Middle-age spread is a widening of the midsection because of surplus adipose tissue and the drooping of the buttocks area because of weak glute muscles. In many people, the thighs also begin to lose tone. This all tends to happen in men and women who are over 50 and out of shape.
The older you get, the harder it becomes to stay in shape – particularly if you live in a developed country where technology has made processed foods convenient and physical activity rarer. The result is the middle-age spread – a common sign of aging today.
Did you feel trimmer and more energized in your youth than you do right now? If so, you’re not alone.
Are you wondering how to control middle-age spread so you can feel trim, energized, and athletic again?
If so, read on.
What follows are proven ways to tighten up middle-age spread, once and for all.
Additionally, the video lower within this article features eight specific exercises to help you to burn off middle-age spread more quickly.
What to Do When You’re Over 50 and Out of Shape
Almost everyone gets out of shape at least once during their lifetime.
Most of us get out of shape many times during life – often during periods of extreme busyness or stress.
Often, we hunker down in the winter months like bears hibernating. And, in developed countries, the long holiday season provides an excuse to eat our favorite comfort foods and binge-watch our favorite shows.
Whatever the reason, if you’ve found that you, too, have gotten out of shape, know that it happens to just about everyone and that – as long as you’re consistent – you can get back into good shape again with the right exercises.
Energy Expenditure and Middle-Age Spread During Life Phases
You need a certain amount of calories just to stay alive – for things like breathing, heart pumping, and cell repair. After that, however, calories must be earned based on mental activity and – especially – physical activity.
Within the human lifespan, infants need a remarkable amount of calories (considering their size). After that, however, calorie expenditure slows down for many decades. Once in the 60s, cells start to decelerate even further, and metabolism slows by about .07% with each passing year.
The following methods can help significantly.
1. Switch to Low-Carb on Weekdays and Higher-Carb on Weekends
You want most carbohydrates to come from vegetables, by the way.
Higher-carb diets can be any diet with more than 100 grams per day of carbs.
2. Use an Elliptical Machine Once Each Week to Burn Middle-Age Spread
The elliptical is a low-impact exercise machine that works your legs and glutes, building endurance for your lower body muscles. It provides an excellent cardiovascular workout, yes, but there are other benefits, too:
- The elliptical increases muscle strength while reducing the risk of injury — no impact on knees or ankles means less pain than when running.
- You can worry less about boredom because so many resistance and incline settings are available.
Another benefit to using the elliptical is that you can periodically hold your hands behind your lower back instead of hanging on to the machine with your arms. This forces your core muscles to deeply engage, activates your calf muscles, and helps to develop your balance.
3. Have, at Most, One Alcoholic Beverage Per Week
Empty calories are unproductive, especially if trying to melt away the middle-age spread.
Alcohol is high in empty calories. In this case, “empty” means that the costs vastly outweigh the benefits.
Worse still, the more alcohol you drink, the more likely you overeat.
Alcohol is, ultimately, a depressant. It interferes with your body’s natural hormone balance, which affects how many pounds you gain and where those pounds go (i.e., bloated stomach area and lower-back flab).
When there’s a habit you typically enjoy, I realize it can feel almost impossible to imagine your life without it.
But that’s an illusion.
Eventually, you’ll be just fine and dandy without booze. If you drink alcohol regularly now and want to lose weight or keep it off after age 50, try at least eliminating alcohol from your diet during the week and then limiting yourself to one small glass over the weekend.
4. Become a Cardio Cross-Trainer to Reduce Middle-Age Spread
In addition to the elliptical once each week, add in some other, different cardio workouts.
Anecdotally, I have found over decades of fitness training that varying the type of cardio I do throughout the week maximizes my results.
Cross-training in this way helps prevent overuse injuries, develops better muscular symmetry, and keeps the body from over-adapting to relentless movement patterns. It also helps prevent workout monotony. Here are some cross-training ideas.
Using the Rowing Machine to Control Middle-Age Spread
A rowing machine can help strengthen your back, legs, and arms:
- Avoid slouching. Imagine initiating the movement from your shoulder blades instead of your grip.
