If you're in your 40s or 50s you may have noticed that your body doesn't look quite like it did back in the glory years of your teens and 20s. The reason is because of changes that happen with our metabolism and activity level. Many people know that we lose bone mass as we age, but fewer know that we also lose muscle mass.
This change in muscle mass can lead to increased weight gain and changes in appearance. You may find that you haven't gained a pound since your late 20s, but your body looks different because the muscle you had has been replaced with fat.
How do you prevent this metamorphosis to a fluffier you? The answer is regular physical exercise. Studies show that regular low-impact exercise and weight training can help maintain your muscle mass and body shape/configuration, and will allow you to be more active and prevent injury in your 70s and 80s.
People who participate in regular physical exercise have also been shown to have a lower risk of heart disease, colon cancer, diabetes, hypertension and obesity. Active individuals also report less depression and improved quality of life, even those who have arthritis.
Current recommendations are for 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. I usually recommend 30 minutes five times per week or 40 minutes four times per week. For additional benefits adults can participate in 300 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise per week (45 minutes seven days per week).
I would recommend focusing on two basic categories: aerobic and strength training. You can either break your workout into half aerobic/half strengthening, or just alternate days. Examples of aerobic exercise are walking, swimming, water aerobics, elliptical trainer, biking and low-impact aerobics. Strength training would consist of light to moderate weight training involving all major upper and lower muscles.
As you begin your program, be sure to start slowly and work your way up to 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. You may find that you experience some pain during the workout, but that pain should be gone the following morning. If pain persists while you are trying to increase your physical activity, see a doctor.
It's never too late to start being more active. If you can be consistent with your physical activity you will have a happier, healthier and safer life in your golden years. Remember, motion is life.