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Madonna's Fountain of Youth

Ever wonder how Madonna seemingly cheats age? WebMD reveals her secrets.

The Daily Grind continued...

Madonna is famously a lapsed Catholic, and more recently she has taken up the ancient Jewish mystical practice of Kabbalah. But there's evidence she sees physical fitness as a route to spiritual awareness. One of her former trainers, Ray Kybartas, wrote a book Fitness is Religion: Keep the Faith in 1998. Kybartas once said that when Madonna called him to confirm her workouts, she'd ask, "What time's church?" (Kybartas declined to comment to WebMD.)

While having a lifelong commitment to health and fitness may be commendable, the question arises: With the normal effects of aging, how long can she keep that famous body? We posed the question to a few experts.

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 menopause -- 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 the aging process. "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 heart disease, preserved her bone density, and likely reduced her risk of breast cancer, Bushman says.

And what about that diet? Extremely restrictive macrobiotic regimens were once blamed for diseases like scurvy, anemia, and kidney failure. 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 nutrition at Penn State. It's the sort of diet that could prevent and even treat age-related disease.

Brush Up on Beauty

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