- Rowing machines come with various settings, such as resistance levels, that allow users control over their workout intensity level. The more resistance these machines provide, the greater muscle engagement throughout exercise movement; this increases calorie burn rates dramatically.
The recumbent stationary bike effectively burns calories, improves circulation, conditions the heart and lungs, and strengthens the quads.
The trick to efficient bicycling is getting the seat-setting correct.
You don’t want the seat so far away that your knees lock each cycle. But the problem I see more often is a seat set too close, so the legs barely have a chance to extend. Take time to find the seat setting that fits your body best.
Light Jogging Is Good If You’re Over 50 and Out of Shape
Once each week, I put on sunscreen and go for a light outdoor jog.
I do not jog alongside automobile traffic. Instead, I use designated park trails. It’s much safer, in my opinion.
Walking as a Means of Controlling Middle-Age Spread
If jogging has too much impact on you, do walking instead.
Walking has a way of reorganizing the body. It’s like nature’s ultimate solution to a host of ills. Plus, it’s the easiest form of exercise and requires no equipment.
Studies show that walking regularly can reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, and type-2 diabetes. Walking also helps boost serotonin levels (which help fight depression) and may even help you sleep better at night.
If you don’t have time to go for long walks, try taking shorter walks throughout the week instead — even if those walks last only 15 minutes each. Think of it as taking a nature bath.
I know several people in my life in their 70s and 80s who look athletic and attractive. What is their secret? Swimming! I even have a friend who is 98 (yes, you heard me correctly) who still swims regularly.
Swimming is one of the ultimate low-impact, longevity activities:
- It’s easier on the joints and hips and an outstanding exercise for your heart and lungs.
- If you have a family history of heart disease or high blood pressure, swimming is one of the best exercises you can do to help prevent these diseases later in life.
- Not only does it strengthen your heart, but swimming also strengthens the muscles in your arms and legs, which can help prevent arthritis later on down the road.
- Swimming can even help improve bone density over time — a benefit that’s especially important as we age.
5. Make Anti-Inflammatory Food Choices
Some foods are mildly irritating to the human body. Eat too many of these foods regularly, and the body starts to get tired.
A tired body has a more challenging time distinguishing with nuance the good cells versus rogue cells. So it becomes overly ambitious in mistakenly attacking cells it believes to be disadvantageous. This is called an autoimmune response and is increasingly common.
There is a growing belief among some medical experts that the body responds to the modern lifestyle – with its constant onslaught of irritants – by padding the internal organs with extra visceral fat as protection. This may account for the increase in middle-age spread.
Keep in mind this is not about foods your body is allergic to but, rather, sensitive to.
In other words, you might not go into anaphylactic shock if you eat wheat flour, but that doesn’t mean your body finds it particularly helpful.
Experiment by eating only the healthiest foods possible – mostly vegetables (except nightshades), fermented and sprouted foods, and lean meats.
7. Make Mobility a Priority If You’re Out of Shape and Over 50
Age combined with a sedentary lifestyle results in poor posture (“texting slouch”), stiff joints, and short, tight muscles.
Improving mobility also generally correlates with stress reduction.
Since stress makes everything worse – including cellular health – staying supple will help your body and metabolism to operate better, and this (however indirectly) will lessen middle-age spread.
Mobility sessions are your baseline, making all the other workouts possible.
If you want to prevent injury and have better workouts, don’t skip your mobility drills, stretching, or yoga.
6. Do Resistance Training to Burn Middle-Age Spread
Please believe me when I tell you that – if you’re lucky enough to live into your 70s and beyond – you will want to have muscle.
Muscle raises your overall metabolic rate (the number of calories you burn while at rest) and therefore reduces middle-age spread:
- Do resistance training for both your torso and lower body each week.
- Over time, add more weight to your dumbbells, stack, barbell, or bands and increase the number of reps you do each time.
- A simple way to tell if the weights are too heavy is if your form suffers. If it seems like you have little control over what’s happening with your body, or if it feels like one side of your body is doing most of the work while the other side struggles, you’re probably being too ambitious in your increase.
