For the past few years I have been feeling more aches and pains than usual. There are days when getting out of bed takes longer than usual because I need to “unwind” my body from last night’s sleep. Or, when I now stand up from bed – all the little bones in my feet need time to adjust to gravity (my body weight!) before I can start moving smoothly. And the fact that my metabolism seems to be on sluggish mode these days! Michael and I recently got health insurance so we’ve been having every system checked out! Both of us had a very thorough eye exam over the last 2 weeks. While my near sighted vision is actually improving (meaning that i can see better further away), Michael’s vision is getting worse! He was NOT happy when the doctor told him he had to come back every year for a check up and that at some point soon, he’d be wearing reading glasses. Not the type of report he was hoping for! We’re both now losing some flexibility to the point that twisting to do daily activities or things we used to do with no problem, are now getting a little tougher. It’s called AGING!
Going through my doctorate in Exercise Physiology, I also received a Graduate Certificate in Gerontology. I was learning so much about normal and pathological aging that I wanted to tell all my family members what would happen to them as they got older – and how they could SLOW down the aging process. Some didn’t want to know what would happen to them as they got older, but they all wanted to know how to slow it down! While there are certain aspects of aging that are “normal”, there are more that are not! Below is a picture of an “age suit” that simulates normal aging.
This Age Suit (AGNES) was actually developed by a mountain biking friend of mine from MIT in their AgeLab! “Developed by AgeLab researchers and students, AGNES has been calibrated to approximate the motor, visual, flexibility, dexterity and strength of a person in their mid-70s.” There’s a YouTube video on their website which demonstrates people doing daily tasks while wearing this suit – it’s quite difficult!
It is true that you get one year older every year. That happens with the passage of time and is totally unavoidable. However, your body doesn’t have to age at the same rate that you do chronologically. IF you take care of yourself (eat healthy, exercise regularly, sleep well, etc.), you can actually SLOW down the aging process. Individuals who have had a lifelong history of exercise (regardless of diet), tend to be 20 years YOUNGER than their age matched counterparts! Along with that, they have significantly less health conditions and greater quality of life.
Skin. Decreased elasticity, more wrinkled, less moisture. Reduced fingernail growth.  elastic and more lined and wrinkled.
Hair. Thins and loses pigment.
Height. By age 80, it’s common to have lost as much as 2 in. in height related to normal changes in posture and compression of joints, spinal bones, and spinal discs.
Hearing. High-frequency sounds harder to hear and changes in tone and speech are less clear. These changes tend to speed up after age 55.
Vision. Most people in their 40s develop a need for reading glasses as the lenses in the eyes become less flexible (presbyopia). Night vision and visual sharpness declines. Glare increasingly interferes with vision.
Sleep. You may sleep less at night, and you may not sleep as deeply as you did when you were younger. And it’s more likely that you’ll wake up during the night and/or wake up earlier in the morning.
Bones. Bones get less dense and strong due to a loss of minerals.
Metabolism and body composition. Hormone changes in the body result in a shift toward more body fat and less muscle mass.
Brain and nervous system. The brain‘s weight, the size of its nerve network, and its blood flow decreases, but the brain adapts to these changes and grows new patterns of nerve endings. It’s common to have less recall of recent memories and to be slower remembering names and details.
Heart and blood circulation. The heart naturally becomes less efficient as it ages, and your heart has to work a little harder during activity than it did in the past. This makes the heart muscle a little larger. You’ll notice a gradual decline in your energy or endurance from one decade to the next.
Lungs. In inactive people, the lungs become less efficient over time, supplying the body with less oxygen.
Kidneys. The kidneys decline in size and function. They don’t clear wastes and some medicines from the blood as quickly and don’t help the body handle dehydration as well as in the past.
Sexual function. Men and women produce lower levels of hormones starting in their 50s. Men produce less sperm, and their sexual response time slows. Women stop ovulating and have a number of menopausal changes linked to lower estrogen production, but both can still have a healthy sex life.
Exercise is beneficial at ANY age and beginning an exercise program early in life can help keep you younger longer! Below are the benefits of exercise as we age.
  • Improved energy level.
  • Mental sharpness.
  • Mood (regular aerobic exercise can help manage depression,anxiety, and stress).
  • Balance, strength, and flexibility, which are key to preventing injuries and falls.
  • Helps manage chronic illness with fewer medicines.

As you get older, an inactive lifestyle increases your risk of chronic disease. Conversely, getting regular aerobic exercise is one of your best defenses against diseases, such as:

BOTTOM LINE:  Eat a healthy diet, get enough quality sleep, keep your brain engaged mentally, socialize, and KEEP EXERCISING! You will stay younger than your sedentary counterparts!

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