Updated: Jan 27
In today's health & wellness blog, we welcome guest contributor, Joe Nasrallah - Personal Coach.
What We Can All Do to Help Us Get the Most Out of Our Later Years
When I stepped into a commercial gym for the first time in my early twenties, I had no idea what I was in for. Nor did I anticipate that fitness and eventually health and longevity would turn out to be my passion later in life.
There’s undoubtedly a subset of young people that start exercising to simply improve their overall fitness level or address some type of health concern but I’d venture to say that the majority start working out in their youth simply for the aesthetic benefits. And to be completely transparent, I was no different.
Fast forward a couple of decades and my proclivity towards physical activity remains high but the motivation is completely different. The realization that we lose muscle as we age, a medical condition known as Sarcopenia, and that with this gradual loss of lean body mass we put ourselves at an increased risk of age-related disease motivates me much more than looking decent in a pair of swim trunks ever could. In fact, it’s been shown that carrying more muscle as we age has a direct correlation with being able to remain ambulatory, maintain our mobility, and improve our overall quality of life.
So where does one start if they haven’t had the good fortune to have adopted an active lifestyle early in life? The answer may surprise you.
Something as simple as taking a 10-minute walk each day can have profound benefits on your health. And if you’ve been sedentary for years, there’s probably no easier way than getting out in the fresh air and taking a stroll to get things moving again. Soon, you’ll find yourself wanting to go a bit longer or challenge yourself by maybe picking up the pace a bit.
As an added bonus, recent research has found that taking a walk immediately following a meal has the added benefit of modulating the postprandial (I.e., a fancy way of saying the period after eating) blood glucose and insulin response meaning that it can help us be more metabolically healthy.
Recognizing that some of us live in a climate in which getting out for a walk is not always feasible due to extreme or less than ideal weather conditions, there are some other easy ways to get active. The most obvious is simply to employ some bodyweight movements in your daily routine.
For example, make it a habit to stretch and get a few chair squats (sometimes called “sit-to-stands”) in when you get up in the morning if you’re physically able to do so. Over time, this will not only improve your cardiovascular health but strengthen your muscles so that it’s not a monumental effort to get out of your chair later on in the day to grab that cup of coffee. You’ll likely even trim out and lose a few pounds along the way.
If you’re up for a bigger challenge, try some wall push-ups, or planks to strengthen your core. It doesn’t have to be a heroic effort of any kind either. Instead, pick exercises that are challenging yes, but at the same time also fun to do. Odds are you’ll keep going if you actually enjoy the movements you’re performing and may even find yourself making healthier food choices as your fitness improves.
For those that have access to a gym or exercise equipment, the absolute best approach is to combine some amount of resistance training with cardiovascular activity. For example, you may use a resistance band as a starting point to add some strength to your back, arms and legs and progress to using dumbbells as an introduction to weight training once you’ve acclimated to resistance training. Include a short bout on the treadmill or stationary bike afterwards and you’ve taken care of both strengthening your skeletal muscles and your heart!
A word of caution here though, if you’ve never picked up a weight, it’s a good idea to consult with a qualified trainer to make sure you don’t unnecessarily put yourself at risk for injury. Proper form is imperative in order to not only maximize the intended effect of a particular exercise but also make sure you’re executing it as safely as possible.
Now some of you might be thinking “come on, I can do more than that!” And if that’s you, then great but I really want to emphasize that you don’t have to already be in shape to start. In fact, whether you’re a complete beginner or a former athlete, there are benefits to be had either way. After all, very few of us have ever walked into a gym or started an exercise routine already in phenomenal shape, we all were novices at some time!
The previous point notwithstanding, I recently became aware of a 78-year-old female athlete by the name of Nora Langdon. The really interesting thing about her, apart from her ability to move some really impressive weight, is that she didn’t even pick up a barbell until she was in her 60s yet now boasts a squat of over 400 lbs. and competes in powerlifting events on a regular basis! Nora’s no ordinary woman, that’s for sure. Some would even make the argument that she’s a complete outlier and they wouldn’t be wrong. I simply use her as an example of what can be done by any one of us if we put our mind to it.
Is it ever too late to start some form of fitness regime if this is completely new and foreign to you?
As an online nutrition and fitness coach, I get asked this question a lot and my answer is usually that there is no age limit when it comes to wanting to make fitness a part of your lifestyle. The caveat of course is always that we need to work within the parameters that are unique to each individual.
As one such example, one of my clients who is actually in her early 30s but suffers from an illness that keeps her confined to a wheelchair most of the day started out by simply using exercise bands to work her upper body. Eventually, we got her out of the wheelchair long enough to take a short stroll with her walker a few times per week and later put some time in on a recumbent bike for 10 minutes at a time. As she began to drop some body weight, she was able to go a bit longer each time. The point is there’s always something that can be done.
While my staunch belief is that most people, irrespective of age, can benefit from incorporating some amount of movement or exercise into their daily routine, my enthusiasm needs to be tempered by making it clear that one should only do so after consulting with a medical professional. I mean the whole point of incorporating fitness into your daily routine is to improve your quality of life, not put yourself at any undue risk.
If you need more tips on how to get started or simply want to get some nutrition advice, please feel free to contact me via Facebook Messenger at @PN1CoachJoe and I’d be happy to help in any way I can.
Servicing the Ottawa Community since 1998.
We are now accepting clients in Smith Falls, Kemptville, Prescott, Brockville, through to Kingston, Ontario. #aging #fitness #seniorfitness #seniorcare #seniorliving #healthcare #ottawahomecare #elderlycare #assistedliving #caregiving #homehealthcare #dementia #eldercare #elderly #alzheimers #parkinsons #health #mealassistance #homecare #ottnews #seniorhomecareinottawa #senior #dementiacare #Ottawa #ottawaretirement #retirement #ottcity #LHIN