Is your wardrobe suddenly shrinking? If you're over 40, it's probably not your clothing (or an overactive dryer) but, rather, an underactive metabolism that's to blame. It can dip by as much as 200 calories per day from your mid-20s to your mid-50s—enough to pack on nearly an extra 30 pounds in that time. And that old weight loss strategy of crash dieting will just make it worse. What you need is a smarter approach to losing fat while building muscle, which powers your calorie burn and is key to reversing a slow metabolism. We combed through the very latest research and talked to top experts to create our Ultimate Over-40 Fat-Fighting Workout. It's a unique blend of calorie-blasting cardio, supercharged strength-training, and lifestyle tips that will help you burn calories at a higher rate (even while you're sleeping) than you did in your 20s—up to an extra 500 calories a day! That's enough to double your weight loss and drop a size this month. Soon, your only wardrobe worry will be buying smaller sizes.
The latest research shows that simple changes to your cardio workouts can boost calorie burn by 25 to 50%. Our weight loss routines include these 4 rules to guarantee a high calorie burn with every workout.
Always warm up
It raises your core body temperature and increases the activity of fat-burning enzymes, says Chip Harrison, exercise physiologist, director of strength and fitness at Pennsylvania State University, and coauthor of The Female Athlete. For each degree your body temp goes up, the metabolic rate inside your cells increases by about 13%. Warm up by doing your activity at an easy to moderate intensity for at least 5 minutes to gradually raise your heart rate, send blood to your working muscles, ramp up your respiration, and get the maximum boost in metabolism and calorie burn.
Do at least 12 minutes
Any amount of cardio will burn calories, but to really fight off post-40 pounds, you need at least 12 minutes (beyond a warm-up) of continuously moderate to high-intensity activity (where you're breathing somewhat hard) most days a week. That's the amount necessary to "create a training effect, which improves your body's ability to use oxygen and generate more fat-burning enzymes, such as lipase, so you can blast more flab during exercise and other activities all day," says Harrison.
Commit to intervals
Studies show that weight loss plans with bursts of high-intensity activity can boost your calorie burn more than steady-paced training. "Interval training increases the mitochondrial activity in the muscle, which is a scientific way of saying it increases your cells' fat-burning capacity," says exercise physiologist Jason Talanian, PhD, formerly of the University of Guelph, Ontario.
Because intervals are harder than one-speed workouts, it takes more time for your body to return to normal afterward, so your metabolism stays elevated longer. In a College of New Jersey study of 48 men and women, researchers found that those who rode stationary bikes at varying intensities, such as pedaling just a little harder for 5 minutes and then a little easier for 5 minutes over a half-hour workout, burned about 15% more calories for about 30 minutes after their sessions than their peers who stuck to one moderate pace the entire time.
Devote 1 hour once a week
Going longer gives you a big metabolic boost because your body has to reach into its reserves and expend a lot of energy replenishing its fuel stores and repairing broken-down muscle fibers when you're finished. In one small study, researchers at the University of Victoria in British Columbia found that exercisers who chugged along for 60 minutes burned nearly 5 times as many calories postworkout as those who did only 30 minutes of activity.