40 is the new 20

Julianne Hough shares some secrets to flat abs for those 40-somethings that want their 20-something body back. / Self Magazine

Hard core exercise junkies say 40 is the new 20. Self Magazine recently posted a story about the hot bods of actresses that are into the quad decade of life like Jennifer Aniston and Halle Berry. They say scientists link it to genetics.

This doctor tells Self Magazine, "Once a man or woman gets beyond their 30s, they're in a situation where unless they are really proactive about what they do from an exercise standpoint as well as eating sensibly, says Cedric Bryant, Ph.D., FACSM, Chief Science Officer for The American Council on Exercise. They are going to lose some muscle tissue."

They continue, saying about half of these changes can be linked to the normal aging process, and the other half is often due to the lack of exercise.

"One of the things that tends to happen for women -- particularly because of the demands that women around that age tend to have from their kids and at work -- time becomes a tremendous challenge for them to maintain whatever fitness habits they may have had until that point," Bryant explains.

Celebrity trainer Gunnar Peterson has worked with 40-somethings like Jennifer Lopez as well as younger stars like Kim Kardashian and tells Self Magazine, Rocking a six-pack like J-Lo at 42 has less to do with being genetically gifted and more to do with hitting the gym on a regular basis.


Here is a workout Bryant suggests for any 40-something looking for their 20-something shape:

1. Look for every possible opportunity to move.

Take the stairs when possible. Invest in a little pedometer for $20-30 and track how many steps you take -- make it a goal to get up to 10,000 steps a day. Just move consistently and regularly to help to tilt the odds.

2. Do resistance training twice a week.

Resistance training (free weights, machines, bands, even some forms of yoga and Pilates) is extremely important as you approach midlife to help to preserve and maintain lean muscle mass. Do some structured resistance training at least twice a week. You don't have to spend an hour at gym -- 20-30 minutes per session will offset physical decline and improve bone health.

3. Get your heart pumping.

Bryant recommends an interval training approach to cardio with periods of higher intensity followed by come-down periods. Do that for 20-30 minutes three to four times a week. But, he emphasizes, resistance training is as, if not more, important than cardio for the over-40 set.

4. Focus on portion control.

One of the things research seems to show over and over again is restrictive diets are not sustainable over a long duration, Bryant explains. It's better to control the amount you eat and have a great deal of variety, avoiding excessive amounts of fat and simple carbs (i.e. that slice of chocolate cake when you're not even hungry). Choose whole foods, including fruits, veggies and grains, rather than processed and refined foods. Still having trouble with portion control? Bryant suggests never using a plate larger than 9 inches in diameter.

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