Updated: Oct 30, 2021
Last weekend, I attended Optima, the National Academy of Sports Medicine's annual conference. I came away energized and motivated both professionally and personally. I am 100% embracing the labels of Active & Aging.
I want to share key take-aways on nutrition and fitness for the Boomers, GenXers and Millennials, who already have some exercise in your life.
Boomers, you were the first generation to really grow up with regular exercise. You brought us Jazzercise, health clubs and powerwalking. You have a much different view point of an active lifestyle than your parents and you've been a role model for active & aging. Us GenXers may be in the period of life where exercise stops or slows down, especially muscle building activity. We've gotten busy with kids or careers and finding time is hard! And, you Millennials are officially entering the aging game...the perfect time to be setting the stage for life-long activity and healthy aging.
Tip 1: Eat More Protein, Look for Leucine.
Our muscle building capability peaks around 30 years old. After 30, those processes get less efficient.
One study shared showed that a 71 year old had to eat 70% more protein per meal than a 22 year old to get the same level of muscle protein synthesis.
To preserve muscle, we must feed ourselves the building blocks of protein which are essential amino acids (EAA). Leucine is a particularly important EAA as it triggers muscle protein repair and growth. Dairy, animal proteins, seeds (pumpkin, hemp) are a sources of leucine.
Tip 2: Do Resistance Training
The second way to preserve muscle is to do resistance training. We need to preserve muscle for a multitude of reasons - everything from protecting our bones and connective tissue to helping us metabolize glucose efficiently. Muscle is created and maintained when we give the muscle external stress (weight, gravity, bands etc.) and ask it to perform movement. See my August 30th post for more on resistance training.
Tip 3: Don't Forget about Power
Power training is different than resistance training in that it involves explosive movement. If resistance training builds our strength, power training boosts our ability to use that strength quickly. It's power that helps us pick up our kids, continue to play sports, engage in physical hobbies and navigate a busy sidewalk. Power does not necessary need to be joint-jarring jumping. It can be changes in tempo of an exercise that pushing up a weight quickly for one count and slowly bringing it down for 3-4 counts).
Tip 4: You Need High Intensity with Adequate Recovery
I bet you're thinking yuk. I was. But I've had a mindset shift on HIIT. Here's what I want you to consider: a) to create change we have to challenge our muscles to work harder than their current capability; b) this challenge needs to be a combination of increasing the external resistance and going long enough to tire out the muscle; c) it does not need to be long in duration; in fact that is important for not over training; d) as we age we need more recovery between these workouts, your high intensity workouts are not every day workouts.
Tip 5: All of Your Planes of Motion Need Attention
Activity in our daily life requires movement in all directions. Most of us tend to focus on those forward and backward movements only (sagittal plane). I really see this in my clients who's primary exercise is running and walking. We need to build stability and strength in our lateral and transverse planes of motion as well. Here is a great blog post from NASM which shows you different exercises for each plane.
Tip 6: Roll Your Shoulders Back
Everything (it seems like) we do is in front of us and our posture is showing it. Our heads are forward and our shoulders are rounding forward and this negatively impacts our upper body mobility, flexibility and strength. Our stretching activities need to open the chest and bring the shoulder blades back and down. Our resistance training needs to give the back and posterior shoulder muscles some love.
Tip 7: We Need Sleep - More, Longer and with Better Continuity
The fact we need sleep isn't new, and it kind of sucks that some of us are in the age group where sleep quality becomes a huge challenge (thanks peri-menopause). Here's the facts that helped me put how much I need in more context:
Our sleep cycle is about 90 minutes. We need 5-6 full cycles to be fully restored.
The importance of getting full cycles of sleep was also reinforced by what's happening during deep sleep (our brain is literally cleaning itself out and getting rid of toxins) and REM sleep (helps us process emotional things).
Tip 8: If You Struggle with Balance Try Compression, Texture and Breathing
Balance and how to build it is a topic for another post or many posts. But the tip here is to remember that balance is a perception based activity as well as a physical activity. It requires us to respond to external sensory information AND internal sensory information. It may be possible to increase our ability to respond to external stimulus when balancing by adding weight, texture or compression - things that make us more "aware" of the body. Examples including adding wrist weights, compression socks or textured mats and balls. This is something I am going to be trying along with a greater amount of barefoot work.
Tip 9: You Need to Eat
Yep. You need to be eating to have energy. The Boomer and GenXers have really been submerged in the diet culture and that is working against us not for us. You need carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats to give your body what it needs to exercise and you need to give it those things to recover. When you skip a meal, workout out on an empty stomach, cut out carbs, or severely restrict your calories you create a drop in your blood sugar. When that happens, your body burns muscle, it holds on to fat (saving it for energy reserves) and it depletes your energy.
So there you have it, 9 tips to help you fuel and move your bodies for the long-haul. Some may be small tweaks to what you already do. Some of these might be shifts in your normal. I encourage you to adopt these with a one-at-a-time mindset, approaching each as a small habit to foster and incorporate. After all, aren't we playing the long game?
Proudly Active AND Aging and wishing you the same,
P.S. If you want to talk through changes you'd like to make, don't hesitate to schedule a chat.
If you want to find out more about working with me and building Integrated Workouts (power, balance, resistance, flexibility and cardio) into your fitness program, schedule a free consultation.