Middle Age and Getting into Better Shape

Updated on May 04, 2016
P.G. asks from San Antonio, TX
15 answers

Approaching 50 and not happy with my body. I've started cutting down on soda, working towards cutting it out. Watching carbs. I need to exercise more and am going to do that.

Part of my shape is genetics. My mom/grandmom/great grandmom both had the "frumpy lumpy" midsection thing going on.

I know it's harder to pull it back together when your metabolism shifts so for those moms who were able to get a bit healthier and a bit less "frumpy/lumpy", what worked for you? I'm willing to make exercise A priority, but it won't be THE priority over family time/school. Need to find a way to work it all together.

I have a funky knee (BIG jumping's an issue), shoulder, and wrist. Weights can be a problem. I belong to the YMCA and I'm pretty sure some machines might be doable with no problem.

What can I do next?

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answers from Philadelphia on

Walking is really great. Scenic walking as opposed to the treadmill is what I prefer. Juicing will get the weight down quickly and safely. If you simply juice for breakfast or lunch that will do very good for you. Keep up the good work!

3 moms found this helpful

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answers from Minneapolis on

I am 41 and went through treatment for breast cancer a year ago and after rapidly gaining 25lbs by doing nothing different in exercise and diet, my doctor gave me the motivation and direction I needed. I didn't eat bad but cut out just a couple things that weren't helping (mostly carbs). My walking/running wasn't doing anything for me anymore so I joined a Yoga sculpt class. Yes you can use weights but you don't have to. And you can modify any exercises to your ability. I've dropped 19lbs so far and while I still have muscle issues from radiation, they are getting better and I am slowly increasing my weights. And best of all, I feel healthy, I have lowered my risk for recurrence and all my clothes fit great! I have my favorite instructors so I base it around their schedules if I can and try to go at least 3x a week. I make it a priority and my husband is very supportive because we know how important this is to my health. I only blame so much on genetics and age but am not letting that be an excuse not to be healthy.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Adjusting your diet is what will make the difference, honestly. Not exercise.

Working out is great, and you should do it if you can.
But diet is 80% of weight loss, and the sad truth is that the older women get, the fewer calories we "need".

Something to just keep in mind.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

What has worked for me (although I am still working on it and fall off the wagon when life gets busy), is finding ways to incorporate exercise into my life, rather than trying to find space in my life for exercise. For me, I wear a step tracker and aim for 10K steps a day. (FitBit, but any pedometer will do). At work, I take the longest routes I can - on my way to meetings, for example. I will also walk to the cafeteria for ice and back to my desk. Then to the microwave to heat my lunch and back to my desk. Etc.

While I am drying my hair, I will pace back and forth or step in place. Same when I brush my teeth. I take a 15 minute walk in the afternoon (gets me 3000-3500 steps). I leave the laundry bushel by the door and walk back and forth to get a few pieces of laundry to fold and put away. I try not to stroll thru shopping - I try to set a quick pace thru the grocery store or Target.

My daughter is 9 and while she is showering, I made that my fitness time, so I can get in about 20 minutes. So I feel like I am not taking away family time.

We also will go to the park with the agreement that I get in a power walk and she gets playground time (where I generally walk the perimeter for additional steps/exercise).

Beginner Yoga might be a good place for you to start - gentle and builds muscle and lots of free/cheap online resources.

Really, you should do activities that you love and make you feel good. Otherwise, it will always be miserable work, instead of enjoyable work.

Good luck!

5 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Can you get or borrow a dog? They've got to be walked twice daily (no excuses) they offer great companionship and are often happy to go a little longer a little further


Can you get or borrow a dog? They've got to be walked twice daily (no excuses) they offer great companionship and are often happy to go a little longer a little further

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

I've lost 12 lbs since mid February. I did it by cutting bad carbs. I still eat all the fruit I want I just don't eat any junk.

I still want to lose 10 more pounds...I had two major leg surgeries in 2015 and gained 22 lbs...sad. I didn't gain the weight due to mobility issues though, I gained it because I was on pain meds around the clock and had to eat when I took them AND I was eating junk food.

