Fitness: The Fountain of Youth

June 25, 2015

Has it been a while since you were active?  Maybe you heard some dire warnings about the importance of slowing down as you age, or aching joints and low energy make it seem like the slowing down was inevitable? Does the thought of exercise intimidate your or even sound like a risky prospect?

The truth is that much of what we associate with aging is really a symptom of inactivity, and the best way to stay healthy and independent well into our 80’s and 90’s is through exercise and daily movement. Exercise and fitness is truly the fountain of youth. In the article below trainer Ste Traxler takes a look at the familiar “aging misconceptions” and how exercise helps to combat them! It really NEVER is too late to begin to move your body!

My metabolism is slowing down and I just don’t have the energy to be active.
First, let’s address a fancy word for a simple concept: sarcopenia.  Sarcopenia deals with declining muscle mass as we age, and literally means “loss of flesh.”  As a great deal of our metabolism is actually defined by how much energy it takes to maintain the body at rest, and maintaining muscle mass requires more constant upkeep and work from the body, it stands to reason that less muscle mass would naturally lead to a lower metabolic rate.  This is what makes it harder to lose weight as we get older!  While it is true that sarcopenia is an inevitable part of the aging process (and actually begins in our late 30’s to early 40’s), the single best way to slow down that process is with regular, weight-bearing exercise.  That means strength training!

Just two days per week of resistance training can help maintain the muscle you already have (and yes, even build strength!), which helps prevent that metabolic decline.  Whether you’ve got grandkids to keep up with, big vacation plans ahead, or just the everyday work of gardening or grocery shopping or cleaning the house, resistance training means you’ll have the strength, energy, and vitality to keep up with all those demands and still feel good at the end of the day.

Working with a certified personal trainer like Ste or any of the Portland TEAM Fitness trainers will ensure that you are doing correct form, and if something doesn’t feel right, or if you have an existing injury a trainer can work around it, OR even help that injury improve. A small group atmosphere is the perfect way to learn to strength train and we are excited to provide that to our clients with Ste’s summer program, Fitness: The Fountain of Youth.

Isn’t exercise risky for the heart as we get older?
Not as risky as sitting down!  Study after study has shown that one of the single most detrimental things we can do for our health (possibly even worse than smoking!) is long periods of simply sitting still. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate cardiovascular (think: aerobic) activity every week, as this is the amount that has been shown to be effective in reducing all risks of metabolic disorders and cardiovascular disease.  While that probably sounds like a lot, it’s actually only 30 minutes, five days a week.  Or an hour three days a week.  What defines moderate?  Your heart rate should be up, your breathing rate should increase, and yes, you should sweat a little!

Aerobic exercise is great for caloric burn, which helps with maintaining a healthy weight, and it is important for exercising the heart and lungs, but did you know your veins and arteries are muscles, too?  They are!  Aerobic exercise causes an increase in blood flow, which aids in maintaining the elasticity of our veins and arteries as we age.  Healthier blood vessels mean better circulation.  Better circulation aids in more efficient oxygen use, better internal temperature control, and better nutrient delivery to all the parts of the body that need it. It also means better lubrication for the joints!  While it may be challenging to start moving when you are dealing with joint pain (like arthritis), once you’ve warmed up the body, that increased fluid delivery will make movement easier and less painful all day.

My balance isn’t what it used to be. I’m worried I’ll fall.
Let’s start again with one of those fancy words: proprioception.  Proprioception is the body’s innate awareness of itself.  It’s what allows us to close our eyes and still touch our nose, or our ears, without having to see them. It’s a special sense and it is another one of those that naturally declines as we age.  We begin to lose our balance, in part, because we aren’t as aware of our own body and its position as we used to be.  This is a complicated process and relies on receptors in the skin, the joints, and the muscles to work properly.  Which means it is ultimately the responsibility of the nervous system.

Regular exercise engages the nervous system in a very big way.  We recruit nerves to tell our bodies to move, and the more we move, the more those pathways get used, which leads to less degradation over time.  What the body is using, it won’t allow to fall into disrepair.  A more active nervous system means a body that is more aware.  We can specifically challenge the balance to sharpen this sense even further, but any movement at all will be a big help in making us more steady on our feet.  Or our toes.  Or even on one foot!

A more active nervous system also means better memory.  Movements in opposite directions- twists and rotations, or anything on a diagonal- are especially good at engaging the brain, in fact, which leads to faster recall and better reaction time.  Sound like youth?  That’s what it is!  And it’s also a lot of fun!

So if you’ve been spending too much time on the couch lately, and you could use better sleep, better memory, more energy, more strength, better balance, less pain in your joints, or just a little more play in your day, come join us at Portland TEAM Fitness this summer  with Trainer Ste Traxler and experience how being active can keep you growing younger every day.