Aging is a natural process that we simply cannot control. But... we can prepare for it.
Aside from health itself, mobility is one aspect of aging that can tremendously affect our quality of life.
Think of how you want to become a grandmother (if you're not one already). How do you see yourself? You probably imagine yourself playing with your grandkids, taking them to the playground, and having fun with them. What can actually shatter that dream, and how would that make you feel?
If you can't (physically) do any activities with your grandkids, you will probably not feel that great... right?
So save that thought in the back of your mind for now.
The fact is that, with aging, our muscle mass will decrease. This phenomenon is called sarcopenia, a condition characterized by a progressive loss of muscle mass and strength, and it's associated with a physical disability which in itself increases the risk of earlier death.
This issue, for me, is a very personal one. My father died from sarcopenia, or at least from its consequences. He broke his leg as he stood up from a sitting position – his thigh muscles were so weak that they couldn't protect his femur. He fell to the floor and broke his leg. He never recovered after that. And the thing he loved most in his life... was his grandkids.
Even more than men, women need to be careful about muscle loss as they age.
Women start losing between 3-8% of their muscle mass per decade after 30. Men lose between 3-5%. This progressive decline is faster if the person is sedentary.
This issue is more significant for women after menopause as estrogen levels plummet. Along with the loss of muscle mass, postmenopausal women have increased loss of bone density which can progress into osteoporosis.
A few important facts:
1 in every 3 women suffers from osteoporosis during their postmenopausal years.
Postmenopause can make up 1/3 of a woman's life.
If your mom or grandmother had osteoporosis, you're at a higher risk of developing it.
Now imagine how muscles protect and keep bones together. What happens if you start losing them? What happens if, at the same time, your bones start becoming more and more fragile?
That image of you playing with your grandkids is more crucial than ever to motivate you to take control of what you can do now... for the future.
The good news? Both sarcopenia and osteoporosis can be prevented with good nutrition and specific types of exercise.
Nutrition will be a topic for another time. For now, let's focus on exercise.
Research in exercise and longevity has determined specific activities that are crucial for stimulating muscle and bone as we age: strength training and plyometric exercises.
Muscles need a load-type of stress to build more of their own fibers and increase size. Without this physical stress, muscle groups simply have no incentive to grow. Bones function similarly- they like to have some form of stress that induces a chain reaction for regeneration and growth.
So, in other words, a strength training (or resistance training) exercise is a win-win situation. It stimulates muscle growth and can also promote bone health.
Some ideas: a pair of dumbbells can increase the overall load. If you're a beginner, your body weight will do. The important thing is to do this kind of workout at least twice a week to benefit from it.
Plyometrics are exercises that involve jumping from and to different directions. The stress and gravitational pressure from jumping stimulate bone growth; therefore, this type of exercise is helpful to build bone density and prevent bone loss and eventual osteoporosis.
A jump rope will do. Jumping in steps on a staircase will do. Jumping from side to side will do. You don't have to spend too long; jumping between 5- 10 minutes is enough. You can incorporate these into your strength training workout between the reps. Running is also an alternative if that's something you enjoy doing.
It doesn't have to be complicated. But I understand it can be challenging to incorporate a new habit, especially if it's something you're not used to doing at all. In this case, persistence is crucial, especially in the beginning, until it becomes part of your routine. When unmotivated, go back to that mental picture with you and your grandkids running around. That always works for me.
Note: In the Fearless Femme Workbook, there's a section about exercise and how to plan it so you can incorporate different beneficial activities into your workout routine. Planning is the key to making it a recurrent habit.
Remember that a healthy lifestyle results from small, healthy daily habits that add up with time. It's our "Life Savings," and it's worth saving for! 😊