I’ve definitely noticed how much harder it is to keep my “figure” the older I get. I know that one reason is that while I like to exercise, what I like to do is mostly cardio. As we age we really need to add in strength training to keep our muscle mass, which helps us burn calories all day long- even when we’re not exercising!
As people age, especially after age 40, they lose one-third to one-half of a pound of muscle each year and gain that much in body fat. Although this may seem minuscule, in fact it is quite significant as it translates to about a 1 to 2 percent loss of strength each year. With this loss of muscle strength, we tend to spontaneously become less active because daily activities become more difficult and exhausting to perform. But strength training has the power to maintain your muscle mass, your strength, and keep daily activities doable and fun!
When discussing strength training and lean body mass, we are primarily talking about the amount of muscle in your body. As strength training helps you build new muscle, you will enjoy a boost in your metabolism.
The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn throughout the day - whether you are walking, vacuuming, or sleeping. This is because muscle is metabolically active. Stored fat, on the other hand, is not metabolically active, uses very little energy, and therefore burns minimal calories.
You don’t need a weight machine to do strength training. Start with very light weights, or even canned goods as weights, and work up from there. Strength training “bands” can be purchased for about $5, and you can use them to exercise your arms and legs.
As you gain muscle mass, you get two real boosts for weight control. First, your metabolism will increase so that you can eat more and burn calories more effectively. Secondly, because you are stronger, physical activity becomes easier and more fun.
To burn more calories throughout the day, tack on an extra five to 10 minutes to your regular aerobic exercise. Also, try to get at least 30 minutes or more of physical activity on most if not all days of the week. With time constraints, it can be difficult to incorporate more structured exercise; instead, get more daily physical activity by:
- Walk or take public transit rather than driving whenever possible
- Throw away the remote controls (Yikes!)
- Use the stairs rather than the elevator or escalator
Remember, every little bit helps!
It is so important to get the most vitamins, minerals, and satisfaction as possible from the food you eat.
- Try to eliminate white breads and rice from your diet and replace with whole grains - like whole wheat bread, bran, oats, and brown rice. These products contain many more nutrients, will fill you up more, and keep your hunger away longer.
- Load up on fruits and vegetables - things like cucumbers, carrots, jicama, apples, and grapefruits make great snacks. Keep a few things sliced and ready to go in a sandwich bag in the fridge so you don’t have to stop and do it when you’re starving. Keep some oranges or bananas in a pretty fruit bowl so you remember to eat them.
- Try keeping food logs - you may be eating more than you think. And you might decide not to eat that doughnut because you don’t want to write it down!
- Drink a tall glass of water before assuming you are hungry. Thirst is often mistaken for hunger. Remember to drink at least eight glasses of water each day- you’ll feel full from the water and you’ll get extra exercise getting up to go the bathroom!