Middle-age magic: How to get fitter and more fabulous

So you’ve hit middle-age, and a big question looms: Is it too late to make up for the health sins of your youth?

Years of partying hard, avoiding the gym and indulging in too many tasty treats can start to catch up with us in middle age, as our bodies and hormones start to change.

Studies show 65 per cent of women aged 45-54 are overweight or obese, putting them at heightened risk of diseases including cancer, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

But the good news is we can still become shining beacons of health in our 40s and 50s.

As these experts explain, even those who have punished their bodies for decades can benefit from simply eating better and moving more.

How to beat a middle-age hangover

Easing up on alcohol can go a long way toward getting your health back on track as you get older.

It’s no secret that excessive long-term drinking can give you a health hangover (or worse).

Hitting the bottle regularly can also damage the brain over time, causing cognitive impairment and memory loss, she says.

“People who drank heavily and often in their youth, for example, can experience a blunting of their intellect,” Prof Conigrave says.

“If you are drinking enough – and regularly enough – you may have had the ‘shine’ taken off you, so to speak… and might not be as good at things like organising and planning.

“But there can be some improvements in brain function – and a lower blood pressure – once you stop.”

Why getting fit in middle-age can wind back the clock

Exercise experts say middle age is a perfect time to overhaul your shape, but caution against the same sweat sessions of our 20s.

MD Health managing director and senior physiotherapist Michael Dermansky says a focus on strength is particularly important in middle age, starting with two sessions a week that target all muscle groups.

“The biggest thing we see is reduced muscle strength as a result of a lack of strengthening exercises in sedentary people’s lives,” Michael says.

“Most people are just not strong enough for what they ask their bodies to do in everyday life, which means (you might struggle) when you go for that walk, climb up a hill, do the gardening or lift your grandchild.”

The Cancer Council’s LiveLighter program recommends up to 5 hours of moderate activity a week, or more than 1 hour of vigorous activity (or an equivalent combination of both).

How to eat better in middle age

Only 5 per cent of Australians eat the recommended serves of fruit and vegetables a day, and cooking fresh, nutritious meals is another good step forward.

Healthy balance: What to eat to keep your blood pressure down

How sleep benefits middle-age health

You may once have bragged about pulling all-nighters – but now is the time to get serious about shut-eye.

Science consistently shows how important getting a good night’s sleep is for everything from our mental health to fighting chronic disease and obesity.

Written by Elissa Doherty.