We all get old, but we can make choices about how we age.
Our muscles and tendons stiffen and shorten as we get older. This tightening of our musculoskeletal system causes pain and also tautens us into an older-looking posture -- before our time.
You might be as surprised as I was to learn that our hip flexor muscles play a significant role in making us appear older and more fragile.
You can postpone the onset of an aged posture, and its associated pain, with just a few simple exercises each day.
Muscle strength is one of the strongest predictors of future health status. Strength is most often measured via the grip strength test, which is a proxy for overall skeletal muscle.
Regular exercise is the obvious way to improve muscular strength. But is it possible that supplements might promote muscle strength?
The supplement industry would have us believe so. What is the evidence?
Recent research (December 2019 - a metastudy), concluded:
Recent research (December 2019 - a metastudy), concluded:
My goal is to help you live longer better, but how would you measure your progress towards that objective?
You could wait, and see if you do indeed survive longer than your less active friends. Or, you could try some simple tests now, which will give you early signs of your progress.
Poor results on these tests correlate with earlier death, and more probable hospitalisation as well. You will live longer better if you take action to improve the underlying causes of poor results.
The common causative factor for getting improved results is ... exercise! Did you guess?
Walking is a great way to relax and also to gain the first level of health benefits available to everyone.
If you are already a walker, that's great. You can boost your gains by adding five level-ups which each deliver you more bang for your walking buck.
If you are not yet a regular walker, then create a plan to get going, and add these level-ups to your program over the next six months. The first month, just walk. Then starting in the second month add one level-up per month.
I exercise at the gym three times a week and trail run 5km twice a week. Also, I walk every day - mostly 3km. I look forward to walking as much as I do to my more intense exercises.
Last week ABC TV (Australia) ran a program on their Catalyst series of science programs revealing how we can all "improve our healthspan by making simple changes to the way we live our lives" (watch or download the program here).
The show featured retired newsreader Ian Henderson on a quest to find "the secrets of ageing healthily" - a subject close to my heart. I must say that as someone well-versed in the "secrets" I heard only one new one, which I'll explore below. But it is fantastic to see these ideas put out into the mainstream and made more accessible to everyone. I enjoyed his discoveries and his enthusiasm, and the more of these kind of practical education shows the better.
I'll summarise his key findings here, accompanied by my own insights in also discovering and applying these things over the last 20 years. That might help fast-track you to picking up on those which appeal to you most and also those which give you the most bang for your exercise buck.
What I knew about my eldest brother (Harry) was relatively little. Only that he'd had a brutal upbringing - at the hands of both our mother and our father. He'd learnt to box at an early age at the Botany Boys Club and this catalyzed in him an intensely deep-seated sense of manhood.
He went on to ride motorbikes before he had a license, knocked out two of my father's front teeth in one of their confrontations, and had been stabbed in the back by a large kitchen knife thrown at him by my mother as he ran from her rage.
He left home before I was born, was in trouble with the law, spent time in Pentridge Prison. and had fled to work in New Britain (Papua New Guinea) for 15 years in about 1960 (shortly after Mum died - after spending time in a psychiatric institution).
The phone call
I knew that Harry had been living in Darwin for decades - 3,200km from me in Melbourne as the crow flies and 40 hours by road. When my phone rang 4 weeks ago with a caller id of "Darwin" I wondered what was coming.
The new exercise and physical activity guidelines issued by the US federal government’s Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion are better tailored for age and ability. Importantly, they also now take into consideration the intensity of activity, and not just a blanket generalisation of "moderate activity". This is the biggest difference which will most change the potential impact of the new guidelines as compared to the old.
This move to recognise intensity is a very useful change. Previously the recommendations focused people on spending a certain amount of time exercising, including the caveat that spending less than 10 minutes at any one time was not worthwhile. The new guidelines base your dose of physical activity on relative intensity: how much effort a given exercise takes compared with your capacity for exercise. They also recognise that short bouts of exercise can be useful - "what really is important is the total amount of physical activity you accumulate during the day and the week".
It's that time of year again where new gym memberships soar, ambitions are high, and lofty fitness goals are set. As we all know, the New Year's fitness see-saw usually ends up with an unhappy ending, unfortunately. Here are my five suggestions to help you create the most sustainable start for your New Year's fitness program.
1. Start small - less is more
Trim your ambition and start with much less than you think you can accomplish.
For a start don’t plan an hours session at the gym every day of the week, and don't plan 5:30am classes if you normally don’t even get up until 6:30am. It's better to add more later than to start and then try to subtract. Most people don't end up subtracting successfully - they stop altogether. You only need start with 3 gym sessions a week, make one focused on cardio e.g. a spin class, one on strength e.g. a Bodypump class, and one on functional exercise e.g. Pilates or Body Balance.
Classes are the easiest way to get a pattern established and you don’t have to think about what to do next.
2. Trim your diet - eat 20% less not 20% more
Most of the population will lose weight by eating less, especially in combination with exercise.
However people who are starting out exercising often find themselves eating more to satisfy their hunger after exercising. After a while it becomes a habit to eat after exercise and eventually become disillusioned with their whole exercise program - for the wrong reasons. If you start to generally eat less - 20% less - then your stomach will shrink and your desire for food will reduce.
Since I was diagnosed at 50 with Type 2 diabetes I've been learning how to do bone-building body-shaping training for people our age. You can too. It's your choice. Walter