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Fight Fat at Any Age: Exercises for Your 20s, 30s, and 40s

Sculpt a strong, slim, sexy body. FITNESS gives you the moves to do if you're in your 20s, your 30s, or your 40s and beyond.

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Exercises Tailored to Your Age

At FITNESS, we get more letters asking for the secret to looking and feeling your best at any age than anything else. So we went to the experts to find out how to overcome the biggest hurdle women face -- a slowing metabolism, which begins to falter in your 20s, then decreases 2 to 3 percent in your 30s and another 2 to 3 percent in your 40s.

Our age-specific workout plan by trainer Kathy Kaehler, author of Fit and Sexy for Life, is designed to keep your metabolism humming in every decade with a combo of multi-muscle strength moves and fat-fighting cardio. Give it a try and you'll see a difference in your endurance, power, and flexibility -- and in your waistline -- in just a few weeks.

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Fitness in Your 20s

Your fitness 411: Your 20s is often a time of adventure, so take advantage of this need to explore by trying new types of workouts. "It's the perfect age to power through all types of activities, because your body is highly resilient," says Kaehler. Beware of doing too much, though -- overtraining and injuries are your biggest hurdles.

Your cardio plan: Aim to do four to six days of moderate-intensity aerobic activity for 45 to 60 minutes. "Longer workouts will help you build endurance and burn fat," says Michele Olson, PhD, a professor of exercise physiology at Auburn University in Montgomery, Alabama. Switch up your routine -- spend 10 to 15 minutes alternating between activities like the treadmill, bike, or jumping rope. Now's also a good time to train for a sprint triathlon, 10K race, or a half marathon.

Your strength needs: Strength-train one or two days a week, doing two or three sets of each move. "Always lift enough weight to struggle through your last three repetitions," says Kaehler. "If you can easily do 15 reps, gradually increase the amount of weight you're lifting."

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Move 1

Side Lunge with Upright Row

Targets: Shoulders, mid-back, glutes, thighs

Hold a dumbbell in each hand with palms facing thighs, toes pointing out. Take a big step out to the right side with right foot; bend right knee about 90 degrees and keep it aligned with toes; keep left leg straight. At the same time, lift elbows until weights are at chest level; keep shoulders pressed down. Lower arms and step back to start. Do 8 to 10 reps; switch sides and repeat.

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Move 2, Step 1

Straight-Arm Press-Back, Step 1

Targets: Shoulders, arms, back, glutes

Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding light dumbbells at sides. Sink hips into a squat. Keeping your back straight and abs tight, lean forward from hips, and extend arms in front of you to shoulder height, palms down.

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Move 2, Step 2

Straight-Arm Press-Back, Step 2

Press arms toward hips and behind you, so palms face up at the top. Return to start and repeat. Do 6 to 8 reps.

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Move 3

Dumbbell Cross-Crunch Reach

Targets: Abs, obliques

Hold a light dumbbell in each hand and lie faceup with legs perpendicular to mat. Contract core muscles and lift shoulder blades off the ground, reaching right hand toward left toes. Hold for 2 counts, then lower; repeat, reaching left hand to right toes. Do 10 reps per side.

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Fitness in Your 30s

Your fitness 411: Family and work commitments often heat up now, leaving you significantly less time to exercise. Solution: Do interval workouts, which burn more calories in less time while preventing boredom. And if you haven't made weight lifting a priority yet, now is the time -- your future bone density depends on it.

Your cardio plan: Aim for two or three days of interval training by running/walking outside or by using any type of cardio machine (bike, treadmill, elliptical). Intersperse 3 moderate-intensity minutes with 1 minute of all-out exertion for a total of at least 30 minutes per session. Or check out circuit-training classes or videos that mix intervals of weights and cardio. And add one more day of about 45 to 60 minutes of steady-paced cardio, such as a brisk walk.

Your strength needs: Weight-train on two nonconsecutive days per week using moderate to heavy weights; do three sets. "Weight training with heavier weights will help you develop more muscle mass -- which is precisely what you're starting to lose," says Olson. "The more muscle you can create now, the more efficient your metabolism will be."

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Move 4, Step 1

Plank Push-Up Rotation, Step 1

Targets: Shoulders, arms, chest, back, core, glutes

Begin in a full push-up position, abs pulled in and hands in line with shoulders, forming a straight line from head to heels. Do one push-up.

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Move 4, Step 2

Plank Push-Up Rotation, Step 2

At the top of the push-up, rotate your body to the left, balancing on right hand and outer edges of right foot as you extend left hand toward sky. Keep your abs engaged to help you balance, then slowly lift left leg an inch or more; hold for 2 counts. Return to starting position and rotate to opposite side. Repeat sequence 5 times.

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Move 5

Balance Push-Up

Targets: Shoulders, arms, chest, core

Begin on all fours, hands under shoulders and knees under hips. Extend left leg behind you at hip height. Balancing on right knee and right hand, extend left arm behind body and keep extending both limbs throughout the repetition. Slowly lower chest to ground, bending right arm, then straighten arm to return to start. Do 8 to 10 reps on this side, then switch.

