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Aging – Exercise is key to Staying Young

Getting older is all part of life. I gladly will take the wisdom that comes from getting older. But, the whole idea of aging gracefully is for the birds. I for one, want to be as healthy and strong as I can be as I age. I want to be able to participate in life, travel and enjoy being active for a long time to come. That means being aware of changes that occur naturally as we age and then taking steps necessary to ensure that our bodies remains strong, healthy and vital.

Let’s take a look at aging and its effects of some of our body systems. We will then look at fixes!

Cardiovascular system

Over time, your heart muscle becomes less efficient, working harder to pump the same amount of blood through your body. In addition, your blood vessels lose elasticity. Hardened fatty deposits may form on the inner walls of your arteries (atherosclerosis), narrowing the vessels.

Fix: lifestyle – watch your diet. Limited saturated fats; eat plenty of lean protein and vegetables. Watch your sodium intake and ensure adequate daily exercise.

Bones, muscles and joints

Our bones reach their maximum mass between ages 25 and 35. As you age, your bones shrink in size and density. One consequence is that you might become shorter. Gradual loss of density weakens your bones and makes them more susceptible to fracture. Muscles, tendons and joints generally lose some strength and flexibility as you age.

Fix: Pick up the weights! Make sure you include exercises that are weight bearing.

Kidneys, bladder and urinary tract

With age, your kidneys become less efficient in removing waste from your bloodstream. Chronic conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure and some medications can damage your kidneys further.

Fix: Change your lifestyle if you haven’t already! Maintain a healthy weight. Drink plenty of water daily. As stated above, nutrition is important to prevent diseases such as diabetes or hypertension. Exercise daily.

Brain and nervous system

The number of cells (neurons) in your brain decreases with age, and your memory becomes less efficient. However, in some areas of your brain, the number of connections between the cells increases, perhaps helping to compensate for the aging neurons and maintain brain function. Your reflexes tend to become slower. You also tend to become less coordinated and may have difficulty with balance.

Fix: Keep your brain active – puzzles, crosswords for example are great exercises for the brain. Also, once again exercise and specifically weight training will help keep you strong, improve muscle/mind coordination and if you include a balance component in your overall exercise program, this will go a long way to preventing difficulties with balance and possibly leading to life threatening falls as you get older.

Weight

As you age, maintaining a healthy weight — or losing weight if you’re overweight — may be more difficult. Your metabolism generally slows, meaning that your body burns fewer calories. Resting metabolism decreases with aging, by about 10% from early adulthood to the age of retirement, and a further 10% subsequently. Food intake must be correspondingly adjusted if body fat is not to increase further.

Fix: Get out there and get moving. Include a strength-training workout in your overall fitness program at least 2-3 times per week. Increase your ratio of lean muscle.

One recent study:

Heavy Resistance Training for Older Males

A recent study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research examined if a short-term heavy resistance training program in healthy older men could eliminate deficits in muscle mass and strength (ST) compared with healthy younger men.

The results of this study found that short-term, heavy resistance training in healthy older men is sufficient to overcome deficits in muscle mass and strength when compared to healthy younger men.

The practical application from this research is that healthy older men can be prescribed a whole-body, heavy resistance training program to substantially increase muscle mass and strength to levels similar to younger active individuals.

Sources:

Candow, DG, Chilibeck, PD, Abeysekara, S, and Zello, GA. Short-term heavy resistance training eliminates age-related deficits in muscle mass and strength in healthy older males. J Strength Cond Res 25(2): 326-333, 2011.

Mayo Clinic

Shephard, R.J. (1998). Aging and Exercise. In: Encyclopedia of Sports Medicine and Science, T.D.Fahey (Editor). Internet Society for Sport Science: http://sportsci.org. 7 March 1998.

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