On movement and aging
I am closer to 50 than 40! Wow, when did that happen? I have become acutely aware of this as I notice the many changes that happen with age. I was out for dinner with friends. It was a dark restaurant and I had left my glasses at home. Everything was so blurry, it literally looked like one big smudge of words on the menu. I had to pull out my phone, take a picture of the menu and then enlarge the pic, just to order.
What’s my game plan for ageing well? Well in addition to a lot of humour, I would have to say it is acceptance. It’s happening regardless of how I feel…the days, weeks, months and years are moving quicker than ever and there is not a darn thing I can do to change that.
I passed the torch along to the beautiful, perky and fresh 20 somethings years ago and
have leaned into the wisdom and freedom that comes with being 40 plus. That being said, I still want to be my best self. Full disclosure… I take collagen to slow down the ageing of my skin, I dye my hair every 4 weeks to hide my more grey than brown hair and I started on bio-identical hormones to help ease my transition into menopause.
My biggest strategy to maintain my health and feel strong and beautiful as the calendar marches on is movement. What this more accurately looks like is a commitment to keeping lean body mass up. I shifted a mostly cardio routine to one that includes almost exclusively weight training and yoga. At first, I was resistant to do this, going to a gym and lifting weights seems so boring compared to the activities I was doing in the past. In the beginning days, I struggled to get the same high that I get from a long run or an intense workout session at the hills. It did not take me long to adjust my mind and body to align with the mental and emotional as well as physical benefits that I get from lifting heavy weights at the gym. The feeling that I get from these workouts is incredible.
If I have not convinced to add weight training to your lifestyle choices then let me give you are a few more reasons WHY?
Peri-menopause – this is the period of 4-7 years before your body goes into menopause, ironically this biological ageing process is marked with an increase of estrogen (before the ultimate decline that happens post-menopause). The female body recognizes that there are limited egg reserves and increases a hormone to stimulate the ovaries causing an increase in estrogen (very similar to puberty). Having an increased lean body mass during this phase of aging will decrease additional excess estrogen that can come from fat cells further adding to an already abundant flood of this hormone and worsen a whole host of nasty symptoms.
Maintain metabolism – as muscle mass decreases and fat cells increase so does our metabolism. I am a strong believer that ageing does not have to mean uncontrollable weight gain. Do you have to work harder? I actually don’t think so, what you do have to consider is changing the way you move your body in order to preserve this highly valuable resource of muscle mass. Lifting weights, doing pilates and yoga will all support lean body mass results.
Bone health – once post-menopause, we become at risk for osteoporosis. There are a number of ways to reduce this risk and be sure talk to a Naturopathic doctor about the preventative treatment plan that is right for you. One thing that has been show time and time again in the studies around bone health is exercise and especially weight training. I am not sure about you but I am hoping for awesome posture right up until I am 90 years young.
Adrenal health – I am busy and tired a lot of the time and I don’t always feel like I have a tone of time. That’s why I lift weights. After my daughter was born, I started training for 5 and 10km runs. It was more than just finishing, I had time goals and training schedules that included sprints and hill repeats. Needless to say, my body was not recovered enough from being a new mom to handle this and it did not take too long to crash from these additional physical stresses. I love weight training because you can still set the goals (I can’t begin to tell you how awesome it is to increase your dumbbells from 10 to 15 pounds). You can literally lift for 20 minutes a few times per week and you don’t have that absolute exhaustion feeling that comes with doing intense cardio sessions.
Strength and power – I have found weight training incredible for my confidence. As someone who has always managed dysmorphic body image, you would think going to the gym and working out besides dozens of Lululemon clothed young women would be a trigger (especially between the 5-9 pm time frame, it’s a major meet market and actually quite entertaining). The opposite is true. Firstly I am 40++ women and that shit does not actually matter to me anymore, cheers to the wise women-years. The other factor is I am strong, really strong and when I pull out 3 unassisted push-ups at the park or hip thrust 150 pounds of weight, I feel like a frigging superhero!
Do it! Hire a personal trainer, go on youtube, sign up at your local gym, purchase some weights to use at home…whatever you can do to access more resistance training. The benefits are huge and it is surprisingly fun!