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Moving Through the Ages

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No matter what your age, it's never too late to exercise

No matter what your age, it's never too late to exercise. Whether you're 22 or 82, once you start moving, you will be amazed at what you are capable of and how easily your body will begin to reap the many benefits.

With each decade of life, our need for exercise will vary. By knowing what to expect of our bodies as we age, we are more equipped to decide what our focus will be for our exercise regime.

Age: 20 to 40

Your Body

  • We reach our peak bone mass between the age of 20 and 30, then it keeps level until age 40.
  • After 25 we begin to lose muscle mass at a rate of three to five per cent per decade.
  • Flexibility decreases after 25 due to changes in connective tissues and joint fluidity.
  • After 30, our metabolism tends to slow, allowing for a possible increase in body fat.
  • There is an increased risk of fat deposits in the arteries of the heart. This can increase our chances of heart disease.
  • Stress and anxiety tend to increase during these years due to factors such as increased family and work responsibilities.

Your Focus

This is the time to set a lifelong pattern of regular exercise and active living. By doing this you are setting your body up for success in the later decades. A well-rounded exercise program that incorporates cardiovascular (walking, running, cycling, swimming), muscular strength and endurance (moving your muscles against a resistance such as weights, rubber tubing or your own body weight) and stretching activities will carry you a long way. Make exercise a part of your daily life by setting aside time to engage in activities you enjoy. Move as often as possible by walking instead of driving, taking the stairs rather than the elevator, or any other ways you can find to sneak some movement into your day.

Your Benefits

  • Prevents bone loss
  • Improves or maintains muscle mass
  • Minimizes natural loss of flexibility
  • Maintains or increases metabolism
  • Maintains or decreases body weight
  • Decreases risk of heart disease
  • Reduces risk of adult-onset diabetes
  • Prevents injury
  • Increases physical and emotional well-being
  • Reduces stress

40 to 60

Your Body

  • Generally, we will naturally lose bone mass at a rate of about 0.5 to one percent per year, although for women in menopause the rate of loss increases dramatically to three to five percent. Any increase in bone loss will also increase the chance of developing osteoporosis weak bones that are susceptible to fracture.
  • Reduced estrogen levels during menopause increase the risk of heart disease, stroke and arteriole blockage.
  • Flexibility declines. Our connective tissues become more dense and less elastic.
  • Muscle mass, cardiovascular endurance and metabolism continue to decline and our internal organs also slow down as time rolls along.

Your Focus

Weight-bearing activities are essential during these years to help minimize bone loss and decrease chances of developing osteoporosis.

Weight-bearing activities such as walking, running, dancing and racquet sports require you to support your entire body weight. Try to engage in weight-bearing activities that are also cardiovascular in nature (last longer than a few minutes), as these are known to decrease your risk of developing heart disease. Cardiovascular exercise will also help to increase your metabolism, in turn helping to battle your body's attempts to pack on the pounds.

Weight training keeps your muscles and bones strong and helps to maintain co-ordination and balance. The result: a lower risk of injury and falls. Weight training also helps to boost your metabolism, since the more muscle you have the higher your resting metabolism will be.

Also focus on flexibility exercises. Aging will naturally encourage your body to "stiffen up." This can affect your posture and ability to perform everyday activities, as well as limit your freedom of movement. By engaging in stretching activities you will maintain or improve the range of motion around your joints. This means your body will move more freely and allow you to complete tasks of daily living without much thought or effort.

Your Benefits

  • Prevents bone loss
  • Improves resting metabolism
  • Decreases risk of heart disease
  • Maintains or decreases body weight
  • Improves balance and co-ordination
  • Increases energy, productivity and mental alertness
  • Improves posture
  • Improves digestion

Over 60

Your Body

  • The average sedentary 80-year-old will have lost about 40 to 50 percent of original muscle mass from early adulthood. This loss of muscle is accompanied by an increase in body fat stores simply because of decline in resting metabolism.
  • Flexibility will continue to decline, making it more difficult to carry out tasks of daily living such as reaching into a cupboard, getting dressed, climbing in and out of the car, and tying one's shoes. Without a focus on postural muscles, they will continue to shorten, allowing for the common slouched forward posture seen in later years.
  • The cardiovascular system continues to decline, causing a decrease in endurance. This will make everyday activities such as shopping, vacuuming and climbing stairs more difficult
    to do.
  • Balance and co-ordination tend to decline.
  • Bone mass is still on the decline, especially for those diagnosed with osteoporosis. With the decline in strength, balance and co-ordination and the increase in frailty of bone tissue, the chances of falling and fracture increase dramatically.

Your Focus

A good reason for exercising later in life is to maintain the ability to live independently and to reduce your risk of falling and sustaining a fracture. Focus on weight-bearing activities in order to maintain bone strength. These activities will also help with balance and co-ordination, and keep endurance levels up (if the activity chosen is cardiovascular in nature). Moving your muscles against resistance, such as hand weights, improves strength, co-ordination and balance. All-over strength will also increase your chances of protecting or catching yourself if you do happen to take a tumble. Flexibility activities remain important because joints that are more flexible will move more easily. This means that you will be able to walk, reach and bend with greater ease. Looking behind you when you are pulling out of a parking space will be easier, sitting up tall in a chair will come naturally and picking up a dropped object from the floor will not be a huge endeavour.

Your Benefits

  • Furthers independent living
  • Improves posture, strength and balance
  • Increases freedom of movement
  • Improves circulation
  • Increases endurance
  • Decreases chance of disease and illness
  • Increases energy
  • Decreases risk of injury
  • Increases confidence and feelings of independence

Remember, growing older is a natural process but as long as you keep moving and participating in exercise you enjoy, you don't have to feel old. If you work at your own level and don't push yourself to exhaustion, exercise will reward you with a more youthful mind and body as well as an abundance of energy and a positive attitude as you move through the ages.

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