Movement and muscles: the keys to aging gracefullyBy Mitch Felipe Mendoza
Philippine Daily Inquirer
We work hard to improve our lifestyle because we want to age gracefully, stay healthy and live life to the fullest. We do not want to limit our potential because we want to do more things like travel, meet more people, try delicious foods, share our knowledge with the community, and enjoy the most important people in our lives.
We can achieve all this right now, at no extra cost. We just need to commit to a new lifestyle.
Growing old has become the greatest fear of most people, and they will do everything to look good and feel young again. But most people focus on the superficial effects of aging like wrinkles, excessive body fat and dry, saggy skin. Those who have the means spend time and money on medication and surgical procedures. But the truth is, moving more and nourishing what’s inside your body, like the heart, muscles and bones, will have more long-lasting results.
A very recent Australian study of more than 200,000 adults published in Archives of Internal Medicine found that those who sat for 11 or more hours a day had 40 percent more risk of dying in the next three years as compared to those who sat for less than four hours a day.
This implies that aside from regular exercise of 30-60 minutes a day, one should stand and move more. If your work requires lots of physical activity (like a fitness trainer, massage therapist, waiter, carpenter, saleslady, or messenger), thinking of ways to move might not be a problem at all.
But if you sleep seven to eight hours a day, and your lifestyle is sedentary, how do you avoid sitting for more than 11 hours during the day?
If you stay in the office for almost nine hours and mostly do paper/computer work, then find ways to move, like getting up from your chair every 10 minutes or standing for five minutes, using the stairs instead of the elevator, and walking around your work spot while using the telephone. You can also use a stability/gym ball as your chair so you can still move and bounce while on it.
Choose to walk if your destination is just 15-30 minutes away in tolerable weather. If not, instead of using your car to travel one to two hours a day, try to commute so you can walk more.
Do an exercise routine or housework while watching television at home.
Researchers from the Epidemiology and Public Health Group at the Peninsula Medical School in the UK concluded that the rate of decline in physical ability in later life was twice as high among less physically active middle-aged people (50-69) within all weight ranges.
Those who maintained a reasonable level of physical activity (30 minutes three or more times a week), like those who engaged in housework, sports and physically active jobs, were more likely to remain mobile, walk more, climb stairs, maintain their sense of balance, stand from a seated position with their arms folded, or sustain their hand grip as they get older.
So how can you incorporate physical activity that can be sustainable all your life?
Instead of focusing on your usual weight-loss goals, find a more long-lasting reason to exercise that will motivate you to move every day, like “to function normally and still do more activities as I grow older,” “to remain healthy as long as I can,” “to avoid any physical disabilities in the future,” or “to avoid hospital stays.”
Aside from your usual workout, you should have an activity that can be done wherever you are, like walking, household chores, or a simple home exercise program without the need for special equipment or a trainer.
Record in your journal even unintentional physical activities like walking and climbing stairs so you can see your daily accomplishments. This will motivate you to move more and more each day.
Good news for active people and athletes: use it and you won’t lose it.
After you reach age 35, without any regular physical activity, muscle loss will take place, resulting in strength decline, more fat and a slow metabolism. If you don’t use your muscles, they will definitely shrink and result in musculoskeletal problems.
A study last year published in the Physician and Sportsmedicine showed that a 70-year-old triathlete’s muscle is almost comparable to that of his 40-year-old counterpart. Thus, you can have the body composition of a younger person if you work hard for it, on a long-term basis.
Start now, regardless of your age, by incorporating a well-balanced fitness routine in your life, consisting of cardiovascular, strength, core and flexibility exercises.
Exercise all your body parts and build muscles. Stop dieting and start exercising to keep your muscles from shrinking.
Exercise safely and in moderation so you can sustain your current level of exercise even as you grow older.
E-mail the author at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on twitter @mitchfelipe.