Fit and 40-Plus
How to get (and stay) active, no matter what your age
Your Joints and Muscles continued...
"As (you) grow older, (you) lose muscle mass and there's a decline in
metabolic rate," says Evans, also a professor of geriatric medicine,
physiology, and nutrition.
"Even if you're aerobically active, you don't prevent loss of muscles.
If you do exactly the same thing, you will lose muscle and gain fat. Strength
training is the only way to increase or preserve muscle mass."
Studies have also shown that resistance training helps with joint
elasticity, flexibility, and bone density, he says.
"We've taken people in nursing homes that are extremely weak and frail
and put them through a strength training program with very little
injuries," he says. "It had a greater effect on bone density than
aerobic exercise and remarkably positive effects on bone density at every
"Once you start moving," Milner says, "it's like a snowball effect." You feel better, he says, your clothes fit better and you begin to eat better.
Whether you're 45 or 70, it's never too late to start (or restart) an
exercise program, experts say.
"Once you start moving," Milner says, "it's like a snowball
effect." You feel better, he says, you're clothes fit better and you begin
to eat better.
Research backs up Milner's assertions.
A study published in the March 2005 issue of Diabetes Care found that
even previously sedentary people aged 55 to 75 could benefit from exercise.
Researchers monitored two groups of adults for a decade. They found that those
that who became active and exercised regularly were not only more fit but
increased their "good" cholesterol levels, got sick less often, and
showed fewer signs of heart disease.
Another study, published in 1999 in the American Heart Journal,
suggested that people who begin exercising later in life tend to have lower
rates of heart disease -- and to live longer.
A Change of Focus
Just as our priorities change with age, so do our motivations for fitness,
suggests Colin Milner, CEO of the International Council on Active Aging (ICAA)
based in Vancouver, British Columbia.
"When you're younger, you're working out five and six times a week and
it's all about sex -- about having a great body, about being virile," says
Milner. "As you get older, it becomes more about keeping your health"
as well as practical considerations like doing household chores and maintaining
independence. That's why it's more important now than ever to forget the
hard-body, "all or nothing" philosophy of fitness, Milner says.
Instead, accept that you can get many fitness and health benefits by
incorporating even moderate exercise into your life.
The old catchphrase "use it or lose it" has some perspective now,
says Milner: Yes, you need to use it or you'll lose it -- but you don't have to
use it at the same degree you did previously.