How to Get a Younger Body

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Strength Training

Age-Erasing Rx: Do eight to 10 strengthening exercises (eight to 12 reps each) twice a week.

The Payoff

A faster metabolism.
As you get older you start to lose muscle -- more than half a pound every year after age 25, according to the American Council on Exercise. And that can spell trouble for your metabolism, since muscle burns more calories than fat. The rate of decline quickens in your 40s, when estrogen production wanes. "Once that happens, it becomes even harder to lose weight because estrogen helps your body burn calories," says Dr. Wright. But that doesn't mean you have to resign yourself to buying bigger jeans as more birthdays go by. Research conducted at the South Shore YMCA, in Quincy, Massachusetts, found that women who strength-trained two to three times a week for 10 weeks added three pounds of metabolism-boosting muscle mass and lost about five pounds of fat.

A flatter belly.
Does it seem that the older you get, the tougher it is to lose your muffin top? Unfortunately, you're not imagining it. As your metabolism dips and your body fat percentage rises, those extra pounds are more likely to settle deep inside your abdomen as visceral fat -- and that pudge comes with a special set of dangers. "The more visceral fat you have, the greater your risks for heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes," says Dr. Wright. Fortunately, weight training can help fight this process. A study funded by the National Institutes of Health found that overweight and obese premenopausal women who participated in a weight-training program for two years had only a 6 percent increase in visceral fat; those who were simply given advice about exercise saw a 20 percent increase in the same time period.

Stronger bones.
Osteoporosis may not seem like your most immediate health threat, but the reality is that women begin losing bone mass in their 30s. "Bone density declines even further when you go through menopause, so it's crucial to do everything you can to preserve the amount you have now," says Dr. Goldberg. Strength training can help you fight that decline because it actually stimulates bone growth. Your bones behave much like muscles -- when you stress them, they respond by getting stronger.

 

Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal, November 2009.

 

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