Part of getting older is not having the same level of energy and fitness we used to have. And of course, this is due to some metabolic changes, such as loss of muscle mass over the decades, osteopenia or osteoporosis setting in, and the slowing down of hormone production and cellular turnover and renewal. The other aspect is our lifestyle; such as eating well, getting enough exercise, sleep and reducing our overall stress, which can slow (but not stop) the aging process.
I am a huge proponent of taking steps now while you are in your 40’s, 50’s and 60’s to counter the aging process to not only live longer, but to have a higher-quality of life during our later years.
One of the best ways to stay fit is to stay active. And initially the pandemic caused many people to incorporate some time of exercise into their daily routine, as we found our options limited. I remember back in April and May how excited I was to see so many people out walking, running, or cycling in my neighborhood. Yes, I thought, this is good. People are using their free time to continue the fitness routines they normally did at the gym or were initiating something new now that they had time. I am not so sure if everyone is sticking with their initial enthusiasm, as I just don’t see as many people out there as I used to.
Not trying to scare you but…
We start to lose muscle mass in our early 30’s at a rate of 8-10% per decade, which is called sarcopenia, and this also causes us to lose strength. With each decade, if we don’t counter this loss with strength training, we increase our risk of injury, become more inflexible and experience balance issues as we age.
But it doesn’t have to be this way and with a regular program of strength training we can actually regain some of the lost muscle mass and play sports that we enjoy well into our later years.
Oftentimes, people who are in their 50s and beyond, can really benefit from starting a strength training program. Starting to build up the muscles reduces stress on the joints, and creates an economy of movement, making your body move and work more efficiently. Another added bonus of increasing muscle mass is that muscle is more active than fat, and burns more calories. That’s right, the more muscle you gain, the less you gain (theoretically).
If you are working from home, you are probably sitting in front of one (or more) computer screens and your front muscles, specifically your hip flexors are shortening and becoming tight. That shuts off the signals to the antagonist muscles of the glutes and upper back and now they are becoming weak and inhibited.
This can result in lower back pain, because the “posterior chain muscles” are important for posture and balance and need to be strong to help us lift heavy objects. When the rear chain is weak, we often injure our back. You may want to check out this Youtube video on Foundation Training, which I do to keep my back muscles strong and decompress my spine.
Other exercises you can do at home are squats, planks, burpees, lunges, and push-ups. None of these require any equipment but rely on your body weight to build strength. All of these work your large muscle groups so start here and build your overall strength.
Using weights to do strength training are helpful too and you can use light weights with more repetitions or heavier weights with less repetitions. The goal here is to work the muscle to fatigue. This means you cannot do one more rep without losing form.
Schedule your weight training for two-three days per week, and do some aerobic exercise the other three (such as walking, jogging, running). The important thing is to get moving! I have started to incorporate HIIT (high intensity interval training) into my walks, which mean I walk at a moderate pace, and when warmed up, I sprint for 30-90 seconds, then resume walking. This intensity stimulates my cells, and makes them use the macronutrients more efficiently, which is all good for my overall health.
But look, if sprinting isn’t for you, just walk a little quicker or maybe just walk up the stairs. You do you and stay within safe boundaries when you start a new exercise plan.
If I haven’t convinced you yet that strength training will help you be stronger, and live independently longer, know that exercise is better for your bone health too, and staves off osteoporosis.
So I am asking you…do you want to continue feeling over the hill…or work toward being King of the hill?
If you need help, join me for G.R.I.T., a 21-day jumpstart transformation, which includes setting a goal, improving your fuel and fitness, in a supportive group coaching format, starting September 14. Early bird pricing through September 10.