by Brett Klika
It happens to everyone. The birthdays just seem to get away from you. Completely out of your control, you and your body grow one year older every year. What used to “flex” may “droop” a little bit, what used to seem like a jog, is now a sprint, that triangle or hourglass figure may be starting to invert itself a little bit. Great news for anyone in this situation! Modern science has found that aging is not necessarily a death wish for looking great, feeling great and being healthy. There are many things you can do, without surgery or other extreme measures.
It use to be thought that after your 30’s, your body’s physiological systems would pretty much start to fall apart, deconstructing rapidly as you approach your 60’s. After your 60’s well, just try and hold on. Modern science, however, has found that much of this deterioration was more closely linked to people’s lifestyle habits, as opposed to deteriorating physiological systems. They observed that as people aged, their daily need for physical activity decreased, and their amount of free, personal time also decreased. Wolf’s law in kinesiology states “Form follows Function” in other words, “If you don’t use it, you lose it.” These populations quit putting their physiological systems through the paces, so the body figured, “hey, if were not going to use this stuff, let’s close up shop.” The rapid deterioration that was observed after 60, they discovered, was more due to the fact that people retired, and the need for daily physical and mental functioning decreased rapidly.
One cannot ignore the facts of aging. Many factors related to lean muscle mass retention, muscle force production, coordination, cardiovascular performance, and other performance-related variables do observe a slight, natural decrease with aging. These decreases can be minimized, however, by “tricking” your body into thinking that it needs to keep these systems strong. In reference to the above law “Form follows function”, if you continue to function, your body’s systems will form to accommodate these functions. As you age, you can trick your body into burning fat and creating muscle by resistance training, cardiovascular training, and your diet.
As stated before, as you age, your body begins to create fewer hormones that favor burning of fat and the formation of muscle. When you resistance train 2-4 times per week, all major muscle groups for 20-45 minutes, you remind your body every day that it needs to keep this muscle around. Your body is less likely to get rid of something if you are using it on a regular basis. The more broad a spectrum of exercises you can include will help keep the body constantly adapting, constantly improving its form to meet your need for function. A well-designed, progressive program in which you constantly meet challenges with resistance, coordination, and any other variables will keep you improving your strength and lean muscle mass throughout your life. The more lean muscle mass you are able to retain, the more calories are used to maintain your body’s daily functions. This is due to the fact that muscle is living tissue, and it uses energy to maintain its daily functions, fat does not. Resistance training also keeps your body strong as you age so you are able to do the activities you enjoy doing now, as well as activities such as getting out of a chair, opening a door, and walking up stairs that we may take for granted. Everyone knows an elderly person who is unable to do many daily physical activities due merely to a lack of strength. We also here of the 80-year-old that runs marathons. It’s your choice.
When you are young, the energy you get from food is used to keep your body fueled for your large amounts of activity, as well as provide materials for growing. As we age, our volume of daily physical activity decreases, and our growth from a skeletal standpoint ceases. Our daily demands for energy are lower, so instead of using much of this fuel, we begin to store it as fat. While resistance training’s primary function is to create more strength and lean muscle mass, cardiovascular training is designed to utilize extra fuel, a.k.a fat. When you walk, run, bike, or any other activity that elevates your heart rate for an extended amount of time, you use your fuel stores to create energy. Following a cardiovascular program in which you keep your heart rate elevated between 60-80 percent of your heart rate max 3-5 days per week, for 30 minutes or more will aid in burning excess fat stores. In addition, cardiovascular training will help improve your stamina and cardiovascular profile, helping you stay vivacious and healthy throughout your entire life.
Intaking food is our body’s way of receiving fuel. Calories we receive from food are the fuel that makes our body run. From a survival standpoint, that is food’s only function. If you need a lot of fuel for a large amount of activity, you need to take in a large amount of calories from food. If you don’t have a large amount of need for fuel from physical activity, you don’t need that many calories from food. Any calories you take in that don’t need are stored as fat. To lose body weight and fat, it’s a pretty simple equation. If you take in 3000 calories worth of food, you need to create a demand for the use of that energy. 2-3 hours on the treadmill, along with about an hour of resistance training every day would do the trick. If you’re like most people, this amount of physical activity is not realistic. The other, more realistic option is to decrease the amount of calories you intake to more closely match your daily activity output. Eating small (200-400 calories, frequent (4-6 per day) meals aids in efficient digestion as well as keeping you from getting hungry. Foods that are high in fat and sugar aren’t used very effectively in your body. They often contribute to increases in body weight, fat, and other negative health factors. Stick to lean proteins, quality (non-processed) carbohydrates, and fruits and vegetables. The proper amount of these foods help you burn fat, increase lean muscle mass, improve your general health, and feel great all throughout life. Talk to a licensed nutritionist to determine how much of what foods are appropriate for you.
Decreasing body fat may be more challenging as you age, but it is something that can be done without taking drastic measures. Bluntly stated, the conditioning in which you want to live your latter years is largely up to you. How do envision your daily life in 20, 30, even 40 years? Your participation in the above activities will determine how well you fulfill this vision. These tips will help you look, live, and feel great all throughout life.
Coach Brett Klika is the Director of Athletic Performance at Todd Durkin’s Fitness Quest 10 in San Diego, CA. He specializes in youth fitness and athletic performance, overseeing a staff of 8 strength coaches developing programs for over 300 youth per week, both athletes and non-athletes. He presents around the world to both trainers and corporations with Todd Durkin Enterprises on a variety of health, wellness, and athletic performance topics. Brett contributes monthly to the award-winning “TD Times” newsletter. If you would like to sign up, you can do so by visiting FitnessQuest10.com, ToddDurkin.com or use the contact form below: [easy-contact]