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Move 6

Side-Lying Leg Scissors

Targets: Front and inner thighs, butt, hip flexors, core

Lie on right side, supporting head with hand. Bring left hand in front of chest and contract abs. Extend legs, keeping body in a straight line with hips stacked, and lift legs several inches off ground. Bring right leg forward and left leg back without moving hips. Hold for 2 counts, then switch legs. Continue, keeping legs lifted a few inches. Do 15 reps per side.

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Fitness in Your 40s

Your fitness 411: You need to stay even more active now with the onset of perimenopause [the period in a woman's life just before menopause]. "As estrogen levels decline, fat storage settles at the abdomen, which makes more fat circulate closer to the heart -- a leading cause of heart disease," says Olson.

Your cardio plan: Focus on 45 to 60 minutes of moderately paced aerobic workouts three to five times per week. To keep your bones strong, opt for mostly weight-bearing exercise such as walking or jogging. Whatever you choose, though, know that you're helping your head as much as the rest of you. "Aerobic exercise is crucial in your 40s to help relieve stress, improve sleep, and combat potential weight gain," says Kaehler.

Your strength needs: Strength training is actually more important to your body now than it was 20 years ago. That means lifting weights three times a week, doing two or three sets per exercise. Do the first set at a lighter weight to warm up working muscles, then lift weights heavy enough so the last few reps are challenging. "This helps prevent injuries," says Olson.

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Move 7

Bridge Chest Press

Targets: Chest, core, glutes, thighs

Lie faceup holding a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing in and elbows bent close to chest, knees bent with feet on ground. Lift hips 4 to 6 inches, squeezing glutes. Extend arms over chest; hold for 3 counts, then slowly lower weights back to start. Repeat chest press, keeping hips lifted throughout the set. Do 10 reps.

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Move 8

Lunge Kick with Biceps Curl

Targets: Biceps, glutes, quads, hamstrings

Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding dumbbells at sides. Lunge back with left foot (not shown), bending right knee 90 degrees. As you stand up, kick forward with left leg while curling weights toward shoulders. Repeat lunge/kick/curl combo for 10 reps on this side, then switch legs.

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Stay Young at Any Age

The secret to staying young at any age:

Whether you're 25 or 55, it pays to stretch your muscles. As you age, less blood circulates to your joints and calcium deposits can form, leading to stiffer muscles and joints. "Take up activities like yoga and Pilates in your 20s and 30s to tune into the mental and physical benefits of these exercises," says Olson. "As you get into your 40s and 50s, stretch daily, and try different styles of yoga to bust stress."

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What do you think? Review this slideshow!

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marigenbeltran wrote:

How about a fitness program for women over 40 that havent really done much exercise?? I am incapable of doing the ones meant for my age...feel awful about that, the only thing I do is walk

1/19/2014 02:07:49 PM Report Abuse
dbavery3 wrote:

Let me add to these comments: I am in my mid 60's and do Zumba and Turbokick classes 8-10 times a week (and walk on my treadmill as well), and really would like to know how to adjust my routines to accommodate my aging, arthritic self as I age. Life doesn't end at 40, you know.

3/19/2013 03:44:30 PM Report Abuse
alj153 wrote:

You say "any age," but your article ends in the 40s. There are ages beyond the 40s. The title of the article is misleading.

3/18/2013 03:11:02 PM Report Abuse
a3984502 wrote:

Right now I am following the Diet Plan for You blog by nutrition specialist Kate Hill. Kate helped me lose weight in a healthy way in few weeks, without starving! You can visit Kate's blog at: http://dietplanforyou.blogspot.com

4/11/2012 03:54:23 AM Report Abuse
kittycat91171968 wrote:

There are alot of in our 50's-60's working on keeping fit. Help us the baby boomers, there are alot of us.

7/31/2011 07:05:33 PM Report Abuse
dancingqueen119 wrote:

You really should include 50+ women. I am 54 and have been staying in shape and exercising since I was 13 (well before it was the cool thing to do, and without encouragement from magazine articles). My 81 year old mother also exercises 6 days a week. You are ignoring a huge number of potential readers...

4/3/2011 07:03:45 PM Report Abuse
bamaloy wrote:

Jocelyn Voo is the senior editor

3/21/2011 02:58:13 PM Report Abuse
anonymous wrote:

I didn't even start excercising until I was over 50 and then I did my first 5K! Really bummed that you would not include those of us over 50 - I want to know what to do because I knock myself out excercising and eating right and I still continue to gain weight.

3/16/2011 04:14:04 PM Report Abuse
anonymous wrote:

I didn't even START excercising until I was in my 50's and I did my first 5k! I was really looking forward to seeing what you had to say for excercising in your 50's. Even though I work out and watch what I eat, I gain weight every week.

3/16/2011 04:08:53 PM Report Abuse
915mitchell wrote:

I am 51 and in the process of mentapause. Do you have a program for this age?

3/16/2011 12:58:32 PM Report Abuse
janekdye wrote:

stopping at the 40's leaves out a huge number of readers, including me but, since there has been few women exercising regularly well into their 80's the data is not there currently. Seems that most older exercisers can do all the levels for the younger ages here. Flexibility and muscle maintenance are key as we age.

