Move younger

Stay fit for life and you’ll reap the ben­e­fits

Good Housekeeping (UK) - - Good Health -

Con­sider this: your mus­cle mass peaks at the age of 25 and your bone strength in your early 30s. By 50, you’re well on your way to be­ing a third weaker than you were in your 20s. Changes in col­la­gen lev­els af­fect the re­silience of your ten­dons and lig­a­ments as well as your skin. But this is not the whole pic­ture. ‘The mes­sage is, use it or lose it – but what­ever your age you can work to op­ti­mise your strength and fit­ness,’ says char­tered phys­io­ther­a­pist Sammy Margo.


When you don’t use your body prop­erly – and bad habits per­sist for years – things start to go wrong. Be­ing hunched and bent can strain your spine and its sup­port­ing mus­cles. And time is not on our side – we all shrink as we get older as the discs in our spine get flat­ter and thin­ner. An Alexan­der Tech­nique teacher can re­align your body – get your­self started by imag­in­ing a string com­ing from the top of your head pulling you gen­tly to­wards the ceil­ing, pull your tummy in and keep the nat­u­ral curve in your back.


When it comes to hold­ing back the years, yoga ticks all the boxes. ‘A lit­tle goes a long way and reg­u­lar yoga prac­tice builds strength, sta­bil­ity and flex­i­bil­ity. But feel­ing youth­ful is more than just tak­ing care of your body, it’s also about tak­ing care of your thoughts,’ says on­line yoga guru Adriene Mish­ler. Don’t be put off by the fact that you’re not flex­i­ble. Start now with Adriene’s Yoga Quick­ies on Youtube – ideal for begin­ners.


Your body is de­signed to move – and that means avoid­ing sit­ting for too long dur­ing the day as well as get­ting three to four hours of ex­er­cise a week. As well as pro­tect­ing against type 2 di­a­betes, car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease and some can­cers, reg­u­lar ex­er­cise can add years to your life, even if you’ve been a con­firmed couch potato. One Har­vard study found that pre­vi­ously seden­tary men who only took up ex­er­cise af­ter 45 had a 24% lower death rate than their in­ac­tive con­tem­po­raries. Just get­ting mov­ing later in life can add more than a year and a half to your life ex­pectancy.


Main­tain­ing good bal­ance is a com­plex equa­tion with many fac­tors in­clud­ing strength, re­flexes and even eye­sight. Try these ex­er­cises: ❤ Stand on one leg while brush­ing your teeth or wash­ing up. That too easy? Close your eyes – if you man­age 20 sec­onds you’re do­ing well. ❤ Walk heel to toe for 20 steps – then try do­ing it back­wards. ❤ Bal­ance on your left foot, bend your right knee and raise it be­hind you to hip level. Reach your hands out in front of you and then bend for­ward, ex­tend­ing your right leg straight be­hind you. Hold it for 10 sec­onds, then do it on the other side. Re­peat at least 10 times.


The im­pact of de­clin­ing hor­mones, weak­en­ing con­nec­tive tis­sue and grav­ity all mean you will have to work harder to main­tain strong mus­cles and bones. But it can be done with a com­bi­na­tion of weight-bear­ing ex­er­cises (walk­ing, stair climb­ing, ten­nis) and re­sis­tance ex­er­cises (lift­ing weights, us­ing stretch bands). Re­cent re­search on a group of women over 58 found that twice-weekly ses­sions of weight lift­ing, re­sis­tance train­ing and im­pact ex­er­cises, like jump­ing, strength­ened bones.

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