Is 60 the new 40 – and vice versa?

 

There is a growing divergence in our rates of aging, with many people, depending on their diet and level of exercise, experiencing much wider variations in their chronological and biological ages; some forty-year-olds have the body of a sixty-year-old, while some sixty-year-olds will have a biological age closer to a forty-year-old.

Planning for a longer, healthier life

If you are in your twenties or thirties, you have more than a fifty percent chance of living beyond 97. If you are in your forties, fifties or sixties, you have the opportunity to design the second half of your life. Better health is the foundation for success.

My experience as a Master Trainer has taught me that the chronological age of my clients isn’t necessarily a good guide to their ability or potential. It’s better to focus on their biological capabilities. Eating smart combined with resistance training has been something of a ‘fountain of youth’ for some; you should see the weight some of my 60+ year-old clients’ bench press! The sooner we focus on this in our lives, the better, but 50 is an important staging post if anyone wants to act to improve their health, to try to slow the aging process and reduce the depredations of old age.

Time takes its toll: 3 serious health challenges at 50+
  • Muscle sarcopenia
    • As we age our body deteriorates, with muscle sarcopenia (the loss of muscle as we age) increasingly common. Muscle is vital to our lives and health, so losing it degrades both. Age-related loss of muscle mass and strength robs us of the ability to perform even the most basic tasks as we get older. And while it is most often evident in the physically inactive, it can even affect those who remain physically active throughout their life.
  • Osteoporosis
    • This should be of concern to both sexes. While it’s well known that women are prone to the loss of bone mass as we age, men are not immune. Although the risk is lower, it should not be ignored.
  • Balance
    • The simple skill of maintaining good balance reduces the risk of falls, which as we age can be life changing for anyone also suffering from muscle sarcopenia and osteoporosis. Think bone fractures, joint replacements, as well as unnecessary pain and severe deterioration of the quality of life.
The 50+ plan

Smarter eating can make a big difference to the aging process, with inadequate dietary protein and nutritional imbalances amongst important factors related to sarcopenia and osteoporosis. Several nutrients including creatine, vitamin D and protein have shown great promise in combating sarcopenia. Omega 3 is another nutrient worthwhile considering, as this has been found to preserve muscle mass under various physiological conditions. It’s always recommended you speak to a doctor before deciding to take any supplements.

Smart food choices to help:

  • Protein: chicken and turkey as well as fish, such as cod or haddock
  • Omega 3: salmon and flaxseeds
  • Vitamin D: mushrooms, fatty fish such as herring and egg yolks are all good sources.

The role of exercise

Exercise is critically important in preventing and managing sarcopenia, as it stimulates the release of hormones that promote healthy muscle mass. Although any exercise is better than none, aerobic exercise, though great for the cardiovascular system, is only mildly effective in preserving lean body mass.

The importance of resistance training

Lifting weights builds muscle AND strengthens bones, while muscles, as our body’s shock absorbers, reduce the risk of fractures if we do fall. When it comes to preserving or increasing muscle mass, there really is no better alternative than resistance training for men or women.

  • Muscles generate the mechanical stress required to keep our bones healthy, thus when muscle activity is reduced it increases our susceptibility to mass of bone loss.
  • According to the Centers for Disease and Prevention, resistance training in addition to building muscle mass can promote mobility, improve health related fitness and improve bone health.
  • And for men, don’t forget a significant benefit of lifting weights is the acute testosterone boost one can experience. This is achieved through the big compound movements such as the squat or deadlift. Combining this with the right nutrition provides the best chance in maintaining healthy levels of testosterone, improving the physique, enhancing libido and reducing other possible health complications.
Getting fit for the future

It is possible to improve lean muscle mass at virtually any age by eating the right foods and adopting an exercise routine that includes both aerobic and anaerobic training. Chose to defy your age rather than be defined by it. Lift weights to help stay healthy and enjoy a better quality of life. And for anyone with a neglected body – it’s never too late – or too early – to start!

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Alex is a registered Master Trainer and Nutritional Advisor with Level 4 qualifications in obesity and diabetes. He is also a strength specialist and a Ni Dan in Shotokan Karate.

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