Once we hit the half-century mark, life changes and so do our bodies. Our fitness inevitably begins to fade. The harsh reality of aging is that our metabolism slows, and we lose not only cardiovascular vigor, but also muscle mass and bone density In fact, muscle strength is lost at a rate of roughly 15 percent a year after age 50, and 30 percent a year after age 70 [source: Nied]. Depending on our lifestyles and activity levels, we're also at risk for a litany of illnesses, loss of balance and mental health issues, as well as decreased vision and hearing.
For overall health, there are few better alternatives than a fitness regimen that includes weight-bearing exercises. The term "weight-bearing" simply refers to supporting our body weight against the force of gravity. So weight-bearing exercises can include, but certainly aren't limited to, running, jogging, walking, stair-climbing, hiking, dancing, aerobics, tai chi, yoga, elliptical training and plyometric calisthenics (such as squats and lunges).
Weight-bearing exercise, done several times a week, offers a veritable chain reaction of health advantages, provided those exercises are done with proper technique and in moderation. Those advantages include:
- Reducing the effects of aging by ramping up your metabolism (which will help keep your weight in check)
- Reducing stress and anxiety while promoting mental well-being
- Boosting your immune system while reducing the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, osteoporosis and osteoarthritis, diabetes and obesity
- Preserving lean body mass
- Maintaining healthy joints, tendons and ligaments
- Increasing energy and endurance while promoting better sleep
In short, these exercises can add to the quality and quantity of your years. Like any exercise regimen, consult your doctor before getting started, especially if you've been somewhat sedentary, are overweight or have been previously prone to injury. Get a full fitness assessment, including bone-density measurement. Also, warm up before each session and cool down afterward. These exercises are undoubtedly beneficial, but you don't want to risk losing flexibility. Take time to slowly stretch out pre- and post-routine.
Let's start with developing a strong body.