This month, Elle Macpherson turns 53. It’s also 31 years since she was first photographed for the swimsuit issue of Sports Illustrated, and somehow, she looks as incredible now as she did back then. Macpherson is, of course, known as ‘The Body’, her supremely toned physique defying decades, but she is not alone in her looks.
Today, more and more women are photographed, 30-plus, bikini clad and surfboard in tow like Macpherson and Cameron Diaz, or amid the boxing ring like Adriana Lima, who has modelled for Victoria’s Secret for 17 years. Their figures front a new model for the 30, 40 and 50-year-olds, but what do they do differently? Our ideal of the perfect body is constantly being reassessed and redefined.
While admittedly impressive, the shrinking frames of Madonna and Renée Zellweger that typified the early 2000s felt a little frazzled and overworked. Today’s bodies look toned, but not over-stretched, slim but not skinny. In the vein of Demi Moore and Goldie Hawn, plastic surgery has been credited with Hollywood’s best-formed frames, but in later life, the telltale signs start to show. “I think awareness of anti-aging techniques has grown and become more sought after and accessible,” says Hacer Bozkurt, IMD, nutritionist to Elle Macpherson. “I believe another key ingredient of this trend is the widespread use of bio-identical hormones and natural supplements,” she continues.
As with current diet and lifestyle trends, Bozkurt refers to our increased interest in a more natural approach to hormone therapy that has focused attention on bioidentical hormones. These hormones have an identical molecular structure to the ones we make in our bodies. “They can keep the body functioning at a lower biological age,” Bozkurt explains. “They can enhance appearance, metabolism, prevent free-radical damage and the rusting of cells.”
We’re seeing these fabulously fit-looking women with healthy figures because I think they have lived active, healthy lifestyles for decades
Martha Kaplan, Soul Cycle New York
But, an ageless body is not built upon science alone; other factors that we are all too familiar with come into play and should begin early. “We’re seeing these fabulously fit-looking women with healthy figures because I think they have lived active, healthy lifestyles for decades,” says Martha Kaplan, an instructor at Soul Cycle New York. Maryam Fattahi Salaam, founder and CEO of Physique 57 Dubai, is also in agreement. “Women like Physique 57 devotee Norma Kamali (aged 71), who work out every day and follow a clean, balanced diet, are inspirational.” A pioneer of athleisure as we know it today, wellness- obsessed fashion designer Kamali is a rarity, easily looking decades younger than her birth certificate tells. She credits her regular barre workouts and a diet rich in olive oil and low in sugar and meat with her time-defying looks. We are all aware that a balanced diet and exercise equate to longevity, but how can we prepare for a physique like Kamali’s? “What may surprise people is that our body starts changing in our 20s,” warns Bozkurt, who also counts Connie Britton and Amanda de Cadenet amongst her high profile clientele. “As the production of nitric oxide declines, the cardiovascular system begins to get affected very gradually, which can affect energy and the metabolism also lowers. Then, by our 40s and 50s, hormones are fluctuating and the body is changing – that’s when women report to notice changes more dramatically.”
It is widely agreed that an overkill of cardio and a starvation diet can hinder the female form, and that high intensity workouts are known to increase physical signs of aging and put greater strain on muscle groups, resulting in an increased risk of injury. Amongst others, Grace Lazenby has trained Courtney Cox, Sarah Silverman, and Carrie Underwood and, like Kamali, she believes that the power behind her clients’ prowess is in the recent trend towards yoga, Pilates and barre, adding up to flexibility, strength and the perfect postural form. “These three workout regimens are the best for women in their later years,” she advises. “There’s less impact, but yet the classes also lengthen the muscles, giving a long, lean figure.” Another pioneer, for this approach was Callan Pinckney, the creator of Callanetics (the core of barre) – she taught well into her 60s and maintained a dancer’s body that was made by small and simple floor-based exercises.
It is widely agreed that an overkill of cardio and a starvation diet can hinder the female form, and that high intensity workouts are known to increase physical signs of aging
The catwalks have echoed Hollywood’s cues with more 30-plus tight and toned women like Carmen Kass and Gisele Bündchen walking than ever before. “I don’t believe there is as much focus on the ‘model slim’ diets now,” says Heather McKnight of Dubai’s ingredient-focused cooking school and café, Culinary Boutique. “Women are more concerned with looking good from a
healthy diet with variety.” A declining metabolic rate does, however, call for greater culinary caution. “All women would do well to avoid dairy, wheat and really dramatically cut back and take breaks from alcohol and coffee,” says Bozkurt. A body likes Macpherson’s in her 50s and Kamali’s in her 70s commands time, dedication, and attention to strong health habits formed young and upheld over decades, but there is one key element that all the experts are in agreement on. “Many older women focus too much on what they look like on the outside as they age,” says Kaplan. “They should focus on how the exercise makes them feel on the inside and all of the health benefits and energy they are gaining from it.”