BTW... I exercise daily and go to physical therapy 2x's per week where I do weight training. My exercise habits were not the problem, it was my eating.

Weights are a problem for me too due to trigger finger issues I have. Some times I swear you just can't win!!😉

Good luck...It is not easy!!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

It's really more about food/drink than exercise. There have been so many studies published in recent years that prove this. Of course exercise is good for your health, your heart, lungs, muscles, bones and mental well being so for sure you should find something you enjoy but really the only way to deal with the lumpy middle is to consume fewer calories, especially empty calories like sugar and carbs.
I'm 47 and most of my lady friends are in their early to mid fifties. We mostly walk/hike, swim and do yoga. I'm not a swimmer myself but that is GREAT exercise, builds muscle and no impact!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I walk a lot, although right now I'm in an orthopedic boot and limited for the moment.

My iPhone has an app that came on it that tracks steps per day. Bi keep it in my pocket and I still try to hit 10,000 steps a day.

My normal walking tours is just over 4 miles and I usually walk with a friend, we catch up about our children, butch if we need to and more.

I firmly believe my walks do as much good for me emotionally as well as physically. I feel so much better when I walk.

Other than that, I eat in moderation, drink loads of water, never drink any soda.

Good luck!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I find that a great social life keeps me in shape. But, let me hit a social slump and get bored, then I binge eat.

Find active friends and spend time doing things with them.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Rochester on

I was in the same boat as you last year. I am 40 something and saw a picture of myself . . . tears were had! I just didn't realize how my body had really changed (for a real eye opener, take a picture of your body without your face in the photo and you will get a very objective look at yourself) in my 40s. Top that off with quitting smoking last year and I knew I was in real trouble and needed to do something before I couldn't do something anymore.

I purchased a dvd Jillian Michaels 30 day shred (or something like that) for $5 on Amazon, which I do at least once a day and sometimes two or three. It is a 20 min video - pretty intense but you can modify most anything she does and if there is really something you can't do because of an injury, just repeat something in that same "class" that you CAN do. I cut out nearly ALL carbs - I only eat the "good carbs" and match it with foods that also contain really high fiber. I don't drink soda - however, it is really important to get rid of that if you can. I also gave up coffee in favor of tea, but that was a personal choice for me. I liked lots of stuff in my coffee (creamer, caramel, sweetener, etc) and with tea, I just use Stevia. I eat really healthy 95% of the time (have the occasional cheat day) and love finding ways to make healthy food taste really great. There are TONS of websites that have great recipes. I drink tons of water and just started running again - I can do 5 miles with no trouble. I started all of this on January 1 and got really serious about it on Valentine's Day (I was just "kind of" exercising, dieting, etc - no real commitment). I have lost about 10 lbs, but more importantly I have a much flatter stomach and my butt looks great. I feel great. I sleep great. My skin looks great. My hair looks great. I am starting to see definition in some of my muscles. It must be enough for my husband to notice - we were grocery shopping the other day and he was following me with the cart and half way through the store he whispered in my ear that I looked so sexy from behind he was having trouble not dragging me out of the store and to the bedroom!

It is hard, but there are no excuses. We get one body and one life to take really great care of it!

Good luck!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Santa Barbara on

Is swimming an option?

Many people I know think food helps for 80% and exercise is 20%. Meaning if you at your age jog 5 miles a day and eat pizza/bread/french fries you will look worse than a person who walks a couple of miles and eats plain chicken and plain broccoli.

-Eggs for breakfast instead of cereal. Protein shakes are great when you are in a hurry. Make sure the sugar/carb count is low.

More protein less carbs.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Amarillo on

How about taking swimming? You use your muscles and tone up the body without the stress of the hard surface. Change up the foods that you do eat and don't deny yourself a few sweets now and then so that you don't binge on the them. Drink lots of water without a flavor. I love ice cold water in a container.

