|Photo by Rita T|
· Cardiovascular /Aerobic Exercise (walking, elliptical, swimming)
· Strength Training / Weight Lifting (weight machines, free weights, hand weights)
· Flexibility /Stretching (yoga, pilates, calisthenics)
I had practiced yoga regularly in my early 40s, which helped me with flexibility and with stress management. However, it did not increase my muscle mass the way strength training does. By lifting weights, I increased the amount of muscle I have, which improved my metabolism. Cardiovascular exercise not only addresses heart health. It helps with cognition, balance, digestion, and more. Even with adding strength training and cardio to the flexibility workouts did nothing for "the middle aged spread." My weight that was not coming off even with upping my cardio to two hours a day, five days a week.
I love to eat, so I thought I could just burn it off at the gym. Not true. I finally caved and also reduced the amount of carbohydrates I consumed, especially refined carbohydrates and starchy foods such as cookies, cakes, pasta, crackers, white bread, rice, corn, potatoes, etc. I switched them out for larger servings of green and orange vegetables and more servings of beans and legumes. Ten days after I made these eating changes, I lost 6% of my body weight--primarily off my waist. These changes also helped me have more energy throughout the day.
[Note: Some people who experience fatigue do have a medical problem, so please talk with your doctor about running tests as a way to exclude a serious cause for your fatigue. Here are some causes to consider with the support/expertise of your physician.]
Once I diversified my fitness and diet regime, I no longer feared that I would fall asleep if I sat down in the afternoon. Yes, I spent more time at the gym—4 to 7 hours a week--but I regained that time by improved energy throughout the day. As I have often explained to my peers, I gain my motivation not by pursuing a hot body as I did during my single years: Now I am running away from Father Time and the Grim Reaper. I felt these two shadowing figures nipping at my heels when I started experiencing weight gain and crushing fatigue in my late 40s. Fear is a great motivator.
I realize that talking about diet and exercise does open a real Pandora’s box. The aging body has strengths and weaknesses unique to each person. I grow very impatient with people who try to persuade me to adopt in toto their very specific choices for eating and exercise. Each person should develop a diet and an exercise program unique to his or her needs. But even people living in skilled nursing centers can benefit from a fitness routine, tailored to their needs. Are your parents and other people a generation above you maintaining a fitness routine? See what you can do to gently offer support in this area.
Over time, I will share research-based information about diet and exercise as they relate to the aging body. In the meantime, if you have an observation on the topic, please leave a comment.
Older Adults Who Are Athletes
Embracing My Age
Aging Involves Increased Time on Self Care
The Senior Discount: A Matter of Fashion