More on Fitness and Aging

If you are reading this article on fitness and aging it is likely because you are discovering for yourself that it becomes more difficult to keep the pounds off as you get older. One major reason is the inescapable biological fact that our metabolism slows as we age. Unavoidable for now, at least, until medical technology finds some safe way to alter it.

An individual may be age 42 chronologically, but physiologically his/her body functions like a 22 year old. Mounting evidence has shown proper exercise and nutrition may extend the lifespan, but there is a more important reason for good physical fitness. An increase in body functioning and the body's ability to perform will allow an individual to sustain an enjoyable, productive and independent lifestyle in their latter years of life. The quality of our life is as important as the length of our life.

Genetic research into fitness and aging is trying, in a way, to do just that. Several studies in the last two decades have pointed to hints about precisely what causes aging. If they get sufficient knowledge of the subject, there may be some hope of altering the situation.

Until science finds a way to 'cure' aging, there are several things a sensible person can do to stay trim, flexible and within a healthy weight or body fat percentage range. At any age, diet and exercise are the twin partners required to achieve those goals. Fitness and aging are not mutually exclusive.

For some, working out an hour per day every day - a five mile run, a long swim, hitting every station on the weight machine - is still feasible. Others will have to adjust their routine to what is realistic for their own circumstances. Don't ignore the signals that will help guide you to do that. Mild discomfort is to be expected, especially the day after a vigorous workout. Extreme pain is a sign something is wrong and perhaps you are over-doing it. Fitness and aging are little different than fitness in youth.

There are dietary changes that will be needed, too.

As we age there is still a great temptation to indulge in tasty, but high sugar, high fat foods, after all, we have been able to eat these things all our lives without obvious effects. Unfortunately, we pay a higher price later in life for those than we did in our 20s or 40s. Now your body will begin to display the results on your hips or butt or belly. Life is unfair!

An occasional dessert is actually healthy, both for your state of mind and the sugar and fat. Both are essential compounds in moderation, though simple sugars are preferable to complex and unsaturated fats are preferable to saturated. Sugar is essential to generating the energy needed for all biological processes. 'Good' fats help regulate hormones, neural processes and other vital activities.

Staying active is equally as important as the proper diet. A good walk helps keep the cardiovascular system in working order. Mild stress on the muscles and joints keeps them lubricated and firm. Both muscle mass and bone density reduce dramatically in sedentary individuals.

Studies show that a sedentary 65 year old will have (on average) only 60% of the aerobic capacity of a 30 year old. Those who do no strength training lose muscle mass equivalent to seven pounds per decade. But those statistics are not written in stone. Exercise can help improve them tremendously.

Studies at various universities carried out for 25 years show that runners who continued to train kept almost all their capacity of 20 years previous. Those who engaged in resistance training maintained muscle mass equal to that of ten years earlier. Use it or lose it. Fitness and aging are not necessarily oxymorons.

A person who has been idle, but suffers no debilitating disease, can reverse the effects of aging and regain some of their youthful energy. Start slow and think long term. Pain from overdoing it is one of the leading causes influencing people not to stick with it. Take long walks, then work up to more vigorous activities under the guidance of a personal trainer..

Live a long and healthy life, not just a long one.

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