I’ve always recommended that patients can change their fitness levels at any age by exercising more and eating nutritionally optimal diets. And now, recent research shows that there’s an even greater benefit of becoming physically fit by middle-age (45-65) and I’d like to tell you more about it.
Midlife Fitness Can Ward Off Diseases of Aging
Although there can be some disagreement about what is “midlife” and “old age”, in our modern times of longer survival rates and better healthcare, I’d classify midlife as the years from 45-65. It is this midlife time that researchers out of the UT Southwestern University and Cooper Institute have found to be key in determining whether you will stay healthy into your post midlife years.
In their study [Midlife Fitness and the Development of Chronic Conditions in Later Life, Archives of Internal Medicine, 2012], they found that people who had increased their fitness levels by 20% by the time they reached midlife also decreased their risk of developing the chronic, degenerative diseases of old age. These conditions include Alzheimer disease, congestive heart failure, respiratory conditions, and certain cancers.
The researchers concluded that spending adequate time per week doing aerobic activities like walking, jogging, bicycling, running, etc, translated not only into more years of life, but higher quality, active years. Expanding your range of higher quality life years means that debilitating illnesses may be completely prevented or compressed to a very short period of life far into old age. This means that you can extend an active, healthy lifestyle well into your golden years if you increase your physical fitness levels by even 20% by the time you hit midlife. That’s quite a benefit!
How Can You Increase Your Midlife Physical Fitness
As I said earlier, increases in physical fitness can be achieved at any age. The National Heart, Blood and Lung Institute (NHLBI) recommends that adults get at least 2.5 hours of moderate to intense aerobic activity per week. The first thing I tell my patients is that their exercise routines should meet these important criteria:
- They provide necessary resistance for bone and muscle strengthening
- They provide necessary strengthening for lung and heart capacity
- They burn sufficient calories to help lose, or keep weight, stable
- They’re FUN! If you dread doing exercise, the likelihood of you doing it on a continual basis is low.
Fun Ways to Get/Stay Physically Fit in Midlife
There are a lot of different ways to increase midlife physical fitness in your life that don’t necessitate spending hours in an indoor gym. In fact, there are many options for getting good, fitness building exercise into your life that is both healthy and increases your social activity. Here are a few good ones I like:
- Lively dance-type group exercise like Zumba, Hip-Hop, and Latin dance classes are offered all over the United States. They provide exhilarating, fat-burning exercise.
- Group basketball, racquetball, tennis – many community recreational centers offer opportunities to join ongoing teams. Skill levels range from beginner to experienced.
- Walking/jogging/bicycling clubs – social meeting places like Meetup.com offer physical activity groups to join. You can participate a few days a week or even just 1.
- Kettlebells – 20 minutes of kettlebell workouts increase strength and tone in every muscle of your body much faster than resistance machines at the gym. And, they really are fun to do. Get a friend, or your spouse, to join you 3 times a week.
Prevent Diseases of Aging with Optimal Nutrition
In addition to regular exercise, it’s also critically important that you include certain nutrients in your diet to ensure that you stay healthy. These include:
- Vitamins: A, B complex and extra B12, C, E, alpha-lipoic acid, resveratrol, Co-Q10. Free radical scavenging antioxidants that damage DNA and hasten aging.
- Hormones: Melatonin, Vitamin D3. Boosts immune system and scavenge free radicals.
- Minerals zinc and calcium: Research out of Oregon State shows 40% of older Americans are deficient in zinc. 11 mg a day for men, 8 mg for women. Keep bones healthy by eating calcium-rich foods like dairy, kale, and broccoli several times a day.
- Protein: Preserves muscle strength and helps keep blood sugar stable. At least 0.5 grams/per lb of body weight. 160 lbs = 80 grams protein.
Increasing fitness at any age is easier than you think. Adding certain foods, vitamins, minerals, etc, to your diet can wipe out deficiencies, boost your mood and decrease fatigue. As well, just doing exercise activities you enjoy can help ensure that you stay active, healthy, happy and socially engaged well into your golden years. So, turn off the TV or computer, get up and go do some fun exercise, feel better and live longer!
Mark Rosenberg, M.D
Natural Health News
Midlife fitness staves off chronic disease at end of life, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120827162009.htm
Vitamin E and muscle repair, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/12/111220133705.html
Zinc Deficiency Common to Aging, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121001141003.html
photo credit: assistedlivingtoday.com