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50+: Live Better, Longer

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Over 40, Fit, and Ready to Bare Arms

From toned arms to trim ankles, celebs and other high-profile older women show off top physical forms. Why not the rest of us?

Getting the Look

So what's the best workout plan to get Obama or Madonna bodies after 40? According to news reports, Madonna's trainer has her work out two hours a day, six days a week. Michelle Obama is said to have hit the gym as early as 4:30 a.m.

"It's impossible to say what it takes to get 'that' look,'' Miele says. Genetics plays a role, as does overall body fat.

''Everyone is different," he says. "Some people come in to see me, and they run an hour a day. Yet they don't look like they work out at all."

Keeping overall body fat at a healthy, low level is crucial to achieving the toned look, he says. "The big thing with arms [looking toned] is, you have to make sure someone has a low enough body fat mass so you can see the muscles.''

Cardiovascular conditioning is also key, says Jessica Matthews, a spokeswoman for the American Council on Exercise and a personal trainer in San Diego, Calif.

"Aim for moderate-intensity cardio work," Matthews says. "Figure six or so on a scale of one to 10." Get in 30 minutes at least five days a week, she says. The cardio training can be jogging, walking, aerobics class, swimming, or other activities.

To tone the muscles, ''strength train the major muscles," she says. Do eight to 10 exercises that target them at least two days a week, and ideally three days, for 30 minutes each session, she says. Do eight to 12 repetitions of each exercise, for instance bicep curls and tricep kickbacks.

For strength training, women can use free weights, resistance tubing, weight machines, or their own body weight, such as doing push-ups, Matthews says.

The Health Benefits of Being Fit at 40 and Beyond

Whether or not your workouts produce Obama or Madonna arms, pumping iron and engaging in cardiovascular conditioning after 40 has numerous health benefits, Bairey Merz says.

"If you are doing that work for your muscles, you are also helping your bones," she tells WebMD. "And you're helping your bones without drugs." Building bone density by weight training may delay or eliminate the need to go on the ''bone-building'' drugs often prescribed to prevent or reverse osteoporosis.

One health benefit of good arms -- as well as toned legs -- is ''you are not on the road to sarcopenia," Bairey Merz says. The age-related loss of muscle mass and strength can lead to lack of functioning in the everyday world, such as being able to pick up a bag of groceries or put a suitcase in an overhead bin of an airplane.

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