My opening article highlighted the importance of fitness and a healthy lifestyle during the middle age years to enhance future wellness. Studies have confirmed that this not only prolongs life but also delays the onset of diseases that are prevalent amongst ageing people. It also detailed the fact that physical fitness and activity levels decline substantially as we reach middle age, resulting in obesity and increased risk of heart disease and a host of other ailments.
‘Middle age spread’ and ‘mid-life flab’ are phrases known to most of us and are accepted as the norm in present day society. This dramatic changing of the body’s shape is attributed to a number of things including lack of exercise, hormonal imbalances, poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle. This is the first component of the ‘M’ effect and makes up the negative side of the scale.
If an individual does not take any action during middle age there will be a sustained and accelerated deterioration of fitness, weight, health and quality of life. In the end it is all about lifestyle changes but it does not, necessarily, have to be dramatic or unenjoyable. The ‘M’ Effect positives listed in figure 1 are the stabilisers that have a major positive impact on overall wellness and future wellbeing. It is never too late to make these changes or adjustments and the benefits will far outweigh the effort involved.
The ‘M’ Effect positives can be split into three categories which comprise of fitness, health and diet and lifestyle.
I will use the rest of this posting to cover the first group. The human body generally responds well to physical exercise and substantial improvements may be anticipated in heart and lung function, muscular strength, endurance and flexibility. A passable level of fitness is vital to anyone wanting to have quality of life but it does not have to mean hours in the gym or out on the road.
1) Movement (aerobic exercise)
Aerobic exercise is physical activity that uses large muscle groups at a regular pace and stimulates the body to release energy through the increased utilization of oxygen.
The Mayo Clinic lists the following advantages of doing aerobic activity
1. Keep excess pounds at bay
Combined with a healthy diet, aerobic exercise helps you lose weight.
2. Increase your stamina
Aerobic exercise may make you tired in the short term. But over the long term, you’ll enjoy increased stamina and reduced fatigue.
3. Ward off viral illnesses
Aerobic exercise activates your immune system. This leaves you less susceptible to minor viral illnesses, such as colds and flu.
4. Reduce your health risks
Aerobic exercise reduces the risk of many conditions, including obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, stroke and certain types of cancer. Weight-bearing aerobic exercises, such as walking, reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
5. Manage chronic conditions
Aerobic exercise helps lower high blood pressure and control blood sugar. If you’ve had a heart attack, aerobic exercise helps prevent subsequent attacks.
6. Strengthen your heart
A stronger heart doesn’t need to beat as fast. A stronger heart also pumps blood more efficiently, which improves blood flow to all parts of your body.
7. Keep your arteries clear
Aerobic exercise boosts your high-density lipoprotein (HDL or "good") cholesterol and lowers your low-density lipoprotein (LDL or "bad") cholesterol. The potential result? Less build-up of plaques in your arteries.
8. Boost your mood
Aerobic exercise can ease the gloominess of depression, reduce the tension associated with anxiety and promote relaxation.
9. Stay active and independent as you age
Aerobic exercise keeps your muscles strong, which can help you maintain mobility as you get older. Aerobic exercise also keeps your mind sharp. At least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise three days a week seems to reduce cognitive decline in older adults.
10. Live longer
Studies show that people who participate in regular aerobic exercise live longer than those who don’t exercise regularly.
If you maintain a regular aerobic exercise program as you get older, your muscles will stay stronger and aid in maintaining stability and avoiding falls. This will help keep you independent and on your own longer.
Movement is the first element to achieving an improvement in present and future wellbeing. Muscle mass (resistance training) and Multiplicity (variety) are the other two vital fitness components. I will explain the latter two in my next article introducing the ‘M’ Effect.
Acknowledgement: The Mayo Clinic – http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/aerobic-exercise/EP00002