Q: I'm a 39-year-old male business owner and I put in 50 to 60 hours per week. Over the past two years, I've really noticed the changes in my body and metabolism. I've put on about 15 pounds, and it makes me feel uncomfortable. How do I develop an exercise routine and healthy diet that will put me back into the shape I enjoyed in my early thirties, and how can I maintain it?

A: You've just noticed this change in the past two years? You're a lucky man. Most of us begin to notice weight settling a bit easier and body parts drooping a bit more starting around age 30!

For many workaholic business owners who aren't accustomed to exercising or eating right, it can be quite a shock when you realize you can't follow the same lifestyle and expect to stay as lean and healthy as you were in your twenties. The slowing of our metabolism and loss of lean muscle mass is a natural part of the aging process. But that doesn't mean we have to accept it. What we do have to do is exercise harder and eat better.

Your first step should be to set aside time to exercise. It's easy to put off working out when work takes top priority, so you must schedule your exercise time and make it nonnegotiable. Treat it as importantly as you would a meeting with your best client.

How do you develop an exercise routine? I suggest hiring a personal trainer-if only for one session. A qualified fitness trainer can evaluate your current fitness level and help you develop an exercise program you'll enjoy and be more likely to stick with. If you try to follow a "canned" workout you find in a magazine or on the Web, you may be setting yourself up for failure if that workout isn't right for your needs and interests. How can you succeed at a program that includes treadmill running when you despise running? Working out doesn't have to be "work." Find an activity that's fun as well as sweat-inducing.

If working out with a trainer isn't an option for you, design a workout program that includes at least 30 minutes, three days a week, of aerobic activity. Your program should also include strength training two to four days per week and stretching exercises every day. Read some good books on exercise and educate yourself on the proper methods.

Next, you'll need to address your diet. I really don't like the word "diet" because it has a very negative connotation. Let's think of it as "fueling your body." You can choose good fuel or bad fuel, and your body will respond in kind. Good fuel includes fresh foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, fish and lots of water. Bad fuel includes refined flours and sugars (white breads, baked goods, candy) and almost anything boxed, canned or frozen.

Try to eat four to five small meals per day. This can be especially challenging when your days are hectic and full of nonstop work. How many times have you worked feverishly the whole day, only to find yourself ravenously hungry at 4 p.m. and ready to stuff yourself with takeout food? Take the time to snack on healthy foods at regular intervals throughout the day, and you'll avoid such pitfalls.

Getting back that twentysomething or thirtysomething body-and holding on to it-is a challenge you can successfully accomplish. But like anything else worth having, it takes hard work, education and commitment. Good luck!


LearnMore
Not enough hours in the day for you to get in shape? Check out Power Workoutto find out how to carve out some time.


Shannon Entin is the publisher and editor of FitnessLink (www.fitnesslink.com) and co-author ofThe Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Health and Fitness(Macmillan). An ACE-certified (American Council on Exercise) fitness instructor, Shannon thrives on inspiring people to live healthier lifestyles.


The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, not of Entrepreneur.com. All answers are intended to be general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areas or circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney or accountant.