Go for walks once or twice a week in the mornings if you can as Texas does get hot.

Take your time and make it a life goal that you do the rest of your life.

Good luck to you. I have a rounder middle due to surgery about two years ago and I don't like it but I will work on it this year. I am also 68 work full time and can still wear regular clothing and jeans that are size 14. So I feel goo about that. So don't give up on yourself enjoy yourself as you are. It will all work out for the best.

the other S.

PS My kids are 42 and 39.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on

I am probably close in age with you. And while I am noticing things are getting harder to *maintain* as I age, more so with each passing year, and have never been really badly out of shape, I did go a few years in my late 30s where I just didn't do anything physical with any continuity. Suddenly, I woke up one morning and went out to work in the yard, and it was harder. And I felt it after. For a few days. And I rearranged the family room furniture and felt it for a few days. And the realization hit that I'm not 20 anymore, and if I don't do something to maintain things, it's going to only get worse.

In my early 40s (around age 43) I fell ice skating (a once in a blue moon activity--like, once every 5 years) and banged my knee pretty good. No permanent damage, but it took a few weeks to not have to wear a brace and to feel like I had full strength back when climbing steps. I went about becoming a runner.
It was hard.
It sucked.
I was slow.
I couldn't run.
I had to walk after 20 seconds.
My back ached.
My calves were tight.

But I kept at it.
I got better. I could jog for longer stretches. I felt stronger in my back and arms and legs (the arms/shoulders surprised me).
I eventually worked up to jogging a full 5k distance without any walking.
Then I had a foot issue.
Took off a few months.
I've been back at it and not had the foot issue return. But I also am older, and more susceptible to adverse weather conditions (very hot and very humid here, the humidity is the worst). So I am not back to running full 5k distances anymore, but I go out and run/walk for a few miles. I have done three 5 ks (even though I had to walk part of 2 of them) and am signed up for another (with my entire family) in 2 more weeks.

I am less worried about competing now, and more aware of just putting on my shoes and going out there.
Take the dog for a walk. Go walk around a lake. Or on the beach. Or hike in the woods. But go. You don't have to run. You don't even have to jog.

But if you are like me at all, you will eventually. Just know that starting out VERY slowly is the way to do it. Think of the turtle (and the hare). If you don't start out slowly, you will injure yourself. Your muscles need time to adjust to the additional work load, and so do your bones. If you start out too fast (walking too far, or jogging too much of your walk), your muscles will be extremely tight, and this increases the risk of injury. Shin splints are often close behind... the muscles/tendons will develop tiny tears from the bone, b/c they are just so tight.

So start out slow. Walk the block. Walk a mile. Walk a mile for a week. Walk a mile every other day for 2 weeks. Add a half mile. Walk that for a week. Add another half mile at the end of the month. Keep following whatever schedule your body says it is ready for, and don't push too hard. It takes time. However, the further you go, the faster you can gain. It's mathematical! The old adage is "never increase your distance by more than 10% per week." So, 10% of a mile, isn't much per week. But by the time you hit 2 miles, you can increase your distance by .2 miles. The end of the next week, your 2.2 miles can be increased by .22 miles... and now you're at 2.42 miles. The next week, you can increase by .24 miles... and you're at 2.66 miles.

By the time you're near 5k distance (3.1 miles) you can increase by 1/3 of a mile per week... IF YOU WANT. But, really, you don't have to. Just know that it adds up over time, and you don't want to increase distances too quickly. When you find yourself wanting to do that, remember that every step you are taking now is one you weren't before, so you're still doing great, even without pushing.

Lace up those shoes. (And wear a good quality pair).

