Don't Act Your Age

My dad is nearing 80 and is still very active. Although he recently had a brief hospital stay because of a brown recluse spider bite, his health is good. The 14 acres he owns in east Tennessee needs to be maintained year round and he takes pride in the fact he still does it himself. This is a key to his good health. Despite the fact he smoked for 40 years and eats too much of my mom’s cooking, an active lifestyle has protected him from many of the ravages of time. Here’s a decade by decade look at how you can stay in yard-work shape at any age.

With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come. (William Shakespeare, Merchant of Venice)

The 30’s aren’t old unless you’re a professional tennis player or a supermodel, but they are important because of the foundation you can create for your health and fitness in later life. Your energy is still high, even with the kids, the career and the spouse all pulling at you. Your metabolism has dropped by as much as 10% from your 20’s, so the burger and fries you love might start to cling onto your waist. Simply watch your portions and limit your indulgences, while trying to maintain a healthy weight. A four or five-day-a-week regimen of strength and cardiovascular training will protect you from injury and strengthen your heart.

You never slow down, you never grow old. (Tom Petty)

The 40’s are when your lifestyle starts to affect your life. You still feel like a kid, except when you play touch football with your kids and can’t move the next day. If you’ve been working out in your 30’s you may have held off some of the 17 pounds the average person gains between age 30 and 40. However, the intense workouts you once pushed yourself through may take a little more recovery time. This doesn’t mean you can’t make fitness gains, but be sure to include flexibility work and balance exercises in your workouts to lessen the chance of injury. Also, since you require about 120 fewer calories per day versus a decade ago the food you eat needs to be more nutrient dense. So learn to eat your veggies!

Middle age is when your age starts to show around your middle. (Bob Hope)

The 50’s are when even the youngest at heart have to admit they’re not 17 anymore. No matter, because your kinesthetic awareness (bodily sense of space and movement) and biomechanical efficiency are still high, although your muscle mass and bone density losses may accelerate. The good news is a strength training regimen can prevent much of the loss. A three-day-a-week strength training regimen focusing on the major muscle groups is the best prescription. However, vary your routines and lift heavy on the first day with few repetitions, light on the second day and go for 10-12 reps of your sets on the third strength training day. Your cardiovascular workouts may need to slow down and hydration is more important than ever because your kidneys aren’t as young as they used to be. According to the Institute of Medicine, nutrition recommendations for someone in their 50’s would include a daily calcium intake of 1200 milligrams and three to five servings of leafy green vegetables each day.

Old age is always 15 years older than I am. (Bernard M. Baruch)

The 60’s are when many people start thinking about their health again. Whether it was a lack of time or a lack of interest before now, it’s not too late. Whenever you start a regular exercise program you can make strength, flexibility and cardiovascular gains. These gains can help you ward off disease and improve your balance to prevent the falls which occur with a loss of strength and balance. Also, lifting weights can ease the discomfort of arthritis while you build muscle. Activities such as yoga or tai chi can help you maintain or regain your full range of motion. Foods rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids can also aid in reducing joint inflammation.

The aging process has you firmly in its grasp if you never get the urge to throw a snowball. (Doug Larson)

The 70’s have been thought of as the decade when it all falls apart. Then again, maybe that is because we haven’t had a good sample of active, fit 70-year-olds to study until now. Sure, your VO2 max is decreasing, you continue to lose muscle (but keep lifting to slow down these losses) and you are more susceptible to heatstroke and dehydration. Yet, in a study that tracked a six-month weight-lifting program for people over 70, the subjects gained 60 percent in quadriceps strength. A separate 12-week study measured even greater increases in power.

Of course, research has confirmed that consistent exercise can add years to your life. More importantly, an active lifestyle lowers your biological age regardless of your chronological age. If you stay fit and healthy, you’ll never act your age.

I can’t sit still. I may not get up. (My dad, Peter Holley)