Aim for 10,000 steps a day, make it fun - like walking the beautiful beach in Naples, Florida at sunset! Photo courtesy of Charly Caldwell II
It’s easy to assume that all the changes happening in your body are due to aging.
But, some are not inevitable.
There are measures you can take to ensure you’re fit in your 50’s and well beyond.
First, build some muscle.
Loss of muscle mass starts around age 30 and by the time the average person reaches 70, they could have lost 25 per cent of their muscle mass.
Scientists know that not all loss of muscle mass as people age (known as sarcopenia) is due to aging, some is due to inactivity and disuse.
The good news is that older adults who strength train regularly can regain a substantial amount of this muscle loss, function and strength.
Strong muscles are not just beneficial for carrying groceries, they serve many other functions as well.
Lean muscle burn 10 times more calories than fat tissue, even when you’re at rest.
Muscles also help insulin to do its job of driving sugar from the bloodstream into the cells, reducing blood sugar levels.
The muscles of physically active people are more sensitive to the effects of insulin, so they help prevent excess sugar from building up in the bloodstream, which over time can lead to type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
On the other hand, failing to maintain your muscle mass has serious consequences.
Typically, when people lose muscle mass, they gain fat.
This is because lack of muscle tissue lowers your metabolic rate. Extra fat tissue can make your body resistant to insulin, causing levels of sugar and insulin to increase in the bloodstream.
This is both unhealthy and a sign that you’re headed for type 2 diabetes.
Regular strength training can also reduce cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
Next, enhance your aerobic capacity.
Aerobic capacity, or a person’s ability to use oxygen during exercise, declines with age.
However, studies have shown that people who start with higher aerobic capacity and those who maintain physical activity throughout life manage to have greater physical fitness at all points of the aging process.
Very active people can have aerobic capacities that are equivalent to or better than those of less active people who are in their 20’s.
Preserving your aerobic capacity with regular aerobic exercise will not only make daily living activities easier but can also raise your aerobic capacity by 15 to 25 per cent.
Regular aerobic exercise improves heart function, lowers blood pressure, boosts immunity, reduces depression and helps protect against stroke, diabetes and some cancers.
Moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise also improves your blood lipid profile, including the ratio of ‘bad’ cholesterol (LDL-cholesterol) to ‘good’ cholesterol (HDL-cholesterol).
Finally, get flexible.
There are some changes that happen to your muscles and joints as you age that can’t be avoided.
However, even in younger athletes, inactivity results in joint stiffness and reduced flexibility, so it’s not all age-related.
A regular stretching program will keep your muscles from becoming shortened and allow greater pain free range of motion around your joints.
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