Keeping the Faith
It's not something Madonna might like to admit, but at 47, her physical peak is clearly behind her. Maximum oxygen consumption peaks in the early 20s, Barbara Bushman, professor of health and physical education at Missouri State University, tells WebMD. So to achieve the same fitness results as she did in her "Material Girl" era, Madonna will have to work harder. Her muscle and bone mass are also on the decline. And with the arrival of-- typically in the early 50s -- bone loss will accelerate, as will her propensity to gain weight.
The good news -- for Madonna, at least -- is that her lifestyle is likely to slow theprocess. "At this age, you get a widening of the field, as it were," James Pawelczyk, an associate professor of physiology at Penn State University, tells WebMD. "People who have been taking care of themselves are relatively insulated from those [aging] changes compared with those who haven't."
Her exercise and diet both play a role. By mixing cardiovascular activity, strength training, and flexibility exercises, Madonna has minimized her risk of, preserved her , and likely reduced her risk of , Bushman says.
And what about that diet? Extremely restrictive macrobiotic regimens were once blamed for diseases like scurvy,, and . But more popular versions of the diet now allow fish, beans, nuts, and other protein sources. Today's macrobiotic diet somewhat mirrors federal dietary guidelines, says Kristine Clark, director of sports at Penn State. It's the sort of diet that could prevent and even treat age-related disease.
Keeping Up With Madonna - and the Joneses
Only someone like Madonna can afford the Madonna lifestyle. Her personal staff of nannies, chefs, trainers, and nutritionists ensures that her fitness never has to take a back seat to cooking, cleaning, or childrearing. And of course there's the plastic surgery option.
But that doesn't mean we can't learn something from Madonna's example. Experts say fitness should be a lifelong pursuit, and Madonna has stayed in top performing shape longer than many dancers and professional athletes.
The tabloids suggest her fitness devotion is freakish, and rumors are swirling that she's exhausting herself to prepare for her new tour. But her excellent performance over the years suggests she's been doing something right, Bushman says. "My guess is she's maintained a balance, or problems would've started to come up," she says.
One source of that balance may be her obsessive cross-training. By mixing and matching activities, she increases her overall fitness and reduces the potential for injury from overuse. Maybe you don't have the time or the stamina to run, dance, and do yoga all in one day like Madonna. But stretch out those activities over a week and you've got the foundation of a good workout plan, suggests Lauren Muney, a fitness coach based in Laurel, Md.