Friday, 11 May 2012

Are you aged 0-100? Then this is for you!

Having a birthday this week has made me reflect on where I've been and where I'm going.  What was important to me years ago and whether its the same now.  How my body is holding up as it gets another year older and what my changing needs are as a mid 30's chick!  And whilst, yes, I am still young (and feel even younger at heart by the way!), the 40's are knocking ever so faintly on my door. 
This actually (surprisingly) doesn't bother me all that much.  I feel I am a more settled, wiser (laughing), grounded, self confident person than I was in my 20's and for that I am enjoying ageing!  But on the flip side, I also know that more work needs to be done as we get older to maintain a healthy weight, a healthy mind, and attention needs to be given to our body to keep it firing on all cylinders (oh dear, Dans love of cars is rubbing off on me isnt it?!).

The take home point is that a healthy lifestyle can be justified whatever your age, and for different reasons at each life stage.  And like cars (yes there are similarities but don't tell my husband I said that!) in the early days we may get away with a bit of  'nutrition abuse' but as we age it starts to become glaringly obvious if the car hasn't been serviced, oil changed, battery looked after, wheels pumped up, and even a wax and polish every now and then!!!

As I sit here eating a (big) triangle of Toblerone (thanks Heather!!), I am reminded that as we age our metabolism starts decreasing.  This is due largely to our muscle mass decreasing with age.  It then becomes a vicious cycle as due to our reduced strength we feel more lethargic and less enthusiastic to keep up our activity levels.  Oh god, someone take this Toblerone AWAY!!!  The good news is that this can be reversed.  The very important thing to do as we start to age is weight bearing activity.  By keeping our muscle mass from dropping too much, we can achieve several things:
  • Help reduce the risk of osteoporosis.  Contrary to popular opinion, this is both a male and female problem.  By exercising we strengthen our bones and also the muscle around them giving them the support they need.
  • Muscle burns more energy than fat so by staying in the healthy weight range and building muscle mass, our bodys metabolism increases making it easier to maintain a healthy weight throughout the older years.
  • A strong healthy body helps us when we are older with balance and mobility.
  • With age our energy intake needs reduce.  The problem is most people still eat the same amount, resulting in the 'middle age spread' that everyone talks about.  By increasing muscle mass, our body uses more energy which can eliminate that gradual weight gain with age.
Now I'm not talking pumping weights in the mirrors at the local gym! (Unless that interests you!) I have now got a small pair of dumbells that I have just got back into using (after a fairly lengthy hiatus after birth of first child!).  But you can use all sorts of things that have a bit of weight to them - even little kids would find it fun to be your dumbells as you lift them up and down four thousand times a day!  A few sets using the different muscle sets in my arms, a few sets of sit ups, and a few walks/jogs during the week (pushing 40kg up and around the hills of Eltham is a good workout too!) is what I am doing at the moment to increase the proportion of muscle mass to fat.  Its not going to win me the Body Sculpting World Championships but then that's not my aim!!  Oh and incidental exercise is a big one too that we often forget about.  Vacuuming, taking the stairs instead of lifts in shopping centers/work places, walking to the shops instead of driving, sweeping the leaves instead of using the blower......  All of this activity adds up and just takes a bit of thought about what you can do incidentally each day.  What can you do today to increase your activity levels?

The other biggie is drinking water.  Given our bodies are 80% water replenishment is a must to keep the 'engine' going!  Its also a heap cheaper than botox (although for how long I'm not sure!)

There are some other nutritional needs that stand out in the 30s/40s:
  • This is often a time of juggling so many things.  A young family, the prime of a career, travelling etc etc.  Energy levels need to be maintained and this can be done by eating at least 4 serves of wholegrains each day, providing carbohydrates and B vitamins.  A serve is considered to be any of the following: 1 cup cooked low GI (basmati or doongara) or brown rice,  2 slices wholemeal/multigrain bread, 1 cup porridge, 1/2 cup muesli.  Add to that:
    • 5 serves of veggies (1 serve = 1/2 - 1 c raw veggies), 
    • 2 serves of fruit (1 serve = 1 medium piece (ie apple) or 2 smaller pieces (ie apricots), 4 dried apricots or 1.5 tbs sultanas),
    • 3 serves of dairy (1 serve = 1 cup milk, 2 slices cheese, 200g yogurt, 1 cup almonds, 1/2 cup tinned salmon with bones)
    • 1-2 serves meat &/or alternatives (1 serve = 1/2 cup mince meat, 60-100g cooked meat, 80-120g cooked fish, 2 small eggs, 1/3 cup cooked lentils/chickpeas/beans, 1/3 cup nuts)
  • Calcium is important to be giving your body every day.  This will help reduce bone wastage and increase bone strength.  If you don't, for whatever reason, get enough calcium per day (see dairy requirements above), perhaps the addition of a supplement may be a discussion to have with your health professional.
  • Protein is important for repairing and maintenance of cells.  See above for meat &/or alternatives requirements.

So, today, I want you to promise yourself that you will start, today, preparing your body for the battle of ageing!!  Don't tell yourself its too hard and that you don't need to bother with it yet.  Its never too early or too late to book yourself in for a tune up, talk to the mechanic about the best oil to use, the best coolant....
This is the only body we get.  You don't want to feel trapped in it prematurely.  Treat your body well now and it will treat you well in the future.
Now I'm off to finish that triangle of Toblerone ( :  Mmmmmm


  1. Heather Henson11 May 2012 at 22:59

    I'm SO glad you're enjoying your Toblerone Mel!! You could make it last for until your next birthday - 1/4 triangle a week!!
    I hear you when you talk about the reduced strength causing lethargy. I do often think about getting on my bike on the back verandah but lack the energy to actually get going. This has been a good reminder to intentionally break the cycle and start even if for just a few minutes at first. Happy Toblerone munching!

    1. Heather, chocolate doesn't last long in our house (due to my lack of self control!) so apart from special occasions, I just can't buy it!!
      I hope you have been on that bike today?!