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Secret Exercise Tricks for Reshaping Your Body After 50, Science Says

It's never too late to start changing your body in a positive way.
FACT CHECKED BY Faye Brennan

Before you scoff at the idea of building the physique that you've always wanted at age 52 or 58, consider this recent research published in Clinical Endocrinology: Scientists concluded that advanced age is by no means a problem when it comes to losing weight. The study found that many adults aged 60 and older were actually able to lose more body weight than younger participants following the same weight loss plan.

There are plenty of reasons to stick with exercising no matter your age. New, groundbreaking research just published in Science Advances has even identified the exact enzyme (NOX-4) largely responsible for exercise's metabolic health benefits among older adults. Scientists are hopeful the enzyme may one day be activated by medications, but for now you'll just have to break a sweat!

Indeed, it would be quite difficult for anyone to argue that stagnation is a better choice in old age with a straight face. Absolutely fascinating research published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences conducted at Harvard University outlines how humans quite literally evolved from apes to be both much more active and enjoy significantly longer lifespans. In other words, keeping active in old age is a distinctly human trait, and it's a big reason why our species has a long lifespan in the first place.

"It's a widespread idea in Western societies that as we get older, it's normal to slow down, do less, and retire," comments lead study author Harvard evolutionary biologist  Daniel E. Lieberman. "Our message is the reverse: As we get older, it becomes even more important to stay physically active. The key take-home point is that because we evolved to be active throughout our lives, our bodies need physical activity to age well."

If you're over the age of 50, and looking to reshape your body through exercise and more physical activity, you can't go wrong with moderate-to-vigorous workouts like jogging or HIIT. That being said, there are always a few extra tricks or "hacks" you can add to your days to help reach your fitness goals. Read on to learn more, and next, don't miss Exercise Mistakes That Can Shorten Your Lifespan.

1

Chew gum

Chewing Gum, Eating, Women.

This tip may sound too good to be true, but who are we to argue with science! This study published in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science discovered that simply chewing a piece of gum while exercising is enough to burn more calories. More calories burned means more potential fat loss and an easier path toward an improved physique.

So, why exactly does something as seemingly inconsequential as a piece of gum help improve workouts? Researchers report chewing gum elevates the heart rate. A faster heartbeat means more blood and oxygen make their way to your muscles, and ultimately, more burned fat.

Even better, study participants who chewed gum while out for a walk also walked at a faster pace, covered greater distances, and increased their overall step count. Chewing some gum during a generally moderate workout like a walk is a great way to reap even further fitness benefits and up the calorie-burning intensity without actually working out harder.

"Chewing gum while walking affects a number of physical and physiological functions in men and women of all ages. Our study also indicates that gum chewing while walking increased the walking distance and energy expenditure of middle-aged and elderly male participants in particular," the researchers write.

Related: The Worst Lifestyle Habits Causing You to Feel Older, Science Says

2

Don't resist resistance exercises

older woman doing dumbbell workout at home
Shutterstock / Prostock-studio

Many readers hoping to change their physique are likely focused on six-pack abs and a smaller waist size. While aerobics are an important ingredient while cooking up a leaner look, resistance exercises that build and maintain lean muscle are super essential as well – especially for older adults. As we age, our metabolism slows, which is why it's usually harder for older individuals to lose weight.

Well, copious studies tell us that a healthy regimen of resistance exercise can provide a serious boost to the metabolism, thus making it easier to lose weight. Moreover, further research also suggests that focusing solely on diet and aerobics while trying to get fit can actually lead to a slowing of the metabolism. The more muscle you have, the more calories you'll burn, which means the last thing you want to do on a new fitness journey is resist resistance exercises.

The importance of muscle maintenance while changing one's physique is supported by this research project published in Obesity. Researchers report that a routine of weightlifting and dieting helped a group of older adults lose more weight than a combination of cardio and dieting. Moreover, those who only performed cardio ended up losing much more essential muscle along the way.

Additionally, don't fall for the fallacy that the weight room is a male domain. This study published in Sports Medicine concludes older women benefit just as much as older men from resistance workouts. Of course, there are a few differences between genders. "Older men might benefit from higher intensity programs to improve their absolute upper and lower body strength," comments senior study author Dr. Mandy Hagstrom. "But older women might benefit from higher overall exercise volumes—that is, more weekly repetitions —to increase their relative and absolute lower body strength."

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3

Enjoy a post-workout massage

leg massage
Shutterstock

Just in case you need an extra excuse to indulge in a relaxing massage, numerous scientific studies tell us a post-workout massage puts our muscles and bodies in the best position possible for a quick, full, and overall more efficient recovery. Less soreness and quicker recovery time mean you can get back to exercising in a quicker manner and reshape your body as fast as possible.

This study released in Science Translational Medicine observed what happened after a group of cyclists had one leg massaged for 10 minutes following a bike ride. Incredibly, the massaged legs showed signs on a cellular level of both reduced inflammation and increased mitochondria (which help fuel recovery post-exercise) within the skeletal muscle. We all tend to think that fitness occurs solely in the gym while we're sweating, but most strength building and body changes happen hours after a workout is over, while we're recovering. Massaging tired muscles and joints can help speed and improve this recovery and rebuilding process.

Another study, this one again published in Science Translational Medicine, came to similar conclusions. Researchers applied a precise massage to injured leg muscles in mice, and sure enough, the muscles recovered much faster and stronger than other umassaged muscles. So, if you strain yourself while working out, it may be an especially good idea to visit your local masseur.

Even on days you don't work out, enjoying a massage can benefit your muscles and help you achieve your fitness goals. One study published in Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation reports a massage can help improve blood flow and muscle soreness even in the absence of a prior workout. "The big surprise was the massage-only control group, who showed virtually identical levels of improvement in circulation as the exercise and massage group," says University of Illinois at Chicago associate professor of physical therapy and study leader Shane Phillips.

Related: 4 Exercise Tricks to Fight Aging, Science Says

4

Try gardening

couple working together in home garden
Shutterstock

A big aspect of changing and maintaining one's relationship with fitness is to find ways to exercise without actually exercising. Gardening is a great hobby that can help you change your body, all while enjoying some nature and greenery!

Did you know that you can actually burn roughly the same amount of calories gardening as you would in the gym? It's true, according to this research released in Public Health Nutrition. It may take a moment to wrap your mind around, but gardening is harder than it looks. It requires strength and hand-eye coordination. Researchers name raking, digging, and mowing as particularly strenuous and useful in terms of calorie burning.

This study in particular found that gardening helped a group of older women improve their overall strength, increase muscle mass, and lower their waist size. As an added bonus, this study published in Ecopsychology reports gardening also promotes a positive body image.

For more, check out The Best Anti-Aging Diets, According to Science.

John Anderer
John Anderer is a writer who specializes in science, health, and lifestyle topics. Read more
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