Even if at age 45 you’ve never laid eyes on a kettlebell, trainer Julie Diamond swears it’s not too late to start exercising. “The key is to start small and work your way up,” she says.
And why is 45 just as good a time to start as any? First off, a 2012 study by The Cooper Institute and UT Southwestern Medical Center that followed 18,000 men and women (average age 49) over nearly three decades found that those who exercised regularly in midlife were less likely to develop and/or sustain serious health conditions (diabetes, coronary artery disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and heart failure) in their Medicare years. Diamond notes that 45 is the age when women’s metabolism slows down by about 2 percent — and will continue to do so with each passing decade.
This means you’ll really have to start watching your caloric intake to maintain your weight, but that’s less of a burden if you’re burning more calories.
Starting a fitness routine at 45 does have some mental hurdles. Because you’re in your 40s, “you still may feel invincible, even though this is when a woman’s body really begins changing,” says Diamond. “It’s important to keep in mind that a 45-year-old body is different than a 20-year-old body, and progressing safely is a must.”
That means saying no to two-a-day classes or 5-mile runs out of the gate. If you don’t have a history of exercising regularly, “start with what’s manageable,” Diamond says. “The first couple of weeks may be hard. So focus on small, meaningful goals with a long-term plan in mind.” Not only will gradual progress help you avoid injury, but it will also help your mental stamina.
Low-impact workouts like biking, brisk walking, or swimming net a high-calorie burn while keeping your joints intact, but Diamond suggests strength training for maximum impact in your 40s. “Jump-start your metabolism by strength training for 30 to 60 minutes a day, four to five times a week,” she says.
Strength training not only revs up metabolism. It also helps combat the body’s natural decline in lean muscle mass (another fate of your 40s). And no matter what type of strength training you incorporate into your exercise (weights, resistance, or a mixture of both), listen to your body. “Be realistic as to how long it will take to see results,” Diamond says.