There are some things that change as you get older. The traits you desire in a partner, for example, and your idea of what constitutes a night out. But the fundamentals of fitness stay the same no matter how many birthday cakes you’ve consumed.
What happens to your body as you age?
Gradual decline in oestrogen, progesterone and growth hormone, especially after menopause.
Muscle mass declines
Bone density declines
Recovery time increases
Every decade has a cumulative effect on our hormonal health, and we will feel it if we’re not taking care of ourselves So, what do we have to watch for and do?
The golden years of a body that can handle consecutive nights out and many Hiit classes with equal ease, all while juggling late night revision or working long hours.
This is the decade in which you’re most likely to be in your peak physical condition; your reaction times are at their fastest, you can build muscle quicker, and recover from tough sessions faster. You’re also developing your musculoskeletal strength. This is also the time to add in strength training and impact because bone density peaks in your twenties to early thirties, undertaking weight-bearing activity (where your bones are supporting your weight) like running, football, netball or a strength program, can maximise your bone health for life.
While any weight-bearing aerobic exercise is good for your bones, joining a team can help you in ways that extend beyond the physiological benefits of running and jumping. That feeling of belonging has been shown to reduce your risk of developing chronic conditions like heart disease and type 2 diabetes, as well as improving your body image – something women in their twenties are more likely to be struggling with than older women. I was for one struggling with my own image in my 20s but looking back at pictures I long to look like that again. Youth is wasted on the young and we all want that to obtain a fountain of youth to quote some famous youth sayings.
But while this is a great time to fall in love with exercise, over exercising is common among women of this age group. For many of the 20-something can see issues with amenorrhea (loss of periods), this is also the time our food intake becomes less or just not optimal quality. This paired with too much exercises and lack of sleep can cause issues. So maybe instead of all those high-intensity exercises build in some strength and conditioning sessions too, even better if in a group setting. Just find something you love, if not a group class try rock climbing, dancing (without the alcohol), swimming, skiing, water sports. In your 20’s the world is your oyster so go and grab it!
The goal is to build a relationship with exercise that becomes like brushing your teeth – something you incorporate into your days without even thinking about it.
What do workouts and nights out in your thirties have in common? You’ll probably notice your body takes longer to recover from them than it used to.
Rest days and active recovery (think: a 20 to 30-minute walk or even a yoga session) can help counter this by promoting blood flow and, with it, the flow of nutrients necessary for cellular repair, like oxygen, amino acids from protein, and glucose from carbohydrates.
This is also the decade during which muscle strength and bone density begin to decline. Any weight-bearing aerobic exercise will work, but strength training has an edge, since lifting weights gets the hips, spine and wrists involved, strengthening bones in those areas, which are the sites most likely to fracture.
Since the average age for first time motherhood in the UK is 30.6, this may also be the decade when you’ll need to adapt your workouts around prenatal and postnatal training. The most delicate stage of a pregnancy is the early weeks, so if you’re trying to conceive, I wouldn’t recommend drastically increasing your training intensity during this period or start any new exercises programs.
Post pregnancy make sure there are no issues with recovery at your six-to-eight-week check-up, ease back in gently and don’t skimp on pelvic floor exercises (you may know them as Kegels). Build your strength and fitness back up slowly. Start with walking, then move on to simple body-weight strength work before adding weights or impact. Find a postnatal class as social interaction in this phase is great and will help you too. Even better if you can bring baby too. I am biased, but that is why I started buggyfit fit myself as I attended a class with my first baby and fell in love with what it offered me! Fast forward to 3 kids later and I now run them in Primrose Hill and Regents Park. This is my passion: Natal Fitness.
Take note of your pregnancy and how your body dealt with it, as this is a window to how your body deals with fluctuating in hormones (think menopause), where the body is under great stress. For an example if you suffered from Gestational diabetes in pregnancy, it does normal go away normally after birth. Women who’ve had it are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life. Pay attention to your menstrual cycle and how your body is coping as it is your monthly progress report.
40s (this is me)
You’ve heard of the menopause but what of somatopause? This refers to the gradual decline of somatotropin, or growth hormone (GH), which usually begins during this decade.
GH stimulates (you guessed it) growth, cell reproduction and regeneration, and fat metabolism (the breakdown and storage of fat), among other things. Decreased muscle mass, increased fat, and reduced libido and energy might be experienced during this decade.
Falling levels of oestrogen and progesterone – changes consistent with perimenopause – also contribute to changes in your body composition; when oestrogen drops, fat storage tends to switch from hips and thighs to the abdomen.
You may not love the extra inches, and you should be aware that this is visceral fat – the fat stored in your abdominal cavity near your organs – and increases your risk of heart attacks and heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, breast cancer, colorectal cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.
The decrease in muscle mass and decline in activity that often accompany this age range may also slow your metabolism – the chemical processes that help convert food into energy.
The most frequent question I get asked is how do I burn fat around my middle? The answer is you can’t spot-reduce fat, referring to the old myth that you can target fat in a certain area of the body through exercising specific muscles. Increasing lean body mass by building muscle is the most sustainable way forward if weight loss is the goal.
I love functional strength training in this age bracket, which focuses on large body movements that mimic activities in your daily life, like walking, bending, pushing and pulling, as building muscle anywhere on your body can help increase the number of calories you burn at rest.
