Getting older—it happens to everyone of us. And with it comes a number of physical changes. Knowing what to expect of your body as you age—what’s likely to happen and why—means that you have a good chance to take action to help lessen or delay the changes, keeping you both feeling and looking younger and fitter for longer.
Always keep in mind that the right level of exercise can improve health and fitness, no matter your age.
Attitudes to growing older
There are two principal ways to think about your age:
- chronological—based on your date of birth
- biological—based on your physical fitness level and your ability to deal with life’s daily demands.
While there’s nothing you can do to change the first one, research has proven that regular exercise can delay the latter by up to 12 years.
Regular, moderate exercise is also connected to a decreased risk of many health problems. The key is to choose activities that suit both your current fitness level and your age to counteract the main changes that happen over the years.
Starting to exercise when you’re young will make it easier for you to look after optimal health and fitness throughout life.
Women start to lose cardio fitness around the age of 35, with aerobic power falling by up to half by the age of 60, so it becomes all the more important to include enough cardio exercise into your everyday life as you age.
Muscle mass and strength
Women lose 6–9% of their muscle mass every ten years after the age of 30. For this reason, resistance training becomes all the more important at this stage in order to stay in good shape and healthy for daily activities, such as climbing the stairs or lifting and carrying heavy objects.
Bone mass and strength
Bone mineral density (BMD) begins to decline at about the age of 30—more bone starts to be lost than is made and levels of minerals, such as calcium, lower. Again, this makes resistance training particularly essential as you age in order to avoid the onset of osteoporosis (brittle bones because of loss of bone mass).
The gradual loss of elastin signifies that high-impact activities that take joints beyond their normal range of movement, such as squash, should be kept away from in later years. However, regular stretching, Pilates, and yoga all help to minimize loss of flexibility.
Confidence and balance
The many physical changes linked to getting older can cause a loss in confidence in terms of moving around, which may result in hesitant balance. To counteract this, it’s important to maintain good posture because healthy alignment encourages balance. It’s also important to take care of your strength through resistance training to create a solid foundation from which to move.