The Key To Fitness After Age 40: Part II

The Key to Fitness After Age 40: Cardio, diet, lifting…

Welcome back for Part II of “The Key To Fitness After Age 40” (if you missed Part I check it out here). Michael Spitzer is back to help break down why fat loss starts in the kitchen and the 3 part weight control process – some amazing, actionable advice!

What’s the Key to Fitness?

Fat Loss Starts In The Kitchen, Not In The Gym

Diet more than anything determines weight control. Why do I say this?

Think about this example for a minute…

A typical package of snack crackers contains 210-250 calories. It would take a large man 25-30 minutes of fast walking on a steeply inclined treadmill to “burn” those same 210 calories.

A pound of fat equals roughly 3,500 calories. This means 3,500 calories is a “magical” number when it comes to losing a pound of body fat. If you think of your body like a checking account, you need to withdrawal 3,500 calories from your body’s fat bank before you will lose a pound of undesired bodyweight.

There are only two ways to create this deficit of calories that will allow your body to shed excess pounds. You must either expend more energy to burn those 3,500 calories or reduce calorie consumption enough to deplete surplus glycogen and force your body to pull from its fat reserves for energy.

3,500 calories might seem like a lot, but if you spread it out over a week, it amounts to a reduction of only 500 calories per day.

Let’s compare the option of slightly reducing calorie consumption each day to that of trying to “burn off” excess calories while continuing our same food consumption.

The list below shows the calories typically burned for a variety of physical activities…

Activity Calories Expended Per Hour
Climbing 400-900
Cycling 250-700
Dancing 200-400
Golf 300
High-Intensity Cardio 600-1100
Running 800-1000 (depending on speed)
Sawing Wood Logs 420
Skating 300-700
Skiing 600-700
Soccer 550
Swimming 300-700 (depending on the stroke)
Walking (slowly) 115
Walking (briskly) 565
Walking (treadmill) 700-800 (with incline and brisk pace)
Weight Training 600

Knowing we need to create a deficit of 3,500 calories in order to burn and lose a single pound of body fat, the question is raised…

“Is it easier to eat 500 less calories per day for a week, or saw wood logs for over eight (8) hours to lose 1.0 pound of fat?”

Often in life, there is no single solution for any problem.

womanWe often find a combination of factors that work to help us achieve the desired goal. This synergy is also at work when it comes to our health and weight control goals.

To be certain, weight resistance training and cardiovascular exercise burn calories and help with weight loss, but a smart diet is a more effective factor.

The combination of both physical activity and diet is that much better.

To a large degree, our advocacy for weight resistance training is more focused on helping us maintain strength, flexibility, and mobility. There is of course the weight control benefit of burning calories and enhancing our Basal Metabolic Rate. But as we see from the chart above, it takes six (6) hours of weight training to equal the fat loss realized from a 500 calorie reduction in our daily diet.

Our cardiovascular exercise is intended to keep our heart, lungs, and blood vessels as healthy as possible.

Yes, there is also the added benefit of extra calorie expenditure, but again as we have seen it would take over thirty (30) hours of walking around the block to equal the weight loss of simply cutting 500 calories out of your diet each day.

It is flawed logic to think one can exercise away from the excess calories of bad eating habits. 

The Key to Fitness Is A 3 Part Process

With all the information above, how do we optimize fitness goals after age 40? The 3-part combination of diet + weight resistance training + cardiovascular exercise will give you the results you desire.

In fact, I have never seen a case where this type of plan fails to yield results.

By comparison, I often see failure or only temporary results in people who focus only on one aspect of this fitness triad:

  • People who only diet almost always reach a point where they need to eat less and less to lose weight, but at this same time they are losing lean muscle tissue which slows the metabolism more and more. This creates a vicious cycle where keeping the weight off gets harder and harder if not impossible.
  • People who think they can run or cycle to “burn” excess fat while not cleaning up their eating habits or weight training usually end up needing to run or cycle longer and more frequently to see continued results. Again .. they fall into a trap.
  • People who only train with weights fail to get the exercise needed for a healthy heart and vital lung capacity function.

3partprocessThe 100% truth is a human body really needs the 3 part combination of Diet + Resistance Training + Cardio for optimum success and enduring results. This means …

  1. A diet based on lean protein and complex carbs with a cheat day every 7 or 14 days.
  2. Weight Resistance Training 3 days per week.
  3. 30 minutes of Cardio exercise inside your Target Heart Rate Zone 3 days per week *

* Note – For time and convenience, this can be the same 3 days when resistance training is performed.

Time-wise you will be looking at 30-45 minutes of weight training and 30-45 minutes of cardio training each session. This equates to a total of 60-90 minutes of structured exercise three times per week. Another way of looking at this is 2.7% of your total time each week.

Ideally, we would like those days to be spread out across the week to allow time for recovery. Thus it would be better to work out every other day as compared to exercising three days in a row, then resting for 4 days.

I don’t know about you, but I confess I probably waste 3-5 hours per week surfing the internet or watching some bad TV shows.

So the time can be found if you are serious about your health.


At this point, a person may have a few questions…

  1. So what does a good lean protein & complex carb meal look like?
  2. What is a well-structured weight resistance training routine?
  3. How do I know I am lifting properly to get the best benefit?
  4. What are the best options for cardiovascular exercise?

We will answer these questions and more in future installments!

Michael Spitzer is the author of FITNESS AT 40,50,60 AND BEYOND. You can find the book and much more at his site:
Michael Spitzer
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