You can add weights to the movements, or rely on your own body weight to provide the resistance. Free time a luxury most no longer have? HIIT (high-intensity interval training) is your friend. A well-programmed Hiit workout with lots of compound moves that work multiple muscle groups with heart-pumping cardio segments to burn more calories and build strength (and be over before anyone notices you’ve actually taken some time for yourself). But also remember that your body requires more time to recover, so doing a maximum of three high-intensity sessions per week, alongside active recovery and strength training is the best training program for your 40s.
This is also the decade to increase your calcium intake, think milk, cheese and other dairy foods, but do not forget about green leafy vegetables – such as curly kale, okra but not spinach (spinach does contain high levels of calcium but the body cannot digest it all) soya drinks with added calcium, bread and anything made with fortified flour for those intolerants to dairy, we want to add to our bone density bank which has slowly been dwindling since our 30s.
Not since puberty or pregnancy has your body undergone such a massive hormonal upheaval. In the UK, the average age at which you’ll hit the menopause is 51; Basically, your ovaries stop producing oestrogen and progesterone, which means ovulation and menstruation will be erratic until they stop completely. Menopause is classified as not having had a period for 12 months.
As well as being crucial for bone health, oestrogen plays a key role in protecting your heart. Men are at a higher risk of getting cardiovascular disease, but after women go through menopause, their risk becomes equal because they no longer have the protective effects of oestrogen. So, when it declines, maintaining a healthy weight and doing regular cardiovascular exercise – anything that gets your blood pumping – become vital.
It’s also worth noting that your pelvic floor muscles are not immune from the loss of muscle mass that comes with age. This means that pelvic floor disorders (PFDs) are more common among 50-something women.
Strength and conditioning exercises that target all-round performance are excellent. This could mean adding 10 to 15 minutes of brisk walking, running, rowing or swimming to a strength session that features moves like weighted step-ups.
As for strengthening your pelvic floor? Core moves, like deadbugs (lying on your back with legs in tabletop position and lowering your leg and opposite arm to hover just off the floor) and bird dogs (kneeling on all fours and raising your leg and opposite arm) and bridges (lying on your back with knees bent and feet on the floor, squeezing your bum to lift your hips), should be in your exercise program.
Resistance training should become your best friend: Strength training doesn’t have to mean heavy lifting. Resistance bands are a great option for a do-anywhere workout. Also adding 1-2% body fat can actually be beneficial and give us more Estrone (Estrone is a weaker type of oestrogen. It's produced primarily in the ovaries and fat tissue. Estrone is the only type of oestrogen that women have in any sizeable amount after menopause). Remember that excessively slender underweight women have a higher mortality rate. So, embrace the 1-2% extra body fat and enjoy the added Estrone which is produced in fat cells, it maybe not as much that was once in our ovaries but it is there!
The good new first! This is the average age we are no longer menopausal as; our ovaries have shut down completely but, 1-5 women will still continue to suffer symptoms for the rest of their life’s.
Suddenly aware of your joints? Here’s why: as you age, the thick, lubricating synovial fluid inside your joints decreases and the cartilage becomes thinner. Meanwhile, ligaments tend to lose moisture and elasticity, meaning you lose some flexibility, which can contribute to joint stiffness.
This gradual process begins decades before you feel it, so in reality we should be showing our joints some love throughout our life as our joints actually start ageing from our thirties onwards.
But there’s something you can do to counter that degeneration; in fact, it may prevent you from ever reaching the point of suffering pain and immobility. Exercise stimulates circulation of that synovial fluid – think of it as adding oil to your engine – and transports vital blood, oxygen and nutrients to those joints. Strong, supportive muscles will also ease the pressure placed on joints, which often come under strain with the natural loss of muscle mass that comes with age. In combination with maintaining a healthy weight, optimising muscle strength is the best strategy for protecting your joints.
Start gradually, and include activities that load the joints evenly and gently, like body-weight gym exercises [moves that require you to use your own weight as resistance] and work on your balance, which declines with age.
To build strength and improve balance simultaneously, supported squats (squat with a chair behind you to lower yourself on to), calf raises (with fingertips against a wall for support, lift your heels to come up on to your toes, then lower your back down) and supported leg curls (using a chair for support, bend one knee to bring your heel as close to your bum as you can). If you do feel joint pain, forgo high-impact activity in favour of something less jarring.
Hit the mat: Tai chi, yoga and Pilates can all help you build strength while working on your balance, mobility and flexibility. Again, a social session is best for optimum results.
The degenerative effect age can have on the brain can also have an impact on your body via the slowing of the connection. The nervous system (a network of nerves and cells that carry messages between the brain and various other parts of the body) relies on feedback mechanisms between the brain and the body. As you age, some of these routes will slow down, but challenging the body with different activities can keep these neural pathways firing. In other words, regular use of these lines of communication will help keep them open and functional.
Anything that engages your brain-body connection via a low impact cardio workout, like dance is the best form of exercises for your 70s.
Learn a new skill: Zumba, line or ballroom – there are many options when it comes to learning dance just have fun and find one you love.
Exercise is the closest thing we have to a magic bullet to counter the effects of ageing on the body. Inconclusion we are never too old to start our fitness journey and we need to love and have fun whilst doing it, learn a new skill, build strength, work on flexibility, balance and mind pathways. Eat a rainbow of notorious foods, cut sugar, alcohol, caffeine but find a joyful balance and do not cut out all the things you enjoy.
Every Thing in Moderation
If you want to start your fitness journey then please get in touch @www.parkmum.com or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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