8. Drink More Water with Electrolytes
Sometimes when I think I might be hungry, I drink a glass of water. A few minutes later, my hunger is gone, and I feel better overall.
I wasn’t hungry, I was dehydrated.
Low-carb eating, done regularly, releases water retention. So being on a low-carb diet requires more water.
Dehydration is often about electrolyte depletion. That means your body needs trace minerals or perhaps even some sea salt (ask your medical doctor).
Dehydration interferes with fat-cell shrinkage. So if you want to control middle-age spread, put a few trace mineral drops into a tall glass of water and drink it down. Do that often.
The Bottom Line on Middle-Age Spread
You may have been athletic in your 20s, but by your mid-40s or mid-50s, it seems like you can’t eat as much without getting fat.
As you age, your body is less able to perform at peak levels and maintain the same fitness you had when you were younger. To maintain a high level of athleticism and cognition, middle-aged people need to keep their bodies fit and active by doing regular, varied exercise and eating an anti-inflammatory diet.
The best methods for controlling middle-age spread use nutritional and exercise interventions as a one-two punch. Together, these interventions are exponentially better than when done separately.
How to Workout Over 50
Getting out of shape over 50 provides particular challenges that differ from when younger people get out of shape. Specifically, joints can stiffen, muscles can shorten, and metabolism can become incredibly stubborn.
If you’re over 50, you’ll want to:
- prioritize your warm-up to gradually raise your body temperature and to get the synovial fluid lubricating your joints;
- do an actual cool-down after your workout to increase the flexibility of your muscles and lengthen your spine;
- and spend more time on exercises that address your weakest areas, which for most people over 50 are their legs (particularly their glutes), their core muscles (particularly their lower abdominals), and their posterior chain (particularly their back muscles).
Finally, the way to workout over 50 is to keep your metabolism percolating, so you’ll probably want to limit your steady-state cardio to once a week. In fact, cardio doesn’t burn as many calories as most people believe. You do cardio mainly to keep your heart and lungs healthy.
Instead, most of your exercises during the week should focus on mobility and resistance training. Resistance training exercises will increase muscle tone, which helps raise your resting metabolic rate (the number of calories you burn while doing nothing).
For those who are out of shape and want to get fit again as quickly as possible, I recommend sprint exercises once each week. An anaerobic session of jumps, drills, and sprints can help strengthen and sculpt your legs while burning the maximum number of calories.
How to Lose Weight Over 50
An important side note is that people over 50 get out of shape with disadvantageous eating habits.
Your results will be exponential if you combine the following exercises with an advanced-level anti-inflammatory diet in which you track your calories, macros, and inflammation.
Many people who have become out of shape need help with menu planning and meal prep, so I created a helpful course on how to eat your way to a much better physique.
You might be excited about achieving all the positive benefits – to your health and appearance – from eating an advanced-level, anti-inflammatory diet but aren’t sure how to proceed because your spouse isn’t as intrigued as you.
Waiting for circumstances to be perfect before you begin a new lifestyle will likely mean you’ll never begin.
Sure, it’s helpful if your spouse is fully on-board. But it’s not a requirement.
If separate meals are what it takes, I believe it’s worth the effort.
The good news is that an anti-inflammatory diet is mostly simple meals of vegetables and meat, so I think just about anyone can manage it.
The harder part is just ignoring all the other packaged foods in the pantry; fortunately, you get used to it after a while.
Don’t be surprised if, over time, your spouse slides over to your new way of living.
Once they see you succeed – and witness the new glow to your skin and how you move better in this new, trim, more robust body – your spouse might become inspired, even if it’s on an unconscious level.
Offering an example of thriving is of tremendous value to those who benefit from observing you.
Goodbye, Middle-Age Spread! These Moves Help You Go from Out of Shape to a Healthier Physique
These eight exercises will improve your posture, make you stronger, and help you get healthier. They will also give you a better appearance to look trim, fit, and more youthful.
Backward Alternating Arm Circles for Shoulder Mobility
Alternating arm circles can be done slowly to lubricate the ball-and-socket joint of the shoulder and to help that synovial fluid loosen and spread within the shoulder girdle. Be sure to exaggerate the width of this backward circle.
