The Phases of Health and Fitness
My parents are in there 80’s and both are active and healthy. I also have a teenage daughter who plays soccer, track and field, gymnastics, and tennis. Myself, I’m in my mid 40’s, I love to workout, and I take a huge interest in my nutrition. It’s interesting because, at this time in my life, I have a chance to see many of the phases that we will all pass through with regards to health and nutrition. Here are some of the things you can expect to see in each phase and some of my suggestions on what to do.
What to expect: You are growing and you see changes almost daily.
How to move: Experience as many team and individual sports as possible. There is no need to train year round in any one sport. The variety will make you better at your favorite sport. Too much training in one way or for one sport will lead to repetitive use stress injury and early burn out.
Nutrition: Try new foods, even the ones you think you might not like. It’s important not only for diversity in palate, but the more variation you have in taste and diet, the more nutrients you will get. My one caution is to be aware of sugar intake. Over consumption of sugar has a bad effect on our gut, which can cause things that may be concerning at this age like acne! Enjoy some treats but don’t over indulge.
What to expect: You are experiencing some freedom and living on your own.
How to move: Create a habit of working out. Do it now or it can become really challenging to catch up later in life. Set aside 30-60 minutes a day to do something. Take a group fitness class or just get out for a run or walk daily.
Nutrition: Limited resources, like living in a dorm, can make this tough, but do the best you can to eat whole foods. Processed foods often are overly satisfying for us. We have a tough time eating the right amounts of something that is too sweet, salty, and creamy. Surround yourself with whole foods as much as possible. Have simple things on hand to grab and snack on: carrots, apples, nuts and seeds.
What to expect: Real life starts here. You might be starting to experience your first signs of aging with some aches and pains after working out. You may notice that you can’t train through the injuries you had in your 20’s.
How to move: Learn how to do some weight training with good form. As you get into your mid- to later-30’s, you may notice that areas of your body that used to be tight and toned are getting loose and flabby. Doing strength training will help keep definition and tone.
Nutrition: This is a great time to start to think about preparing meals in advance. Your thirties are busy with kids and jobs. A lot of times we don’t make the best choices when we come home from work, starving with screaming kids that need attention. If we have meals prepared we tend to do better. Stick with whole foods and good organic sources of protein. We have to start to think about what we are putting in our kids mouths, too.
What to expect: Life is starting to not be as crazy and we have a tendency to think more about why we are here, why we do what we do. This can lead to some deep thinking about what we want to do with life and who we want to be. It might be that you are going to start working out now or that you are looking to make some significant changes in your body.
How to move: You’ll have to really focus now on warmup and cool down. You may have to spend some extra time outside the gym doing mobility and taking care of aches and pains. You may need to start shifting from intensity to form with a deep focus on good movement.
Nutrition: Metabolism is starting to slow down and you may have to focus more on how much you are eating. It might not work to eat to stuffed each time you sit down. Think of eating just to 80% full.
What to expect: You have probably figured most of it out by now, confident in what you are doing and not so concerned with what others think anymore. You are comfortable just being you.
How to move: Recovery from injuries is much longer and can be frustrating. Warm ups need to be longer and you really need to be ready if you are going to train. You can’t get away with no cool down and mobility. It will add up quickly and nagging injuries will keep you down unless you are willing to put in the time to take care of your body outside of your workouts. Get a foam roller for home! The focus switches from intensity to sustainability. For example, it’s not how many pull ups, just pull ups. For men and women who are seeing a decline in hormones like estrogen and testosterone, the best thing you can do is lift heavy weights. You may have to cut back on long cardio as it can drain some of these already dwindling hormones.
Nutrition: At this age, muscle is being lost much faster than at any other age. This is where it pays off big to know how to lift weights and move well. You also have to combine this with good, clean sources of protein, whether through veggies or meats. It should be part of your daily intake. Think of eating veggies that are more colorful now as the more variety, the more nutrients you will get. You will also need more nutrients as you don’t absorb them as well. It might be time to start to supplement with some of the basics: magnesium, omega 3’s, and zinc. Some women are in menopause at this point and should think about getting rid of any fasting practice they have. Think about limiting carb intake, processed foods, alcohol intake and really be limiting sugar.
Sixties and Beyond
What to expect: This is a great time to start taking on new challenges. Kids are all grown up and out of the house and on their own. You are starting to think of the next phase of life and it’s important to be diligent now getting to the doctor to be seen for anything suspicious: bumps, skin lesions, and anything that isn’t normal. You probably have extra time. Travel, take up new hobbies, learn new things.
How to move: Continue to do things that are high impact. Walk or jog. Lift weights. Bone density can be an issue at this age. Work on balance and body awareness. Your training is part training and part preventative maintenance. Always work on preventing injury. It’s important to stay mobile and continue to move. The basics are key to maintain. Getting up and down off the floor later in life, pulling your body weight up, and being able to move around on your own is important as you go from your 60’s to 70’s and 80’s.
Nutrition: You will notice that appetite is starting to go down and you aren’t as hungry. It’s important to continue to eat foods that are highly dense in vitamins and minerals. Green, leafy veggies with plenty of fruits and good sources of protein are essential. Healthy fats will help now with eyesight and cellular health. Hydration is so important! Keep a water bottle with you and try to drink a half ounce per pound of body weight daily. It might be worth it to get a blood panel done each year to see what nutrients you are low on and what you might need to supplement.