The effects of aging are visible now and hard to escape. Most have been put on a lifestyle prescription, some are using walking aids, have or will have Joint replacements. They are retiring, changing their work habits and are losing or have lost their parents and many of their friends are beginning to pass as well.
While we are living longer now, health for many boomers ends 5-7 years before death and quality of life is poor is too many. I can’t pick up a newspaper or tablet and not be bombed by pharma lifestyle ads for everything. Cholesterol, blood pressure, acid reflux, erection problems, and on and on. 80% of this can be addressed with exercise and proper nutrition.
While I am still suspect of research that shows those who exercise will live longer (only those healthier finished the research study), after 25 years in the industry, I am convinced it will improve life quality for sure. It may not add years to your life, but life to your years.
There are many things about aging you can’t change, but losing or slowing the loss of muscle mass can be delayed, or reversed. Like bone loss or Osteopenia, Sarcopenia is the process of age related muscle loss. Being physically active is great, but without a long term, ideal strength exercise program, you won’t build or keep significant muscle mass. We often confuse being physically conditioned with being highly physically skilled. For example, is the 60-year-old construction worker who is 40 lbs. over fat, smokes, drinks, wears knee and back braces that out works a 19-year-old kid with a set of 6 pack abs in better “health”? Or is the “old man” just highly efficient at his physical labor, and could die from heart attack or stroke at any time? I suspect this is why many men die while in the act of running.
Williness Versus Ability.
The fitness industry runs campaigns from the stance inspiring or motivating the aging to move or, like Nike, “just do it.” Attempts to make it fun or enjoyable or that anything is better than nothing. I am not suggesting this is wrong, but maybe a different perspective is needed.
The encouragement to be active is great for those that have the ability. However, many baby boomers don’t lack the wiliness to become more physically active, they lack the ability. I have read research that with just 10 weeks of High Intensity Strength training(HIT), adults over the age of 86 became more active on their own. This is because they gained leg muscle size and strength, improving their walking, stamina and balance as a result. We are human beings for goodness sake, we want to enjoy life by doing, living and experiencing life.
What happens as we age?
The over 600 muscles in our body are the fuel tank, the engine, the window to cardiovascular health, keys to keeping bones strong and assisting in weight maintenance.
The average adult begins to lose about ½ lb. of muscle per year around the age of 25. This increases to 3/4lb of muscle lost each year after the age of 30. The average adult gains 15 lbs. per decade, losing 10 lbs. of muscle mass in the process. You can’t tell me the man who wears the same jeans in his 50’s as high school, has the same body composition. This is a main reason by age 40 the average female begins to lose around 2% bone mass and by 60 is at the point where half of women over 60 will experience and osteoporotic fracture, half will not recover as a result. This process ends with most people falling below the independent living line by 80 as well.
Good news- Stronger people are harder to kill.
There are ample research studies out there showing that almost anyone over 40 can build 3-5 lbs. of calorie burning, strength increasing muscle in just 8-12 weeks, in some cases at little as 6. This increased weight on the bone chassis can also be shown to improve bone density by 2-10% in one year. Dr. Miriam Nelson, strength researcher from Tufts University shows a 10-15-year physiological age reversal in just one year of structured strength training. Other serendipities of this kind of strength exercise method is that it improves cardiovascular health, assists in fat loss/ weight maintenance, and enhances flexibility. In addition to looking better, having better balance and staving off many illness, accidents and diseases. There are some amazing medical breakthroughs beginning to emerge as we understand human DNA more and what effect exercise has on it. Currently that evidence to this point strongly supports muscling up from strength training. The last bit of good news Ill leave you with is, strength training can be done so it is safe for all ages and can and should be done in as little as 20-30 minutes per week.