Declining fitness was once expected at about age 35 – now we know it doesn’t have to.
Why grow old gracefully? Even though Ponce de Leon’s efforts to find the fountain of youth were futile, may individuals have continued his crusade.
Aging is a fact of life, and surprisingly, scientists do not know a great deal about this process. For most individuals, the celebration of their 35 birthday begins to mark the decline of physiological functions.
So you’ve slacked off a bit and avoided exercise.
Maybe your job demands too much of your time or you simply fell out of the routine. I have news for you. Whether you’ve taken off one year, ten years or haven’t exercised a day in your life – it’s never too late to start.
You see there are problems with living a life devoid of exercise. Big problems. Your weight rises along with your blood pressure and cholesterol. Your muscles and joints degenerate at an astounding rate leaving you with daily aches and pains. Your body becomes weak, making you susceptible to all kinds of medical issues. Your body stores more fat, time to react lengthens, endurance weakens, osteoporosis sets in, flexibility decreases and joint bones crush. But, with exercise, change how you age.
How Your Body Changes
- Increase in your fat storage with a reduction in muscle and bone mass results in an elevation in percentage of body fat. A large part of these changes can be accounted for by a less active lifestyle and exercise, and a drop in basal metabolism. This means that fewer calories are required to maintain body weight, while at the same time, fewer calories are expended.
- Decreases in reaction time can be observed under laboratory conditions, but you probably won’t notice this unless you are in your 50’s. This slowing is a result of decreases in nerve conduction velocities and an increase in the time required for the brain to process the information and to select the appropriate response.
- The amount of blood your heart can pump per minute also declines along with an individual’s maximum breathing capacity. These factors explain why endurance capacity decreases.
- Women are particularly prone to osteoporosis or the thinning of bones. This problem can begin as early as age 25, and speeds up as menopause is approached. It is during the first few years after menopause that the rate at which bone density is lost is tremendously accelerated.
- Decreases in flexibility result from a loss of elasticity in the connective tissue. That’s one of the main reasons which explains why a person will experience initial joint stiffness after being idle or remaining in a set position for a relatively short period of time.
- The wearing away of the cartilage which attaches to the ends of the bones, will affect everyone sooner or later. Some evidence suggests that activities which demand repeated pounding, or those which require extremely heavy loads to be moved, place tremendous stress on the joints and ten to accelerate this process.
Exercise For Youth
Before you give up all hope and flood the personnel department with requests information about early retirement, results of studies which compare sedentary and active people whose ages from 40-80 years old are encouraging.
The research suggests that you use it or lose it. Exercise strengthens the heart and reduces your risks of cardiovascular disease, as well as osteoporosis. Information does suggest that exercise can postpone the onset of normal age-related deterioration. Exercise improves blood flow to the brain.
Well-designed exercise programs are important for all individuals, but they take on even greater emphasis as one ages. The body is less forgiving when over-used and requires a longer period of time to fully recover from work.
Why Should I Start Now?
You’ve heard about the benefits that consistent exercise bring, but what if you haven’t been consistent? Should you even start at all? This has been the subject of many medical studies and the results are unanimous:
Exercise helps improve your quality of life, even if you start late.
Researchers are constantly finding new benefits to consistent exercise. It’s no wonder that Dr. Robert Butler, of the National Institute on Aging, once said “If exercise could be put into a pill, it would be the single most prescribed medicine in the world.”
Imagine if a pill could offer all of these benefits (without harmful side effects):
- Substantially reduces the risk of coronary heart disease and osteoporosis
- Decreases the risk for stroke, colon cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure
- Helps to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight
- Contributes to healthy bones, muscles and joints
- Helps relieve anxiety and depression
- Promotes well-being and reduces stress
- Is associated with fewer doctor visits, hospitalizations and medications
- Helps prevent and treat chronic medical conditions associated with old age
- Increases energy levels and promotes sound sleep
- Strengthens immune system
I know that I would take that pill – wouldn’t you? Exercise may not be something that you can gulp down with a glass of water, but it will offer you all of the above benefits that can greatly enhance your quality of life.
Excuses, excuses, excuses…
I know what you are thinking. Those benefits sound great, but I can’t exercise because:
- Exercise is painful. Not if you do the type most suitable for you.
- Exercise is boring. Most people who exercise find it to be quite enjoyable.
- Exercise takes too long. It only takes 30-60 minutes a day.
- Exercise is confusing. Not when you work with a trained professional (me).
- Exercise if for young people. Studies have shown that exercise if for all ages.
Get Started the Right Way
Many people have started an exercise program only to quit days later. Now that you have decided that exercise may be worth your time after all, ensure your success with the following tips:
Make a Commitment
You know the meaning and value of a solid commitment. It’s in your blood. So don’t view exercise as something you will merely try. You will only reap the true benefits of exercise when you stick with it.
A great way to reinforce your commitment is to solicit the support of your friends and family. Tell them how you plan to improve your health and quality of life through exercise – who knows, they may join you.
Set Reachable Goals
This is an immensely important ingredient to your success. Don’t start your exercise program with unreasonable expectations. If you expect to lose all of your unwanted pounds and fat, drop your blood pressure and cure your joint pain all in one week then you will be sorely disappointed. Remember that it took years for your body to fall out of shape so it makes sense that it will take some time to regain it. The key to unlocking all of the benefits of exercise lies in one word: consistency. Only then will your body be transformed.
Rearrange Your Schedule
They say that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. This may be because his schedule simply didn’t allow for it. The truth is that as we age there is a tendency to become ‘stuck in our ways.’ The thought of rearranging your schedule may leave you a bit squeamish.
Remind yourself that exercise is worth your time and then think long and hard about your daily schedule. The fact is that you do have time to lend toward exercise – you simply need to find it. Set aside 30-60 minutes for exercise and then stick with it.
Increase the Challenge
You should start your exercise program with the thought of easing into it. Since you haven’t exercised in awhile your body will need to build up strength and endurance. Consider a car that has been sitting in your garage for years. You wouldn’t turn it on and instantly slam down on the gas would you? You need to warm it up.
However, this warm up period should not last forever. Your body has an amazing ability to adapt to new challenges and will grow complacent when asked to do the same exercises over and over. When your routine begins to feel easy take that as a hint to increase the challenge.
Don’t let another day pass you by. You deserve the good life. Take action now.
Nordine Zouareg is a former Mr. Universe, an International Fitness Coach, Speaker and Author of the book Mind Over Body: The Key to Lasting Weight Loss is All in Your Head! He offers world-class advice on health and fitness, inner balance and stress management, and achieving one’s full potential the inner keys to extraordinary performance. An inspiring message of hope and achievement, based on his own extraordinary story. For more information, visit: www.NordineZ.com