MOVING IS THE THING
Just because I love to run doesn't mean I think it is right for everyone. The point I'm trying to make is that an appropriate level of physical activity is important for everyone for good health, mind and body. We all need to find what makes us feel like a kid again and do it often. Start by thinking about what activities you loved as a child. I loved to run. I can remember my mom saying all the time, "Cheryl has two speeds, running and asleep." I have not changed. I would rather run than walk most of the time. When I run I feel like I leave all my troubles behind in the wind. I seem to think more clearly while running. I plan what I want to do for the day, I think of fun conversations and about almost anything positive. It is meditation for me.
How much I run and how often varies day-to-day or month-to-month. And that is part of the benefit. When you played as child, you didn't do the same thing every day, you mixed it up because it was about having fun not forcing yourself to get a workout in.
Right now I am running three miles every other day and then on the alternate days I am doing a 30 minute yoga practice and a bare bones strength training routine that incorporates push-ups (for upper body), dead lifts (for core), planks (core), squats and lunges (lower body) and tricep-dips (arms). The first three exercises use major muscle groups and the tricep-dips I added because that is an area I want to firm up more. I found a fun 30 day Plank Challenge app for my phone that leads me through daily planks to help me build my core and I love how it takes only a couple of minutes and makes such a difference. I take one day off and some days instead of my usual routine I take walks or hikes for fun with my husband.
THE TRUTH According to Science
For the over fifty crowd, common sense and, increasingly, research suggests that constant use will slow the loss of our physical capabilities, form, and balance. The same research shows that, once lost, it may be difficult or impossible to regain former capabilities. The problem centers on the nerves that control our muscles. From 50 or 60 on, the permanent loss of the nerve connections to our muscles begins to accelerate. Depressing, I know but a recent study by McPhee published in the Journal of Physiology provides reason for optimism for those who stay fit.
As it turns out, older healthy muscles (meaning well developed through frequent exercise, good diet, etc.) enjoy a protection that less healthy muscles do not. Even though nerves controlling muscles decline with age, and this decline accelerates over 50 or 60, surviving nerves in healthy muscles can send out new branches to rescue muscles and stop them from wasting away.
This study by the American Journal of Physiology was conducted on men but it may be true for women as well.
Translation? If you keep at it, your ability to play tennis, lift weights, cycle, and so forth can be retained with minimal loss of nerve connections, although other studies show that you will need to spend more time exercising as you age to achieve the same results. Constantly used and challenged nerve connections find a way to survive. The "challenged" part of the equation points to the importance of mixing up your exercise routines. Changing even a small part of your activities builds new connections. (Trainers have long known that you need to “surprise” your muscles frequently because they tend to develop to the specific demand and no more.) For example, if tennis is your go-to activity, play doubles and singles, switch between one and two-handed form, try a few net shots with the other hand; play at night and in the day and consider learning similar sports. Still depressed? There may be a way to beat the odds and actually regain skills you lost through disuse. I don’t see a miracle on the horizon but a secret may be not only how much but how you exercise. Stay tuned.
I hope you found this information useful and if so stay tuned for next Monday when I talk about “Eating Using The 80% Rule” where I will dive a little deeper into Intermittent Fasting and how I try to eat for a healthy lifestyle.
That's all I have for today! Make sure to go out and play!