The national obesity rate in America is estimated at 37.7%. The top 5 states with the highest obesity rate are West Virginia (38.1%), Mississippi (37.3%), Oklahoma (36.5%), Iowa (36.4%), and Alabama (36.3%), while the “healthier” States bringing in the tail-end of the ranking are Utah (25.3%), California (25.1%), Hawaii (23.8%), District of Columbia (23.0%), and Colorado (22.6%).

You are in your 40s, pot-bellied and perhaps on the verge of asking a plastic surgeon for a tummy tuck so that you could fast track your way to looking healthier. Here are some other options to explore as you live your life in your 40s and beyond.

Slowing Down Metabolism

Basic reality: Your metabolism slows down as you grow older at a rate of 5% for every decade. If you’re 40, 5’ 10” in height and weighing 160 lbs., your resting metabolic rate is about 1,970 calories. At 50, this will drop down to just 1,871 calories.

Metabolism is the conversion of food into energy. Food as fuel is burned through physical exertion, or it gets stored in body tissues like muscles and fat.

To overcome this declining metabolism, you need to exercise up to three times per week and burn about 2,258 calories.

The Starting Line

How does one start to counter this declining metabolism? Two words: heart rate. Understanding better your heart rate is your starting line to a healthier lifestyle. A resting heart rate is 60 to 100 beats per minute (bpm). Immediately after you wake up would be a good time to check your resting heart rate.

With exercise, a moderate-intensity target heart rate is 120 bpm. Using a thick marker, write this down on a piece of paper in big strokes: 120-20-3. That is the minimum rule, which means you should get a heart rate of 120 bpm for a period of 20 minutes minimum for at least three times a week.

Getting It Done

40 year olds

No time. No space. No money. These are typical excuses used for not engaging in regular physical activities. Twenty minutes isn’t too much time. A 2 x 2 feet space isn’t too much space either. Ever tried stationary jogging or jumping jacks? You also don’t need to pay gym membership fees to be active.

Make a list of exercises which you can either do next to your office chair or by the living area or bedroom in your cramped apartment.

Strength Training vs. Burning Fat

The exercise decides which muscle to build. The body decides which fat to burn. “I’ve been lifting weights, but I still have flabs in my arms.” “Hundreds of sit-ups and the beer-belly is still there.” These are typical words of frustration.

You need to understand what your exercises do to your body and its relationship to weight loss. Sit-ups do not burn the fat on your midsection. It builds and strengthens your abdominal muscles.

As you build up your strength and stamina, you then move up to the aerobic zone target heart rate. In your 40s, this would be somewhere between 126–144 bpm. While lifting weights targeting specific muscles can take you to this zone, a more intense cardiovascular workout will be the ones that will shed all that fat. Running, swimming, or cycling are just some of the exercises you can do.

Understanding your heart rate, committing to small steps, and gradually building up to achieving a 144+ bpm heart rate are the key ways on your journey into getting healthy in your 40s.