Posted on Apr 11, 2019, 8 p.m.
As each day passes by you age and the body begins to wear out, but there is much you can do to help slow down and even reverse the trend to decline, it’s never too late to improve.
A long term study examining how post middle aged changes in physical activity may affect mortality rate involving 2,205 men surveyed from 1970 to 1973 at the age of 50; which categorized participants into groups based on their level of physical activity: high, medium, low, or sedentary; and followed up when the participants turned 60, 70, 72, and 82 had positive results which are published in the British Medical Journal.
As expected exercising more was found to translate into lower mortality rates in all of the exercising groups. Participants who raised activity levels between the ages of 50-60 were found to experience the same mortality rate as those who had always maintained high levels. Results were so pronounced the reductions in mortality were compared to those who stop smoking: “Increased physical activity in middle life is followed by a reduction in mortality to the same levels as seen among men with constantly high physical activity. The reduction is comparable with that which is associated with smoking cessation, however for low level exercisers to catch up they need to maintain regular physical activity for at least 5 years.”
Findings confirm we can reverse some of the damage caused in earlier years to become as healthy as those who have maintained a healthy lifestyle for most of their lives. The team from the University of Pittsburgh just may have answered questions to the possibility of physical frailty not being inevitable as we grow older which until recently were rather disheartening.
Recently numerous studies have shown that after reaching 40 we typically lose 8% or more of our muscle mass each decade, which accelerates after reaching 70. This loss can mean less strength, mobility, independence, and has been linked to premature mortality. Growing bodies of evidence are also suggesting that this decline may not be inexorable.
The Physician and Sportsmedicine has published such a study giving rise to hope, suggesting exercise on a regular basis and you may be able to rewrite the future of your muscles. Little evidence was found of deterioration in older athletes’ musculature, the 70-80 year old athletes had almost as much thigh muscle as athletes in their 40s; and the older athletes had minor if any fat infiltration. These graying athletes remained strong, although there was a drop off in leg muscle strength at around 60 in both genders, they may not have been as strong as the 50 somethings but the difference was small and little additional decline followed.
Those 70-80 something year old athletes were found to be about as strong as those in their 60s, this means that people do not have to lose muscle mass and function as they grow older. Changes that were assumed to be due to aging and unstoppable in actuality appear to be caused by inactivity and sedentary lifestyles, which can be intervened upon and changed.
Those who were sedentary but opt to become fit can cut their risk of heart attack by 75-80% over 5 years. To significantly lower risk of coronary heart disease vigorous activity is needed according to the Harvard Alumni Health Study.
There is a growing trend of those that are 60+ being on their way to becoming in better shape than the average 35 year old. If you are not exercising now, it doesn’t matter if you are 25 or 85 you can double your strength in around 3 months, and maybe double it again in an additional 3 months. Muscle growth seen in the older participants in these studies was found to be statistically equivalent to those of much younger years doing the same amount of training.
Flexibility and strength is not reserved for younger populations either, the percentage of body fat and aerobic capacity was found to be related more to training than it was to age.
Exercise is also known to be great for appearance, attitude, and sex drive. Exercise on the regular helps to maintain levels of hormones that decline with age, increases metabolism and lymph flow, as well as helps to increase DHEA, while reducing the stress hormone cortisol.
If you are new to the exercise routine you may want to consider consulting a personal trainer to help design a program for your specific needs, get you motivated, keep you on track, and ensure you are moving correctly to avoid injury at least for the first few sessions, and perhaps a periodic tune up. A knowledgeable certified trainer can help you ease into a program, especially if this is a significant lifestyle change, to help you build muscle and support your joints that take more time to become stronger.
You may also consider trying a sport or activity you enjoy most at first, then you can try to mimic those basic movements to be incorporated into an exercise routine. This way not only will you be doing something you like but performance in the activity will improve as well.
Exercise can be anaerobic strength/weight training or aerobic cardio training. Weight training/resistance training can help to wake up neural connections, not only will you become stronger and more agile but you will also become better coordinated. If you are not familiar with weight training it is suggested to consult a certified personal trainer to avoid injury at least for a few sessions.
What it comes down to is that the body was designed to move. The body signals the cells to grow when you exercise, which causes a ripple effect and spreads growth processes to every cell in the body to make you functionally younger. Likewise being sedentary muscles trickle chemicals that signal cells to wither away. This means you have a choice to opt to be lazy and decay or be active and keep a powerful body into old age. It’s never too late to try to improve.
*NOTE: For those over the age of 40, those with a chronic disease, or any serious conditions it is recommended to check with a doctor before beginning any exercise program.
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This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.