Did you know that the physical shape you are in during your middle age years is predictive of your health in your older years? Think about that. If you are middle age, the steps you take now can help you live a healthier fitter life as a senior, both physically and emotionally. And those daily walks that you take with your friends today give the double bonus of stress busting and social connection, two things important to our emotional wellbeing throughout our life span.
We know that exercise is good for our mood and overall health, but it also builds an important reservoir of muscle that helps us stay active and alert as we age. After 40, our bodies undergo gradual changes that may creep up on us. By being more aware and making health behaviors routine you can stay ahead of the curve.
In our 40’s our bodies experience shifting hormone levels that impact our muscle mass, overall body composition, and weight. Sacropenia, the bone equivalent of osteoporosis, is one of the biggest challenges. Sarcopenia is the age-related decline in muscle mass and function characterized by the loss of skeletal muscle mass and strength that occurs with aging. After age 40, muscle loss varies between 16.6% to 40.9% and by age 70 the cumulative loss can take its toll. As our strength and stamina decline, so does our physical activity which in turn leads the vicious cycle of more muscle loss, increased weakness and further decline in physical activity. Although the impact of sarcopenia may initially be less for men due to their greater initial muscle mass, inactivity eventually hits everyone.
The good news is sarcopenia is not inevitable if you take action now and in the future. Building your muscle mass and keeping it at a healthy level is key.
Here are recommendations to help fuel your body and protect it moving forward:
- Consume 25 – 30 mg of lean protein at each meal
- Eat a healthy balanced diet containing plant based foods and eliminate unnecessary sugars
- Engage in Resistance / Strength Training 2 to 3 times a week
- Exercise vigorously 45 minutes 5-6 days per week in cardio activities
- Maintain good levels of Vitamin D
- Maintain flexibility through stretching, yoga, or other activities
If you are just beginning, pick a few items you can focus on. When they are habits, add a few more. If you are already doing these things, keep it up! When our body is healthy and engaged so is our mind and or mood. Remember, taking action now, will pay big dividends later in a strong healthy body that will move you confidently into your older years.
Kathy Baur, Ph.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist and professional life coach with over 21 years of experience in helping people make transformational change in their lives. She has facilitated workshops and trainings at the local, state, and national level and currently is a senior psychologist with Jefferson Center.
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