Did you feel more trim and energized in your youth than you do right now? If so, you’re not alone. 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 a rarer occurrence. The result is the middle-age spread – widening of the midsection because of surplus adipose tissue – which has become a common sign of aging.
Are you wondering about ways to control middle-age spread so you can feel trim, energized, and athletic again? If so, read on. What follows are 8 ways to tighten up that middle-age spread, once and for all.
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 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 of the 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
The elliptical is a low-impact exercise machine that works your legs and glutes, building endurance for the muscles of your lower body. It provides a good 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 getting bored because there are so many different resistance and incline settings available.
3. Have, at Most, One Alcoholic Beverage Per Week
Empty calories are unproductive, especially if you’re 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 are to overeat.
Alcohol is, ultimately, a depressant. It interferes with your body’s natural hormone balance, which plays a role in how many pounds you gain as well as 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 a variety of settings such as resistance levels that allow users control over their workout intensity level. The more resistance provided by these machines means greater muscle engagement throughout exercise movement; this increases calorie burn rates dramatically.
The recumbent stationary bike is a good way to burn calories, improve circulation, condition the heart and lungs, and strengthen the quads.
The trick to effective bicycling is getting the seat-setting correct.
You don’t want the seat so far away that your knees lock with each cycle. But the problem I see more often is a seat that is set too close, so the legs barely have a chance to extend at all. Take time to find the seat setting that fits your body best.
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 it 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 it’s 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 get older.
5. Make Anti-Inflammatory Food Choices
Some foods are mildly irritating to the human body. Eat too many of these foods too regularly and the body starts to get tired.
A tired body has a harder time distinguishing with nuance the good cells versus rogue cells, and so it starts to become overly ambitious in mistakenly attacking cells it believes to be bad. 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 a means of 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 either.
Experiment by eating only the healthiest foods possible – mostly vegetables (except nightshades), fermented and sprouted foods, and lean meats.
7. Make Mobility a Priority
Age combined with a sedentary lifestyle results in poor posture (“texting slouch”), stiff joints, and short, tight muscles.
Improving mobility also generally correlates with a reduction in stress.
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 – meaning that they make 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
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 for you 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, then 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
As you age, your body is less able to perform at peak levels and maintain the same kind of 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 together than are done separately.
Additional Sources on 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