Your Body’s Needs Change As You Age
If you’re of a certain age – and especially if you’re woman – you may be socialized to believe that you’re supposed to look like you’re still in your 20s.
That’s a mistake. And it’s putting you under a great deal of undue pressure.
Your body’s needs change as you age. So what worked when you were in your 20s will be more challenging or even injurious in your “not” 20s.
The Nitty Gritty on Aging
The reality is, your body is made up of fat, lean tissue, bones, and water. After age 30, people tend to start losing lean tissue and the amount of body fat goes up steadily.
Fat tissue tends to build up toward the center of the body, while the layer of fat under the skin gets smaller. And while the degree to which this happens varies, it’s possible that even at their optimal level of fitness, an older person can have up to one third more fat compared to when they were in their optimal shape in their 20s.
There are other changes as well.
1. Heart and Cardiovascular System
As you age, your blood vessels and arteries stiffen to some degree. That means your heart has to work harder to complete the same workload that it did even just ten years earlier. If there is no willingness to accept this fact, overloading the heart can lead to high blood pressure and other cardiovascular issues.
2. Muscles, Bones, and Joints
While you may notice you’re getting a little larger with age, there’s also a tendency to become a bit shorter. Aging changes the structure of the muscles, bones, and joints.
Muscles shed cells as you age and generally lose strength, endurance, and flexibility.
The bones lose minerals and shrink in size and density which weakens them. The bones most affected are the bones of the spine (vertebrae), the end of the thighbone (femur) at the hip, and the tops of the arm bones (radius and ulna) at the wrist. And as the vertebrae become less dense, the disks between them become thinner. This shortens the spine.
And ligaments which bind joints together and tendons which bind muscle to bone become more inelastic – leaving the joints to be tighter or stiffer. Older people become less flexible and are more prone to ligament and tendon tears.
We already touched on the extra fat issue. But another layer of this has to do with your metabolism. You’re certainly aware that you can’t scarf down the calories you did in your 20s.
The way your body burns calories slows as you age. So if you decrease activities because of aching joints or stiff muscles, but continue to eat as you always have you’re going to gain weight.
Your Body’s Needs Change As You Age
Although the above changes may seem dastardly on paper, they’re just a natural part of aging. And they don’t have to leave you depressed. Honoring the messages your body is giving you is the greatest act of self-care.
And the voice shaming you into trying to fit into your high school prom dress/suit is not your body, by the way. It’s your ego. And it’s almost always going to lead you astray.
In fact, when you come to accept the natural changes of your body as it ages, it’s liberating. And while some of the changes are easier to embrace than others, you can slow the process with lifestyle choices.
The Importance of Diet and Exercise
It’s never too late to adopt a healthy diet. Eating whole foods like produce, high-fiber grains, beans and legumes, and lean meats will help to slow the aging process. And keeping sugar, saturated fat, and alcohol at a minimum is also helpful.
Staying physically active is also crucial. Regular moderate exercise such as brisk walking or lifting light weights will assist with muscle strength and function while helping to both prevent and even treat bone loss.
But not all exercise is equal. You want to stick with movement that will be beneficial to an aging body. Pilates, for example, offers many benefits.
Focusing on controlled movements that use body weight to develop strength, stamina, and endurance, the exercises are low impact, non-weight-baring, and performed on equipment that moves the body safely through movement.
It’s also highly adaptable and can be easily modified to assist people with musculoskeletal issues such as arthritis or osteoporosis. The movements in Pilates improve mobility and increase muscle efficiency. What’s more, practitioners learn how to activate and coordinate muscle groups to move with more control and balance.
So get on the reformer, drink a smoothie afterward, and smile at yourself in the mirror for getting to this stage of your life. You’ve got this!
Ready to Try Pilates?
When you’re able to honor the fact that your body’s needs change as you age, you can step into your later years with more ease and confidence. No need to try to pretend you’re younger than you are.
Pilates can help.
So if you’re interested in seeing how Pilates can keep your body working at its optimal level no matter what your age, then contact us today. We’d love to hear from you.