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Stay Strong, Slim, Sharp and Sexy at 40, 50, 60 …

The mood-lifting, fat-burning, pain-relieving, brain-boosting, disease-fighting fitness sessions you need now — no equipment or gym required.

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Fit, young African American woman working out with hand weights in a fitness gym.
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Remember when the only thing to consider before rocking tank tops and halters was choosing the right bra? When you knew your bi’s and tri’s would look toned without having to lift a finger in the gym? As we age, many of us are noticing dangling fat creeping up. You may find that your body seems doughier in general, even if you’ve worn the same dress size for ages. If you’ve been thinking that it’s time to get more serious about including strength training in your health regimen, the answer is you should. Beyond toning up, building muscle is important for many reasons as we get older.

Science tells us that after 30, we lose anywhere from 3 to 8 percent of our muscle mass each decade. Even more after 60. And it’s that loss of muscle that contributes to a whole mess of issues beyond a little arm jiggle. Your body fat becomes centralized, which is why you might be having a hard time getting rid of tummy bulge. And then there’s the stuff that we don’t see, which is way worse: loss of force, strength and function. This muscle loss, says Boston-based physical therapist Meredith Harris, can contribute to the loss of the ability to do everyday activities and chores like lifting, carrying, reaching for things, even standing up. It’s a major reason why seniors become prone to falls and injuries, putting them at risk of needing nursing-home care.

In other words, it’s time to pump up those muscles now — looking cute is the bonus. You can build muscle by using your own body weight or resistance bands, free weights or machines in the gym. Harris, who is a spokesperson for the American Physical Therapy Association, prefers exercises using your own body weight, which allow more flexibility and spontaneity in your training, especially if you travel. You’ll find a complete body-weight workout here. Whichever way you prefer to do it, here are more reasons to start strength training:

1. Stay clearheaded and happy
Weight training can make you feel more confident, motivated and empowered, and make it easier to find your happy place. Like most exercise, one of the main benefits is in your head: Our brains will produce more endorphins that create a feeling of well-being, stave off anxiety and depression and lead to increased mental sharpness.

2. Burn extra calories while you sleep
If you do two to three sessions of strength training a week, you will not only lose fat and gain muscle, you’ll also raise your resting metabolic rate. That means even while you’re relaxing on the couch watching Insecure, you can be secure that you’re still burning calories.

3. Fight disease
Strength training can have serious benefits in fighting two of the most common threats to our lives: heart disease and diabetes. That’s because building muscle can lower blood pressure, as well as LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, while increasing HDL (“good”) cholesterol. It can also reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by improving the way the body processes sugar.

4. Build better bones
One of the most significant risks we face with age is osteoporosis. In fact, by our 40s most of us typically begin to lose muscle mass at about a rate of 5 percent a decade, which can lead to frailty, injury and decreased quality of life. Building up muscle is the closest you can get to a preventative miracle cure because it increases spinal bone mineral density. That, along with making sure you get enough calcium and vitamin D in your diet, is the best defense against brittle bones and fractures.

5. Guard against pain and injury
In the old days of bodybuilding, people used to say, “No pain, no gain.” But in fact, there is an opposite corollary: The more muscle you build, the less susceptible you are to pain from common injuries. Strength training increases the resilience of connective tissues and improves the stability of your joints. That means less back pain, fewer body aches and fewer injuries as we age.

6. Maintain your independence
If you build more muscle you will be stronger. We love Lizzo anthems about empowerment, but self-reliance can be more than just emotional. The stronger you are physically, the less you will have to depend on others to do things for you, from chores like carrying groceries to rearranging furniture.

Did you know that you’ll find professional workout videos, walking tips, health articles and more at AARP members get even more, including mind-body advice from top experts and delicious healthy recipes. Join us or renew your AARP membership today.