Good luck. There's only so much we can do to combat age. But physically moving, any kind, is better than couch potato.
If you can swim, that's a great exercise. But I find I'm less reliable trying to swim regularly than run regularly, so I'll let somebody else take up the swimming cheer section. :)
Oh, and I wholeheartedly agree that the biggest impact will be related to your eating habits. Cut out the junk, and move. Those two together will make the difference. Either one alone will be better than nothing, but you won't see much in the way of results in the way you look. At our age, though, staying moving has benefits outside of just how we look. If you don't use it, you lose. Truly. So do move. It will keep you more limber and flexible and ABLE to do things you want to do for fun.
But eat better. Most people do not eat enough protein. If you do so (actually eat enough, which most people don't even have an idea what that is... around 50-65 grams per day for an adult female is a good starting estimate) then you will not be hungry for all the junk. I promise. Start the day with eggs and eat protein with your lunch. You will NOT be craving junk all day. Eat 3-4 oz of protein with your dinner meal, and you will not stuff on junky carbs and desserts.
Any time I notice I am craving junk all the time, and feeling yucky in general... I've cut way back on my protein intake without realizing it. When I add protein back in at every meal, then the sugar and junk cravings magically start fading.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I would say to get checked out on the machines by one of the trainers there - they should provide that for free, and be clear about your injuries when you talk to them. Yes, all gyms try to get your to buy personal training services, and if that's a financial option for you, fine. But they also do a lot of work helping people at the initial stages, at no charge. So ask. Lower weights to start, and don't increase them for a while. Just get into a routine. You want to be very clear about injury prevention through proper position/posture so you don't do anything to the knee, shoulder and wrist, which pretty much all the machines will have an effect on.

Is swimming an option? That takes a lot of the weight off your knee joints while providing resistance. Again, work with someone with your shoulder/wrist issues. What are you doing for anti-inflammation? We have had great results with a natural food-based anti-inflammatory that also helps with the epigenetic issues such as those you mention about your hereditary issues (they aren't genetic, they are epigenetic - so those are changeable). Our doctors are thrilled with our results - I used to have sciatica and I still have arthritis in one knee, but I don't have any more pain or inflammation, so I'm able to do tons more exercise.

A lot of exercises can be done on the floor to strengthen your abs (which then protects your back). You can do those while watching TV if that helps you add small amounts of exercise in to those few moments of free time.

Try smaller things like parking farther from the store entrance. Take family walks. See if everyone will work together to do some yard work so it's not a massive undertaking but everyone is outside. I have a FitBit that my son handed down to me - it's helpful in measuring my steps. But you can get an inexpensive pedometer to just make sure you are active. Set reasonable goals - don't go for 10,000 steps in the first month! As you build muscle and start to shed a few pounds, it gets easier - so don't get discouraged.

Farmers markets are starting up so see if you can get inspired by fresh and whole foods with new recipes. There are tons of substitutions like using cauliflower for pizza crust, using spaghetti squash instead of pasta, using eggplant slices to make lasagna-style roll-ups, and more. Rachael Ray does a lot of 5-ingredients-or-less recipes. Get the family involved in cooking if you can - kids eat more of a variety if they were involved in the choices and the prep.

As always, watch for hidden problems in packaged/processed foods. Look for things with short ingredient lists rather than an oversized label full of chemicals, high fructose corn syrup, etc. There's a lot of research on getting away from the chemical sweeteners. If you use stevia, be sure it's not a "stevia-based" product also filled with other processed sweeteners. Read the label.

My husband gave up soda - finally. Being off caffeine is great. If you still like the bubbles, then use plain or flavored seltzer, perhaps with a wedge of lime or lemon. It feels a little more "special" than water, but it's still just water.



answers from Chicago on

I'm "only" 44, but I'm starting to see my belly muscles again after having a baby at 41. My body is far from how it once was, but I'm doing a lot of interval training, 20-25 minutes 4-5x week. It works. It's an effective, non-time consuming way to build muscle and burn fat.

Also, I recently discovered that I'm thinner when I stop eating salads and smoothies. I've been a vegetarian since I was 12. I've always believed in full fat foods. Last year I had it in my head I'd change my diet to get back to pre-pregnancy weight- really, pre-being in my 40s weight. I actually gained weight! Now I'm back to eating cereal, potatoe chips at lunch, and I'm losing weight.

Everything in moderation,build those muscles.

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