Hip Opener: Elevated Pigeon Stretch
Though intermediate and advanced athletes will often do the 90-90 stretch, you might find this elevated pigeon stretch a better way to warm-up out of shape hips.
To protect your knee, you might want to flex that elevated foot a bit.
Imagine breathing into your elevated hip.
For the first few seconds, your hip will likely be tight and immobile but – if you visualize it loosening – you’ll begin to feel the area gradually unclench.
Single-Leg Heel Raise
Do this exercise with an exaggerated range of motion!
Raise your heel as high as possible while centering the weight on the ball of the foot. It’s tempting to allow the weight of your body to roll slightly to one side or the other but stay centered.
Similarly, when you lower the heel, lower it all the way to experience a deep stretch.
Your feet must be strong and supple. They are the foundation of your entire body.
Reverse Alternating Lunge
Reverse lunges will generally feel better on your front knee cap (compared to forward lunges or squats), which makes it a perfect exercise for out of shape legs and buttocks.
If your balance is shakey, try stepping out to the side a bit as you reach your foot back (instead of walking a tightrope).
Pulls up can feel a bit impossible when you’re out of shape, so this exercise will improve your posture and strengthen your back while still feeling doable.
Push-Ups with Elevated Feet
By elevating your feet, this exercise will target your upper pectorals, a problem area for many people over 50.
Single-Leg Raise Initiated from Abdominals Will Target Middle-Age Spread
You can begin strengthening your core by hanging slightly from a bar and lifting one leg at a time. However, avoid the temptation to use your hip flexors to do the work. Instead, initiate the movement from your lower abdominals (that area above your pubic bone but below your navel).
Hanging Double-Knee Raise (optional)
Finish with a bang! This exercise will give you a stronger, firmer abdominal wall. Keep your ribs compressed as you slowly raise your knees, drawing your navel in as tightly as possible. Remember to exhale at the top of the rep.
If this exercise feels too strenuous, consider starting with only two repetitions. Then, you build slowly from there, increasing your reps over time.
Out of Shape? Try This Rep Scheme and Circuit Scheme
Sometimes, life happens.
We’ve been exercising consistently for a while, but some event or challenge messes up our routine, and we fall out of the habit of working out daily.
When that happens, the first day back to exercise can feel highly daunting because our bodies have gone out of shape again:
- If you’re just starting, try doing 6 reps of each exercise, building up to 12 gradually over time.
- If you feel entirely out of shape, move through this entire circuit only once. As you become stronger, you can gradually do this circuit twice (with a 3-minute break in between each complete round). Eventually, you can build up to 4 entire circuits!
When in Doubt, Walk
If you’ve been out of the habit of exercising and want to get back into shape – but just don’t feel motivated enough for a resistance-training workout – then a simple walk can be an excellent way to get started.
Walking is free, requires no special equipment or training, and can be done just about anywhere.
Plus, there’s science to back it up.
Within a meta-analysis of seven cohort studies investigating the connection between daily step count and all-cause mortality risk – in almost 30,000 participants with an average age range of 57–78 – it was established that each 1,000-step increment in daily step count was associated with a 12% lower risk of all-cause mortality.
And, a friendly reminder: habitual exercise and an anti-inflammatory diet – when done simultaneously – bring you positive results at a rate that is more and more rapid.
In other words, if we imagine habitual exercise as “2” on its own, and an anti-inflammatory diet as “2” on its own, then you might think that together they equal “4.” However, in my experience, when combined, nutrition and exercise equal 4,000.
Thinking you might be out of shape?
Feel great and look great again!
The above exercises provide an effective and proven strategy for returning to shape over 50.
As always, consult your medical doctor before significantly changing your diet or exercise program.
Additional Sources on Being Over 50 and Out of Shape and Successfully Controlling Middle-Age Spread:
Yoga Reduces Stress Response – https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/yoga/art-20044733
Research on Health Benefits of Walking – https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/5-surprising-benefits-of-walking
Excess Visceral Adiposity Disturbs Hormonal Balance and Increases Cardiometabolic Risk – https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/circulationaha.111.067264