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Surprising benefits of moving as we age.

Let me clarify here that 'as we age' means from all ages really. The body becomes less regenerative from our 20s onwards (when falls start to hurt and hangovers seem to last for weeks). It might surprise you to learn just how quickly the act of 'aging' begins!

A black and weight photograph showing a woman's arm from the elbow down holding a set of dumbells.

As we get older, it becomes more of a challenge to gain muscle mass and strength and power typically decline. Age related muscle loss is called Sacropenia and begins at the ripe old age of 35. Yes, you read that correctly - age 35. Low testosterone has also been associated lower bone density, this naturally declines in women between the ages of 20-45 and men from around age 30. This Sarcopenia process accelerates again around the age of 60, where muscle mass and bone density tend to reduce again. Sarcopenia tends to reduce fast twitch muscle fibres more quickly than slow twitch, so we retain greater capacity for endurance but lose capacity to generate speed and power. Long walks are in, hurdles might be a bit more of a challenge!

Sarcopenia is a natural side-effect of aging, we lose a bit of bone density, muscle mass and start to get a little less sure on our feet. Hormonal networks also play a role in this so conditions like menopause, depression, diet, access to sunlight, injury and illness can all accelerate the process. This is where movement, mindfulness and exercise can really support recovery from bouts of inactivity and as general maintenance for you (including your body) throughout life. So if we want to avoid the worse effects of osteoporosis during menopause, having some muscle in the bank is ideal, so is getting the correct testosterone/estrogen balance. Be sure to approach your health care provider to discuss the best options for you.

While the research is catching up on how many times per week you should exercise, multimodal (i.e. a variety of) exercise has been shown to improve Sarcopenia. Groups that were studied showed significant improvements in symptoms associated with lower muscle mass when they undertook resistance, aerobic, balance and flexibility training.

Black and white image of a woman punching hands forward from a pilates tower

This evidence based approach makes up the programme here are northern lights fitness: Barre - Aerobic, strength, balance resistance; Yoga - Stress reduction, balance, strength, flexibility; Pilates - Resistance, strength, flexibility; and Tai Chi - Stress reduction, flexibility, strength. Importantly, choice. As we mentioned before, it will be hard to stick at something you just don't enjoy.

This is just a general guide, of course you can start an appropriate movement programme at any age, so it's never too late. Muscle composition, metabolism and many other biological functions are decided largely by your genetics. So any action you take will lead to different results from person to person. There are almost universal benefits to the body and the mind keeping active, your own circumstances will be the ultimate decider on what's the best choice for you. We firmly believe that the key to unlocking a successful movement program is finding movements that you love to do, that (almost) never feel like a chore. When you find your own motivation, you are encouraged to keep moving on your own terms.

Ethereal image of a woman practising tai chi surrounded by large plants

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