all your midlife fitness questions answered

Beatrice J. Doty

‘Six months ago my knee was diagnosed as having wear and tear. Because I’m moving less I’ve gained weight, but I want to start exercising. What can I do?’

“One of the best yet most overlooked exercises is walking,” says Alex Parren, personal trainer and running coach for health and fitness equipment specialist Meglio. “It’s a fantastic form of cardio and low impact, making it perfect for those with wear and tear in their joints or those new to fitness.

“The best type is on uneven terrain (think hilly, countryside trails) as this promotes co-ordination, balance and focus, as well as including inclines and declines to work your cardiovascular system harder.

“Depending on your level of fitness and the difficulty of the terrain, an hour of walking could burn as many calories as a very fit person running on a treadmill.

“Another fantastic exercise for midlifers is swimming, which is also low impact, meaning your joints undergo little to no stress while your muscles and cardiovascular system get a great workout. When done at a moderate intensity, swimming burns as many calories as running or cycling with none of the injury risk. It’s a full body workout and also promotes co-ordination and concentration, so it keeps you mentally fit too.”

‘I walk at least 30 miles a week, but I’m finding it difficult to lose the last few pounds to hit the 11 stone mark. I cannot run because of knee damage in my youth. How can I shift the remaining weight?’

“Running isn’t necessary for weight or, more specifically, fat loss,” says Alasdair Fitz-Desorgher, personal trainer for home fitness app Openfit. “Walking can shed just as many pounds as running; it just may take a little longer.

“Fat loss gets harder as you get lighter. To lose fat, you must consistently burn more calories than you eat, as this forces your body to tap into stored calories (body fat). Heavier bodies burn more calories than lighter bodies, because muscles require more energy to move the extra weight; the same way your car burns more fuel when it’s full of heavy luggage.

“When you started losing weight, your diet (calories in) and exercise (calories out) created a calorie deficit, causing you to burn the stored fat. But now you’re lighter, the same amount of exercise burns fewer calories. Therefore, you need to adjust the balance by either eating even less, (which can be unsustainable and unhealthy), or by increasing the intensity or duration of your walks.

“I’d recommend setting yourself a walking challenge, varying the speed and intensity of the walk, and introducing hill walks.

“Finally, lift weights. It’s key to build full body strength and remain mobile, particularly core and lower leg strength to look after your knees. It will also help you lose weight.

“While many of us have a target weight, and numbers can be rewarding to chase, focusing on how you look and feel is a much better and more sustainable way to track your progress than your scales.”

‘What are the best exercises to lose belly fat and to beat tiredness due to the perimenopause?’

“You need to balance diet and movement,” says Nicki Philips, founder of fitness app Niix. “Increasing your intake of fruit and veg, wholemeal carbs, protein and good fats, and avoiding sugary, fatty food, will help. Adding movement will also shift fat and maintain a healthy weight.

“Combining cardio (HIIT, running, cycling, swimming) with lifting weights and core exercises will torch calories, increase muscle density (which means you’ll continue to burn more at rest), tone your stomach and help to create better posture, which will help keep belly fat in check. Sadly there is no exercise that specifically targets the tummy, but by moving more and consuming a healthier diet, it’s amazing what can be achieved.

“Exercise is also great for energy levels and improving sleep, which helps during the perimenopause. And move first thing: studies show those who start their day with exercise see their perimenopausal symptoms improve.”

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