Movement is essential for all of us but especially from our late 30s onwards. We start to dry out from our late 30s/40s as we lose fascial spring and muscle and bone mass declines. Movement is one of the best ways to prevent or even reverse this - “Use it or lose it” as they say. Movement also has a host of other benefits including weight loss, reducing the risk of heart disease, regulating blood sugar and insulin levels, reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes, improving mood and mental health, reducing stress, reducing the risk of some cancers, improving sleep, reducing the risk of falls, improving sexual health and increasing the chances of living better and longer. Here are 5 types of activity we should all be doing on a regular basis:
STRENGTH: Age related muscle mass loss (sarcopenia) is a big issue. Women lose 3-5% of their muscle mass per decade after the age of 30 and there are strong links to osteoporosis (decrease in bone mass) as well. Strength training is the best way to increase muscle mass coupled with good quality protein and plenty of water. Increasing muscle mass also helps with fat loss as muscle is metabolically active (as opposed to fat which just sits there) and will help burn off excess fat stores. We should be focusing on gradually increasing load or difficulty (progressive overload) and on functional movement patterns (as opposed to isolated movements) - we need to be able to move in 3D afterall. Strength training can take on many different forms and will be different for everyone depending on their levels of health, strength and fitness. Some people may even just start with their own body weight (or less!) and learn how to lift, push or pull that effectively before thinking about adding resistance.
HIGH INTENSITY INTERVAL TRAINING (HIIT): This needn’t be crazy, intense, springy, extreme or last for an hour or more. A few short bursts of activity to increase heart rate interspersed with a recovery period to bring it down is sufficient to help with stamina, heart health and weight management. Again HIIT can take on many different levels and forms depending on ones circumstances.
MOBILITY: Most of us live in a movement bubble. As we get older we start to move less and less consistently and intensely. Our soft tissues, bones and muscles (that are are drying out) model themselves on the demands placed on them but the good news is that we can retrain something literally in a matter of days. If we do not train mobility we will lose it. Hotspots to focus on are shoulder, foot/ankle, thoracic and lumbar/pelvic region.
AGILITY, SPEED, SHARPNESS:
Sensory systems start to decline early and are not generally programmed by most trainers. We should be going beyond the heart, lungs and muscles. Enliven the feet, ankles and calves - the feet are the gateway to the rest of the body and a higher degree of mindfulness. There are thousands of receptors on the sole of the foot and peak sensitivity is around 40. We need to get barefoot and mobilise more. How are you at stepping up or down blind in all directions, multitasking on the move, multi directional shuffles, grip strength, sit to stand, floor to stand, balance and hand-eye co-ordination? All these things and more decline with age and if we don’t use it we will lose it.
RESTORATIVE ACTIVITY: This area is often overlooked but is oh so important for our health and wellbeing. Mindfulness, meditation, yoga, walks in nature and good sleep daily. These kinds of things help to repair, restore and strengthen our body and mind.