Here are 3 tips to not gain weight, lose muscle mass as you get older – Courier Journal
We all know that exercise is good for you, physically and mentally. At a minimum, we should be doing at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week, or half that amount (75 minutes) per week of vigorous exercise. But the majority of Americans get much less — one in five adults 19 years old and over get less than 30 minutes of physical activity per week.
I believe many of us feel guilty that we are not more active, but not guilty enough to do something about it. Instead, we create excuses to get us off the hook. For example:
“I’m too tired after working all day.” Probably so, but ironically, the best way to pep yourself up is to get some exercise. Plopping down on the couch makes you more tired.
“Exercise is boring.” Sure it is if you choose a boring form of exercise. But there are many options if you simply look for them. How about watching TV or listening to your favorite upbeat music while you exercise on a treadmill or stationary bike?
“Exercise is uncomfortable.” If you aren’t in great shape, moving your body, at first, will be uncomfortable. But as you go along, it will get better.
And of course, the ultimate excuse: “I’m too busy.”
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No doubt about it, Americans are busy folks, and we’re proud of it. We are the most productive society in the world, and the hardest working. We rarely take vacations, and when we do, most of us stay connected to work through our phones and computers. Should we be praised for our work ethic? Perhaps, but the cost is high. At the least, it prevents us from following healthful lifestyle practices, like regular exercise, the core component of aging well.
So how can we improve this situation? Here are a few tips:
The answer to a healthier lifestyle is incorporating exercise in bits and pieces throughout the day. The key is the cumulative effects, especially when it comes to weight management.
A great example is stair climbing. Climbing stairs offers many benefits, including burning lots of calories and strengthening the legs. To determine the caloric cost per flight, multiply the number of steps times 0.3. For example, each time you go up and down a flight of 15 steps (typical in the average home), you burn approximately 4.5-calories (twice as many going up as coming down — 3.0 kcals up versus 1.5 down).
While that doesn’t sound like much, over the course of a day, it wouldn’t be hard to squeeze in 20 flights. At home, go up and down the stairs during TV commercials. At work, find excuses to leave your desk. Or you can do several flights during your lunch hour. For those who work in a high-rise building, you can climb several flights at one time, and you can knock them out on your way to and from work.
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Research data supporting the benefits of climbing stairs is plentiful. In one study, sedentary folks gradually increased their daily stair climbing in a public building by adding one additional flight each week and working up to a total climbing time of 13.5 minutes per day. Despite the limited time required, participants significantly increased their cardiovascular fitness and raised their HDL, the good kind of cholesterol that protects the heart. That’s a big bang for a small buck.
Going out of your way to climb stairs can also help you avoid the downward spiral that so often accompanies aging in the U.S.
As we age, things we used to do and take for granted become more physically challenging, and climbing stairs is the perfect example. As climbing stairs becomes more difficult, it’s human nature to do less of it, and avoid it if possible. As you do less, you become weaker, making the task harder, which causes you to do even less stair climbing. Eventually, you find that you are too weak to climb even one flight of stairs.
As stair climbing gets harder with age, let me encourage you to do more of it, not less. Resign yourself to seek out more opportunities to climb stairs and eventually you will find that it becomes easier and easier. What’s more, the increased strength and fitness from stair climbing will spill over and make other things you do throughout the day less physically challenging.
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What if you have a bad knee? Push off with your good leg and pull the bad one up the step. If both knees are bad, stair climbing is not for you, but assuming you can still walk, even if you need a walker or a cane, seek out more opportunities to walk. Again, even if it’s in bits and pieces, you can accumulate a sizeable number of calories expended throughout the day, plus you will be sustaining at least a minimal level of strength and fitness.
When walking a full mile at a comfortable pace in bits and pieces, women will burn about 60 kcals and men 80 kcals (men burn off more calories because they are larger). This doesn’t sound like much but consider the long run. In one year, assuming you don’t eat more, walking a mile per day at 80 kcals per mile would accumulate (80 x 365 days) 29,200 expended calories, enough to burn off more than 8-pounds of body fat (3500 kcals per pound of fat). If you don’t do this, the alternative is what typically occurs and you gain at least one pound of body fat per year, while probably losing some muscle mass. This exchange of fat for muscle sustains your weight, misleading you into thinking you are not gaining fat year by year.
The key to bits and pieces exercise, whether it be climbing stairs or walking, is the cumulative effect. All you need is a reminder to get moving. Set a timer and each time it rings take off for a brief walk or the stairs. It’ll perk you up more than a cup of coffee, and over time you’ll lose body fat and improve your health.
Reach Bryant Stamford, a professor of kinesiology and integrative physiology at Hanover College, at email@example.com.
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