Today there is an epidemic of obesity leading to an epidemic of metabolic diseases. There are eight common changes in your body that occur between the ages of 40 to 60+, in addition to those changes associated with metabolic changes. These eight changes are familiar to all, and all can be treated or improved with diet, exercise and supplements.
(1) Memory. Exercise will help to improve your memory. In the elderly, the memory part of the brain—the hippocampus—shrinks in size as memory decreases. Exercise and nutrition increase the size of the hippocampus and cause memory improvement, thus reversing the effects of aging.
(2) Bone and joint pain. Obesity associated with aging is also significantly associated with increased osteoarthritis of the knees, due to the increased mechanical stress placed on the knees by increased body fat and the compensatory alterations in body mechanics. By losing body fat, you can regain normal gait pattern (“gait” is the way you walk), and your knee pain will decrease. Strengthening core muscles is essential in eliminating lower back pain. Exercise and core muscle strength eliminate the need for back and knee surgery if started before serious damage occurs.
(3) Vision loss. Visual field loss is associated strongly with decreased mobility. Another aspect of vision loss is small blood vessel damage associated with diabetes and insulin resistance caused by obesity and a sedentary lifestyle. If you prevent insulin resistance and prevent diabetes (as outlined in this book), you can save your vision.
(4) Loss of skin elasticity. We start losing muscle mass at age 30+, and we become weaker, more sedentary, and gain body fat. As growth hormones, androgen and estrogen levels diminish with age, we lose tissue elasticity, and wrinkles increase. Exercise and supplements are able to restore these hormone levels to normal values, thus reversing skin elasticity; wrinkles disappear and skin tightens back up. You won’t need plastic surgery.
(5) Frailty or muscular weakness due to muscle loss; (6) loss of sexual function/interest. Loss of sexual interest and performance is a complicated issue involving multiple organ systems. Suffice it to say that exercise, diet and supplements will raise sex hormone levels to their normal ranges. If a hormone deficiency is the cause of the problem, this can be cured with knowledge, diet, exercise and supplements—doing what is written in this book.
If the problem is complicated by severe peripheral vascular disease, severe degenerative joint disease and/or myocardial muscle loss, it will be more difficult to correct.
(7) Increase in body fat. Body fat increases with age as you lose muscle mass starting in your thirties. You lose approximately 1% of muscle mass each year starting in your thirties, and by age 60, it’s possible to have lost 30% of muscle tissue. This is discussed in detail later in this chapter.
(8) Loss of bone density. As you age, bone density decreases and you become shorter. Bone loss with age is common. Bone mass peaks at age 2530 and then decreases slowly in both men and women. The amount of bone loss in the elderly is determined by many factors, including diet, exercise, calcium, Vitamin D, nutrition generally, hormone levels, gender, and genetics. Women have more rapid bone loss than men during their postmenopausal years, lasting five to 10 years. Postmenopausal women also have a higher incidence of bone fracture than do men. Bone density is easily measured by a test called a dual-energy xray absorptiometry (DEXA or DXA) bone density scan.
Build Muscle at Any Age
It’s possible to change the pattern of muscle loss with nutrition, exercise and normalizing hormones. Master athletes (defined as performing vigorous exercises four to five times per week) aged 40 to 81 years had similar amounts of muscle mass and strength. Thus, some of the decline in elderly muscle mass is due to chronic disuse—lack of exercise.
Nutrition is also very important, because protein is required for muscle development. In older muscle cells, higher levels of leucine and essential amino acids are required for muscle growth. Thus, a high-protein diet is essential for muscle growth.
There is also a decline in sex hormone levels with aging. Women with low testosterone levels—regardless of cause—show a dramatic increase in muscle mass and loss of body fat when given testosterone supplements to return blood hormone levels to normal values. Vigorous exercise alone will increase both muscle mass and hormone levels.
Estrogen is also necessary for muscle growth. Estrogen stimulates “satellite cells” that repair damaged muscle cells, and stimulates new muscle growth.
It is my firm belief, based on the above studies and data, that it’s possible to build muscle at any age with vigorous RESISTANCE TRAINING, SUPPLEMENTS, a HIGH-PROTEIN DIET, and NORMAL HORMONE LEVELS.
Set a Higher Standard for Yourself
From my perspective as a professional trainer of both men and women, my first-hand experience tells me that anyone can get better at any age—as long as you patiently maintain a healthy lifestyle with diet, exercise and supplements.
This is truly the race won by the turtle. If you “let go” by smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and higher-caloric food intake, it’s not simply the aging process that’s making you fat—it’s you. If you’re in a hurry to lose weight and choose a “crash” ultra-low-calorie diet, you’ll fail—you’ll lose fat and music and strength, and won’t be able to maintain the fat loss. Your brain will automatically lower your metabolic rate. Your estrogen and testosterone levels will drop, and your cortisol (stress hormone) levels will increase, making you feel weak and depressed. Your new behavior pattern is not sustainable, and you’ll return to your previous bad habits.
In order to look younger, feel stronger and live longer, don’t “let go.” Think of yourself and your new lifestyle as a higher standard that sets you apart from your previous life.
There are two broad categories of exercise. Cardiovascular exercises (endurance training—ET) are aimed at improving the heart, lungs and circulation. Resistance training (RT) exercises are designed to strengthen and build muscles.
With regard to body composition, both types of exercise increase bone mineral density and prevent bone loss and fracture. ET is better for increasing body fat loss, while RT increases muscle mass and strength, thus increasing lean body mass. Both are equally effective with regard to glucose metabolism, and insulin levels and sensitivity. Both are nearly equally effective for lipid control; ET has a slight advantage in lowering triglycerides. ET is clearly superior for cardiovascular dynamics—lower resting heart rate, cardiac output and cellular oxygen consumption (VO2 max). RT is better for increasing the basal metabolic rate. Both are equally effective for quality of life measures.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend 150 minutes (2½ hours) per week of cardiovascular exercise at your maximum heart rate (such as brisk walking) every week, as well as muscle-strengthening activities two to three days per week which address all major muscle groups. Another cardiovascular option is 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise (such as jogging or running), again with two to three days per week of muscle-strengthening exercises.
Muscle building activities in general should involve weight or resistance training for each muscle group at least once a week. Each muscle should be exercised to failure once a week.
This training is the only path to increase the muscle mass that you’re otherwise losing.
EXERCISE PLAN FOR WOMEN OVER 50:
1. You need both cardiovascular exercise and resistance exercise [weight lifting].
2. Start slowly and progressively increase-a race won by the turtle-never hurry.
3. If possible, consult a personal trainer.
4. Follow the CDC guidelines and slowly build up to 150 minutes of moderate cardiovascular exercise per week or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise. In vigorous exercise, you cannot talk in complete sentences; in moderate exercise you can talk in complete sentences.
5. Exercise each muscle group to muscle failure once each week:
5A – Pushing muscles on Monday-chest, shoulders, and tricepts.
5B – Legs on Wednesday.
5C – Pulling muscles on Friday.
Start with light weights and gradually increase. If you can do 15 repetitions of the exercise, the weight can be increased.