3/16/2011 08:02:14 AM Report Abuse
jmrlvl011 wrote:

Amen Sister to all the comments from those of us over 50. We are the true warriors! We've stuck with it through our 20s, 30s and 40s and we're still out there going strong. How many of today's 20 somethings will still be fit when they're 60? Or maybe some folks didn't do it when they were younger and are ready to start now. Maybe you just showed your true colors - but you're making a big mistake to ignore those of us who are 50+.

3/16/2011 07:39:07 AM Report Abuse
jeanm514 wrote:

Did you forget a few age groups or do only younger women get to look good and anyhone over 50 can stay fat and out of shape. Thanks a lot. I feel like unsubscribing since you won't or can't fit my needs.

3/15/2011 10:32:12 PM Report Abuse
lrockman wrote:

Helloooo, you missed an age group here or 2...the older the more beneficial this type of article COULD have been. oops you goofed!

3/15/2011 02:29:45 PM Report Abuse
ckerr20081 wrote:

I just recently broke three bones in my foot, but I still need to excercise....any suggestions?

3/15/2011 01:52:26 PM Report Abuse
mommakaptn wrote:

Didn't read it as I'm 62 & it didn't cover my age bracket although I work out 6 days a week averaging 11 hours per week of exercise.

3/15/2011 01:36:59 PM Report Abuse
Janmayou wrote:

How about 55+?

3/15/2011 01:28:56 PM Report Abuse
Cheryl_Bidstrup wrote:

Would appreciate a response regarding the concerns of your readers over 40, 50 and beyond. Perhaps you could suggest a resource? Thank you for any feedback.

3/15/2011 12:30:57 PM Report Abuse
chrismccary wrote:

I'm 65 and I'd love a new workout plan! I walk, stretch and dance for exercise now.

3/15/2011 10:52:34 AM Report Abuse
sharonpatrick3 wrote:

Sounds like you need a magazine for the "over the hill" crowd.

3/15/2011 10:40:57 AM Report Abuse
teri1b wrote:

I can't believe you didn't address 50's or 60's. My 83 year old mother works out everyday. Come on man!

3/15/2011 10:32:09 AM Report Abuse
bmwbikerchick wrote:

This is the second time this has come into my mailbox - this time I opened it anticipating that they realized there are women in their 50's + that do work out and try to stay in shape so we can enjoy life & our grandchildren. So how about it? Got any advise & workouts for us?

3/15/2011 10:19:22 AM Report Abuse
wabpoplewko wrote:

I sincerely hope you read all these comments. I am 80 - go to the Y for Silver Sneakers workouts. It would be nice to have something to work on at home.

3/15/2011 10:19:16 AM Report Abuse
agroup1 wrote:

I see many, many comments from my fellow 50's+ women. We are also sexy, alive and reading your pages! Will you respond to us, please?

3/15/2011 10:17:24 AM Report Abuse
pjvcombe1 wrote:

Disappointed that there is nothing for the over 50 crowd. We're trying, could use some support....

3/15/2011 10:10:30 AM Report Abuse
anonymous wrote:

I am 67, hve been going to the gym regularly for the past 15 years, line dance twice a week, hike, bike, have good posture and no aches and pains. Thought I might find something here about my limitations, but I guess not.

11/30/2010 09:19:06 AM Report Abuse
anonymous wrote:

I see that we older women have been left out of your exercise plans. You know we still need some guidance too, just things to help keep us moving and not end up sitting all day and hurting.

11/4/2010 12:57:05 PM Report Abuse
betty466 wrote:

I'm 64, active, and work full time. Got some aches and pains when doing physical labor. What exercises are good for me.

11/3/2010 03:45:17 PM Report Abuse
anonymous wrote:

Yes, I'm 76 and would like exercise suggestions.

11/3/2010 02:57:16 PM Report Abuse
anonymous wrote:

Agree, need some advice for the over seventies, as we get older we still exercise but we get aches & pains and arthritis, so what about it?

11/3/2010 12:30:12 PM Report Abuse
wise.l wrote:

Do the people that write this stuff not know anyone over 50?

4/18/2010 08:15:28 AM Report Abuse
gma04 wrote:

I agree, I'm in my "middle 50's", still walking and lifting hand weights, but would appreciate some direction as we get older....

4/8/2010 11:21:50 AM Report Abuse
dh6991 wrote:

Ya...what abour us women who are over 50. We going through menopause, hormone changes,and weight gain. Our dietary needs are different now. HELP us with this and our workouts. The baby boomers are all starting to age now. HELP US TOO ~!!!

3/24/2010 01:02:58 PM Report Abuse
amchdavis wrote:

And what about exercises for women in their 50s? We're still here, you know.

3/12/2010 08:53:06 AM Report Abuse
zierath wrote:

If you have always excercised it doesn't make any differece how old you are, as long as your body is capable and you are steady enough to workout. Good for you.

3/8/2010 09:11:30 PM Report Abuse
quiltnut77 wrote:

what about exercise for someone 78

3/8/2010 04:28:11 PM Report Abuse

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<i>Originally published in FITNESS magazine, August 2007.</i>
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