Don’t be taken by surprise. Somewhere in our 40’s or 50’s aging men and woman men begin being challenged to maintain lean body mass, vibrancy, and vigor. The weight wants increase and energy wants to decrease.
As we age, hormones associated with lean body mass decline. For most people exercise and activity have declined for some time. Decades of less-than-optimal health and eating habits take their toll. Stress, toxicity, poor sleep, medication, injury, etc. can all play a role. The loss of lean body mass is almost always accompanied by weight gain. The fat itself is then part of the downward spiral. Fat raises insulin levels and insulin resistance, deceases favorable hormone levels, and increases inflammation. All of these work against lean body mass and health in general.
Sound depressing? Don’t panic! The causes are environmental so the results can be reversed if the environment is. There are clear doable actions to take. Start where you are and implement using your best wisdom. These steps can help you get your muscle tone and vibrancy back:
- Incorporate interval and strength workouts along with endurance exercise. We have 3 distinct integrated movement systems in our bodies – aerobic (lower effort endurance), anaerobic (higher effort short duration), and strength. Any exercise is better than none, but It is critical to understand that if we have a system in the body we need to condition it. All 3 of these motion systems need to be conditioned, and all 3 of them provide unique and needed benefits. To boost hormonal levels, build muscle, convert fat, and increase metabolism throughout the day, not just while exercising, we need to utilize the anaerobic and strength systems as well as the aerobic system. Be wise, safe, and practical! Start where you are and work with your doctor or trainer. You might not be used to these kinds of movement. You could start by trying intervals of 15 to 60 seconds on an elliptical machine or stationary bike. The level of effort only needs to be high enough so you can only continue for period of the interval. Interval times would start at several minutes as you adapt. For strength your own body weight can be used for many exercises. If using weights begin with light weight allowing 12-15 reps. You can always add effort and weight later.
- Make interval and strength workouts full-body workouts. Full-body workouts excite the whole body and the great majority of its muscles. This causes maximum metabolic and hormonal changes. Interval and strength workouts don’t have to be long to be effective. Set aside 15 to 35 minutes. If you can’t tolerate full-body workouts do what you can. Don’t injure yourself. Start by putting together one or two workouts that cover your whole body using strength or intervals or both. Use “compound” exercises. They are movements that use as many muscles at once as possible. After 3-4 weeks change exercises. Your muscles will adapt over time and you’ll see less results if you don’t.
- Learn and practice the basics of stress management as a matter of personal growth. Bad stress is our body’s response to immediate physical danger when there is none present. The body literally gears up to fight or flight needlessly. Our own thought and feeling patterns are at the root of the problem. Bad stress never happens in the present. Our minds need to take us to the past or the future since by definition we are not currently in physical danger. There is a simple (not necessary easy) 3 step process for correcting our thinking by replacing our poor thinking with more accurate, true, and effective thinking. How do we do that? In summary form this is the process:
- Get out of the stress response and get relaxed. When stressed we are stuck in our thoughts and feelings and unable think rationally. We are stressed because we indulged poor thinking and allowed it to take us to ineffective places. There is no hope of gaining the perspective and awareness without getting fully relaxed first. Do whatever is necessary for you. Start by working to get completely relaxed and without anxiety at least once a day. If you can’t you may need to seek help. Learning how to do relaxing deep breathing is a useful place to start.
- Gain growing awareness of your thinking and feeling patterns. Once relaxed you have the opportunity to get in the present and become aware of your thinking and feeling patterns. Don’t judge just understand and be aware of them. Journal or document them as needed. Understanding how you think and why is needed.
- Take poor thoughts captive by replacing them with accurate, truthful, useful, and effective thoughts. When the poor thinking starts up specifically and intentionally take them captive with the better thinking. You do this by recognizing where thoughts are in error and learning to correct thinking you choose to replace it with. Review the right thinking, memorize it, or even say it out loud if possible. You can’t stop poor thoughts from coming, but you can take them captive as they happen. Over time the results can be life changing!
- Quality sleep. Poor sleep can ruin everything. Sleep is when your muscles recover. Sleep helps reduce food cravings and helps us lose weight. Without enough sleep it is almost impossible to be make changes, manage stress, and live intentionally. Don’t think you are the exceptional person who doesn’t need 8 hours of sleep. There is only a tiny fraction of people for which this may be true. Sleep can be a long conversation. Do what you need to do. You will have more to give in all areas of life if you do. The single easiest way to be more productive at work is to just get more sleep.
- Work to keep body fat low – don’t eat animal products that contain antibiotics. Fat itself is part of the problem and downward spiral. Most of the weight problems we have come from eating in an unnatural way. Antibiotics damage the diversity of your gut bacteria and help make you fat. Assume all meat products contain antibiotics unless labeled organic or specified as not containing antibiotics.
- Eat healthy fats and avoid unhealthy processed fats. Healthy fats are vital for producing hormones, proper brain function, and help fight inflammation. Avoid trans fats, and any form of process oils including oils extracted chemically. Eat avocados, nuts and seeds, cold water fish. Raw nuts are preferable to roasted. Use cold pressed unprocessed oils like olive and coconut.
- Avoid added sugar and processed foods of all kinds. Processed foods and sugar are known to cause metabolic imbalances of many different kinds. They are nutritionally deficient and prompt food cravings. They can help block the beneficial hormonal response to recovery from exercise. Processed foods are also the carriers of additives, dyes, preservatives, MSG, and many other unfavorable ingredients. They cause havoc with sustained energy and cause you to overeat. They contribute to diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and more. Eat whole unprocessed “real” food, mostly from plants, and don’t overeat.
You can stay fit and vibrant but it won’t come for free. Take the next wisest step most important for you. The strength and enthusiasm is on the journey of change and in the supportive people you build into your life. Just get started!
Be the best you can be!