Staying Fit and Losing Weight at 40

Staying fit and losing weight at age 40 becomes more difficult with age as your metabolism slows, but it’s not for the reason you may think. Being proactive with your weight and overall health is a vital in preparing for aging.

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Staying Fit and Losing Weight at 40
5 Min Read February 2nd, 2017 Updated:February 2nd, 2023

Weight can have a significant emotional impact on people over the age of 40. Once many reach age 40, it becomes harder to maintain weight, keep the extra pounds away, and stay active. Many may struggle with body image issues and low self-esteem as they age. This can lead to feelings of insecurity, shame, and worthlessness. 

People over the age of 40 must be able to find ways to embrace their bodies at any size and take steps to improve their physical and mental health. Weight gain can also lead to feelings of powerlessness, as it can be challenging to practice healthy habits when faced with physical and emotional limitations. Moreover, the stigma attached to weight gain can make it even harder for people to seek the help they need.

Some people give up the effort, gain weight and become subject to health issues that can impact aging and create a significant risk of long-term care when they become older.

Metabolism Slows - But There is More

Most of us have heard that our metabolism slows down after age 40, but is there any truth to it? The bigger question is: can you do anything about it?

Your body’s metabolism changes as you age, but there is a good reason why this happens, says Cleveland Clinic health coach Erica Stepteau.

After age 40, your metabolism actually does start dropping a little bit, but it’s not for the reason that you think. It’s because we are losing the muscle mass in our body — from 3 to 5% every decade after you’re 30 years old. 

That loss of muscle mass affects your body’s ability to burn calories. This is why after age 40, some people begin to see some weight gain even though they exercise the same as when they were in their 20s and 30s but don’t get the same results, Ms. Stepteau says.

You have several factors:

  • Metabolism tends to slow down as people get older, and a diet that provided energy and vitality in the past may no longer be enough. 

  • Muscle mass tends to decline with age and can cause weight gain. 

  • Age-related hormones can also play a role, making it harder to lose weight.

With effort, you can beat your metabolism drop-off. Doing so will improve your overall health and delay aging issues, which can cause extended long-term care down the road impacting the quality of life and finances for yourself and your family members.

Work with Weights

Stepteau suggests adding weights and resistance training to your workout routine. She says to start with moderate exercises, such as brisk walking or stair climbing. 

Bob Sallis, MD, physician-spokesperson for Everybody Walk!, a national public health campaign created by Kaiser Permanente, sayings keeping the blood flowing goes a long way toward preventing cardiovascular disease and other conditions as we age. 

Walking is the single best exercise we can recommend on a large scale. Exercise is like a medication we should be prescribing for our patients. And the simplest exercise prescription is walking.

Stay Active and Walk

Researchers at the George Washington University School of Public Health in Washington, D.C., studied inactive men and women over 60. Their blood sugar was a little elevated (105 to 125 mg/dL), but they didn’t officially have diabetes at that point. Just a 15-minute brisk walk — a little under 3 miles an hour—helped control their after-dinner blood-sugar spike for the next three hours. The group that had after-dinner walks also had lower 24-hour blood sugar levels.

Walking burns up the sugar that’s in your blood, and it strengthens muscles, so you use blood sugar more efficiently. It helps your insulin work better. The benefit is almost instantaneous.

Avoiding diabetes is key to better health as we get older. Complications due to diabetes lead to many other health issues and long-term care when we age.

Muscle Mass - Maintain and Restore

Stepteau says restoring muscle mass is critical.

In your 40s, it is critical to pick up a couple of weights just so that you can create the muscle mass and keep restoring it because you are losing it every decade naturally. We’re all going in that same direction.


Nutrition also plays a key role in staying fit after age 40, leading to better health and better aging. Stepteau recommends eating a balanced diet that includes proteins, healthy fats, a few carbs, minerals, and vitamins from fruits and veggies.

When you’re exerting energy, you want to make sure that you restore those calories and restore those components of the nutrition in a way that benefits your body best.

Prepare for Better Health

Even if you’re in your 30s, there are things you should be doing (even if you are older) to prepare for better health and lifestyle as you age. 

University of California’s Keck Medicine suggests a few simple things in addition to diet and exercise: 

  • Stay home more often to manage stress and anxiety. Staying home will give your body the energy it needs to rebuild, replenish and recover from stress.

  • Keep your mind active by reading. Once a month, pull out a book and start reading. The lack of consistent learning environments makes it harder to keep a sharp mind. Reading requires you to use several different brain regions to work together. Exercising these brain regions will help you keep your cognitive skills sharp. Plus, it gives you another thing to do when you are staying home.

  • Get some sleep. Sleep can help with weight management, mood, focus, and many other things for better health, lifestyle, and better aging. The consequences of sleep deprivation can be detrimental to your general health and your mental well-being.

  • Spend time outdoors. If you spend your time in nature as you exercise, you can even kill two birds with one stone. Studies have shown spending time in nature increases health and happiness while reducing stress. 

  • See your doctor on a regular basis. At any age, you may be amazed how many people skip the annual check-up and lab work. Do it. It’s best to get checked to ensure your lifestyle matches up with your health goals. Your primary care physician will be able to help you create a game plan to get ahead of any potential problems that may arise. Schedule your annual appointment with your primary care physician. 

Prepare for Longevity and Long-Term Care

Paying attention now to your health is essential since people are living longer. In 1970, the average life expectancy at birth in the United States was 70.8 years; in 2008, it was 78.0 years; and by 2020, the U.S. Census Bureau projects life expectancy will reach 79.5 years. Preparing for aging is vital well before we get to our “golden years.” 

Weight can significantly impact the joints, especially as you age, leading to an increased risk of long-term health care. Excess weight puts additional pressure on the joints, leading to damage over time. This can result in osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease. 

Osteoarthritis can be incredibly painful and make it difficult to perform everyday activities. In some cases, it may lead to a need for long-term care and the inability to maintain independence. Additionally, obesity increases the risk of other chronic illnesses, such as diabetes and heart disease, which can increase the need for long-term care.

While we can delay many aging issues, some problems we will face just because of natural aging. Taking positive steps now will improve health, lifestyle, and peace of mind as we approach retirement.

Be sure to plan for the financial costs and burdens of aging and how that will impact your family. A successful retirement includes your health, but you must also plan for longer life and long-term care costs. Planning for these now will help down the road for a successful future retirement in terms of both health and finances.

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About the Author

An LTC News author focusing on long-term care and aging.

LTC News Contributor James Kelly

James Kelly

Contributor since August 21st, 2017

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