Have you ever heard someone older than you say, “Wait ‘til you’re my age?” They complain about their weight gain and their aches and pains. They bemoan the fact they no longer can do the things they once enjoyed, like playing golf, riding a bike or hiking. They blame “slowing down” in their advancing years and not on bad choices, including poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle.
There are typical changes in physiological function and body composition that occur with age, even in healthy folks, according to the American College of Sports Medicine Position Stand on Exercise and Physical Activity for Older Adults (2009). For example:
· Muscle strength declines after age 40 and that decline accelerates after ages 65-70. Lower body strength declines faster than upper body strength.
· Muscle power, a product of force and velocity, declines faster than strength.
· Muscle endurance declines.
· Motor performance and control are impaired as reaction time increases. The speed of simple and repetitive movements slows. Complex tasks are affected more than simple tasks.
· Flexibility and joint range of motion decreases, especially in the hips, spine, and ankles.
· Cardiac functions, such as maximal heart rate, stroke volume (the amount of blood pumped out of the heart and into the body on each beat) and cardiac output (the volume of blood pumped per minute) decline.
· Fat-Free Mass (mainly muscle) decreases and body fat increases.
Exercise—combined with proper nutrition—can improve all of the functions listed above, slow these changes and allow you to have a far better quality of life for many more years. It’s never too late to start, either. Evidence shows regular exercise improves health and fitness for adults of all ages—even after years of sedentary and unhealthy behaviors.
Want to begin Feeling Younger and Aging Better? Here are five things you can start doing today:
1. Use a foam roller and other self-massage tools daily to release muscle tension and improve joint function. Add mobility and flexibility exercises to move better and reduce your chance of injury.
2. Increase the intensity of your cardio workouts. You will strengthen your heart and improve your cardiac function. In most cases it’s more beneficial to work harder rather than longer.
3. Lift weights and do other forms of resistance training. This will improve your strength, power and muscle endurance. It also will help increase muscle, raise your metabolism and reduce body fat.
4. Try simple activities you used to enjoy when you were younger, such as skipping, jumping rope, hopscotch, biking and swimming. These all can help improve agility, reaction time and mobility.
5. When it comes to food, however, eat less like a kid and more like an adult. Cookies, candy, donuts, cake, chicken fingers, pizza, French fries, hot dogs and ice cream will only add unwanted body fat and leave you at greater risk for heart disease and diabetes. Eliminating these things from your diet and instead including more vegetables, fruits, lean meats, nuts and whole grains can lower your body fat and reduce your risk of many diseases.