Hello SOTGC community,
Our perception of fitness evolves as we mature. Fifty is the new 40 after all! We become more aware of our capabilities and limitations and the impact of the passage of time and the changes in our body. Although we don’t have one source to guide us through the changes, there are a few undisputed “facts of life,” and barring any medical conditions and individual situations, there are some general guidelines on how to live each decade to stay strong, capable and confident.
– As your age increases, your movement typically decreases. This is caused by the natural evolution of running and playing for hours as kids, then spending time in school, and eventually having a family, working full time and keeping up with today’s daily grind.
– Concurrently there are physiological changes happening in your body. Your bone density and muscle mass start to decrease in your 30s, you experience hormonal changes throughout, and your metabolism also starts decreasing in your 30s (due to declining activity levels).
– There is also the not-so-small matter of nutrition through the years. From your childhood to the college years, then your young adult life, which morphs into a hectic family life. Your choices earlier in life impact your adult body. Nutrition has become a huge topic of conversation and an enormous industry for a very good reason.
– And finally there are medical challenges, including unforeseen surgeries that can alter your movement patterns and quality of life, as well as the natural changes of pregnancy and maturing bodies.
Let’s take a walk through the decades to identify the considerations and opportunities to stay strong and energetic for each phase of your life.
In your 20s
Your body is resilient at this age so it’s a great opportunity to try a variety of activities. Staying up late and getting up early doesn’t derail you as much, but don’t be fooled, sleep and rest are still essential. Your eating may be inconsistent as you are likely going out socially, working long hours and new to cooking for yourself after the college years.
If you’re thinking about starting a family, establishing good fitness and nutrition habits will put you ahead of the game. If you are looking to shed some extra fat from the college days, you must burn more calories than you are consuming. Increasing your activity or the intensity of your activities or lowering your caloric intake, will help move you in the right direction.
It is essential to establish a lifestyle filled with movement. Try different activities socially and on your own including recreational sports leagues, classes, and running races. I believe that being active consistently while you’re a young adult, will result in friends who also appreciate movement and help develop consistent routines that work for you. If you are unsure about your cooking skills at this stage in your life, take the opportunity to learn one or two good recipes from your mom or grandma. It will be a nice bonding opportunity, as well as a chance to learn something from them that you can pass on.
Moving on to your 30s
Muscle density and bone mass, as well as metabolism start declining in this decade, mostly due to lower activity. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, our bodies build bone until about 30 years old, which then slowly whittles away in later years. Additionally, according to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a normal-weight woman is likely to gain 5% of her body weight per decade between the ages of 25 and 45.This is the decade many women have kids; pregnancy changes your body. You start noticing the effects of years of working and family life.
Resistance or strength training is beneficial in maintaining muscle mass and keeping your metabolism going. Core strength and posture, pre- and post- baby, is key. Post-pregnancy, be aware of the changes your body has gone through and the implications, for example, some women have to deal with diastasis recti. Your doctor may recommend supplements like calcium, iron or folic acid, but always look to a variety of food as a source of nutrition.
Educate yourself about pregnancy. If you have the foresight, build a strong core and begin a weight lifting regimen (2x week) prior to becoming pregnant. Start fresh after baby, establishing good family habits – both activity and nutrition related. Hiring a personal trainer may be helpful to become familiar with a variety of exercises that you can later do on your own. In fact, many studios and gyms now have small group classes, where instructors can focus on your form and help you improve your technique. If you already have some experience lifting weights The New Rules of Lifting for Women by Lou Schuler is a good read.
The big decade, your 40s
Chances are, your family and career life are humming along. You may be traveling a lot or having to take care of an elderly parent. Your body continues to evolve and change.
At this age, some women may be experiencing pre-menopause. Be sensitive to these changes and aware of how they impact your nutritional needs, as well as your training and performance. You may need to adjust your meal plans. You should continue your resistance training and keep active!! Plan ahead for travel interruptions.
Stay consistent with routines you have established. In addition to weight training, think about incorporating flexibility and balance training into your routine. This can come in the form of yoga, pilates, as well as other exercises.
50s and beyond
This decade is filled with big physiological and lifestyle changes. You may be dealing with an “empty nest,” or becoming a grandmother.
Hormonal changes are at the forefront of what is happening to your body. You should also be aware of your risks for osteopenia and osteoporosis (which affects more than 25 million people each year). Allow yourself time to figure out what works best for you. In addition to all these changes, lifelong movement patterns start to manifest themselves with posture. While you can’t reverse everything (just like wrinkles), you can always work to make your posterior chain stronger.
The challenges of this decade are an opportunity to reassess your nutrition, your lifestyle and your fitness regimen. With the kids out of the house, take up a new hobby, move more on weekends, plant a garden or travel more – whatever allows you to be active and happy.
Resistance training and a strong core are still important, but now your focus should also include balance and flexibility training to maintain mobility and help prevent debilitating falls in later decades. The National Institute on Aging emphasizes the importance of “balance and flexibility exercise to loosen tight muscles, preserve range of motion and prevent falls.”
Today, with countless sources and experts online, information is overwhelming and constantly changing… The new hottest diet. The must-do exercise. It used to be (or at least that’s what I thought) that your mother would pass on indispensable bits of information about your body, becoming a woman, rites of passage, food, etc. But in a world of speed and social media, these traditions don’t seem as relevant and as common place.
My challenge to you is to change that. Be ready to tackle your life with strength and confidence. Ask, if you don’t know and make a change. I believe it was G.I. Joe who said, “knowing is half the battle.” Make each decade your best and share your knowledge.
Provide a young woman you know with the tools to succeed, so she has the strength, energy and confidence to pursue her best life, instead of faltering with foods and wrestling with society’s expectations. I recently read The Body Book, written by Cameron Diaz and Sandra Bark (http://www.ourbodybook.com/the-team/), which although not a complete guide to the decades, is a great place to start.
If you have specific questions about exercises, message me or talk to a personal trainer in your gym.
Get Active, Stay Active, Pass it On