Here’s a scary thought: You’re the oldest you’ve ever been. Right now.
Until we develop the ability to travel back in time, we must accept that we can’t stop the aging process. Senescence, the science of the biological aging process in humans, suggests that the most effective way to minimize the effects of aging is by living a healthy lifestyle with behaviors like regular exercise and smart nutrition.
While the following information is based on the latest understandings of how movement slows down the aging process, this will merely be an overview because taking a deep dive into the details requires much more than a brief article.
Instead, over the next few weeks, I’m going to recommend some general considerations for movement, nutrition and lifestyle choices for each decade of the adult life span. The bottom line is that a healthy lifestyle can be the proverbial fountain of youth and help you to slow down and, in some cases, reverse the effects of the normal aging process.
If you’re in your 20s, enjoy your youth but realize that the sooner you commit to a healthy lifestyle, the more benefits you can experience throughout your entire adulthood.
|Types of Movement||Nutrition||Sleep|
|Experiment with different workouts to find what you enjoy, then do it on a regular basis. The more consistent your physical activity, the better your quality of health.
Consider joining a health club or attending classes at a studio. When it comes to cost, consider this fact: Either you pay to stay in shape while you’re young or you’ll end up spending lots of money over the course of your life dealing with chronic disease and health conditions.
When you’re young, you can get away with doing high-intensity training most days of the week, but it’s important to make time for flexibility and mobility training, as well.
|You’re young—eat what you want (all things in moderation, of course). You have a high metabolism. Enjoy it. Nourish your body with healthy foods, but allow yourself splurges.||Meh, you can sleep when you’re old. (Kidding.) In all seriousness, on extremely intense training days, it’s important to have a good night’s sleep for optimal recovery.|
Aging starts accelerating in this decade of life. Based on personal experience, here is what you need to consider in your 30s: The biggest challenges during this decade are that your professional career will be taking off, and if you haven’t already, you’ll probably be interested in starting a family. This is why finding a favorite mode of movement in your 20s is so important—it will be a regular habit by the time your career and family life start making more demands on your time.
Movement is so important during this time that if you haven’t been successful at following a regular exercise program on your own, you may want to consider hiring a personal trainer or going to a class with instructor-led workouts.
Without regular exercise, cardiorespiratory efficiency (the ability to efficiently move oxygen-nutrient-carrying blood around the body) starts to decline, which can increase the risk of developing heart disease. If you’re not doing strength training on a consistent basis after age 35, then you will start to experience a loss of muscle mass. Unless you lift weights or perform some sort of load-bearing exercise in your 30s and beyond, you can expect to lose up to 10 percent of muscle mass PER DECADE.
If you’re a guy, as you reach the later years of this decade, not only will you experience lower levels of testosterone, but if you have excessive amounts of abdominal fat, then the enzyme aromatase also could convert what testosterone you do produce into estradiol, a female sex hormone. (That’s why heavyset men can develop breasts.)
Both strength training (to increase muscle mass) and metabolic conditioning (for weight loss) are extremely important during this time of your life. Women in their 30s should be doing strength training, too, because it can help elevate levels of human growth hormone, which can help metabolize fat, promote muscle growth and help skin maintain a youthful appearance.
Even if you have a demanding schedule, it’s important to realize that even 15 to 20 minutes of exercise at a time can make an important difference and provide significant benefits.
|Types of Movement||Nutrition||Sleep|
|Do resistance training—at least two or three times a week. Strength-training classes at a gym or doing a body-weight circuit from the comfort of your own home are great places to start.
Do cardiorespiratory training—almost every day. Find an activity that gets your heart rate up and try to do it on a regular basis. If nothing else, try to make time for walking 15 to 20 minutes at a time three times a day (once in the morning, during lunch and again in the afternoon or evening) for minimal health benefits.
|As your metabolism changes, it will be important to start paying attention to your nutrition choices. If you’re busy, try to budget your time so you can do a weekly meal preparation on Sunday so you have healthy options and won’t be tempted to grab fast food, which, while convenient, is calorically dense.
Follow the U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines, and do your best to eat as many fresh fruits and vegetables as possible while limiting sugary and salty snacks.
|This is when sleep starts becoming more important. Our brains repair themselves during sleep, meaning that if you’re sleep deprived, it could affect your performance at work and keep you from getting that promotion. In addition, muscle-building testosterone and growth hormones are produced during the REM cycles of sleep, which are important for when you do your strength-training workouts.|
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