

I did some strength training just this morning and it felt so good. But I'm trying to find a good app to help keep me challenging myself, any suggestions?

I'm SO bad at this. However, I've been reading about and considering trying a kettle bell. Any experience with those?

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