By John L. Boos, L.M.T., N.S.C.A., C.P.T.
“Mirror mirror on the wall, why is my body beginning to fall?” For many women, the effects of aging appear to strike around one’s 40th birthday. Clothes and jeans don’t fit the same as they did ten years ago, or even five years ago. They will find more gray hairs and less overall energy…and see a few extra pounds on that scale, amounting to a little less confidence. Forget that dressing room mirror: More hills and fewer curves. A few more wrinkles, a bit less patience.
Women approaching age 40 are embracing a new reality, and that’s aging. Science tells us there’s a bit more body fat and less muscle tissue, a gradual process that begins between the ages of 25 to 30 years old. If nothing is being done to sustain or increase her amount of muscle tissue through strength training and proper exercise, a woman will lose a considerable amount of her youthful lean body tissue – which gives her her shapely figure – by the age of 40. By age 50, she will begin to experience as much as a 10 percent total muscle loss. In exchange for this loss of muscle tissue, a woman gains one pound to a pound and a half of fat each year after 50. In the mirror, she sees she is becoming less and less firm, and more and more flabby.
Muscle is very metabolic in nature. It requires roughly 35 calories per pound each day in order to sustain itself on the body. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn, even if you’re resting. Conversely, if there is less muscle on the body, then fewer calories are being burned. Those extra calories will be looking for someplace to go. Since the body doesn’t indiscriminately excrete leftover calories, it looks for a place to store them. (This is a natural survival instinct we’ve acquired over thousands of years.) So these leftover calories that remain unburned are held in the body’s storage facilities as adipose tissue, also known as fat.
Let’s look at it this way. At 40 years of age, a woman is at about half her life expectancy of 79 years. Of course, many women live well beyond that. Bear in mind that of the first 40 or 50 years of life, the first 25 were spent in an overall youthful physical state. Science tells us that our lean body mass (which consists of organs, bone and primarily muscle) is at its peak then, and if nothing is done to maintain or build upon that, then lean body mass will slowly decrease in quantity over time. That’s part of the aging process. In accordance with this claim, women approaching 40 years of age have spent only their last 15 years in the degenerative aging process. Genetics will alter the depth and swiftness of aging, but everyone will eventually be affected.
According to Dr. Evans of Tufts University, the first true signs of general aging are loss of muscle tissue and muscle strength. As mentioned previously, loss of muscle is one of the primary causes of one’s negatively changing body shape; and loss of muscle tissue leads to an increase in the amount of overall body fat as well. This ratio of increased body fat to lost muscle tone accelerates at an exponential rate each year after 40. In other words, the appearance of aging from age 30 to age 40 is less dramatic than from age 40 to age 50. Add to this a woman’s natural hormonal changes that occur with age and things really appear to snowball downhill.
But women don’t have to surrender to what seems hopeless, because it isn’t. While we can’t stop the time clock, we can substantially slow down the aging process. I’ve always taught clients that getting older is inevitable, but aging is optional.
Replacing muscle lost from neglect or improper exercise CAN be done successfully. In a nutshell, you must get back what muscle you lost (and hopefully, even more!) in order to turn things around… and they can be turned around!! A woman over 40 can still achieve a beautiful shape.
First, a woman must closely examine her means of exercise. If you are not exercising to increase your muscle tone and therefore your body’s metabolism, then it would be a smart and healthy idea to do so. And, if you are exercising, is it being done properly to increase muscle tissue and improve overall health? The most expeditious and cautious procedure for obtaining and retaining muscle tone is weight training (done with knowledgeable, experienced coaching). Research posted by The Journal of the American Medical Association states that muscle must be under a load of 60% or more of your one rep maximum. This is the same intensity requirement for increasing bone mass if you’ve been diagnosed with low bone density. Keep your goals clear and your progress measurable. Find someone motivating with an atmosphere that is right for you. As always, please attain medical clearance from your doctor before beginning any exercise and strength fitness program.
So, if you’re 40 or over and want to slow down your age-related sluggish metabolism, then take charge of the situation and reclaim your youth. Remember: This is a health issue as well, and you’re worth the effort. Live your life for maximum results.