Wednesday 22 November 2017

Shape Up: Control the ageing process

My hero: if only we could all be like Brad Pitt in 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button', in which his character gets younger as he ages
My hero: if only we could all be like Brad Pitt in 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button', in which his character gets younger as he ages

They have started to appear. I never really thought about it at first although I did notice them, slowly multiplying as the years passed.

I would look in the mirror and see them, a few grey hairs starting to bloom at the side of my head. Nothing too drastic, but it made me aware that we all succumb to the ageing process. The difference is that the rate of decline in your physical appearance, energy and well-being will vary from person to person and I know I can influence it as it depends on how you have lived your life and how you continue to live it.

As Benjamin Franklin wisely said: "While we may not be able to control all that happens to us, we can control what happens inside us."

Our outward appearance is a reflection of our internal environment and how our body is functioning. My goal is to be like Benjamin Button, the fictional character played by Brad Pitt who got younger looking as he aged.

The age you are will influence your approach towards your health as you reach the different milestones. For your 21st birthday party and probably your 30th, you are out partying, socialising and quite possibly getting drunk with your mates.

As you age, your responsibilities grow -- career, kids, relationships demand more of your time and many people decide to make a big effort to get in shape for their 40th birthday.

But what happens when that landmark passes? It is common for people to accept ageing lying down. They don't put up a fight and condemn themselves to a life of back pain, lethargy and lacking in self worth. Forty-five, it seems, is the age at which many give up caring about what they look like.

The male of the species succumbs to central obesity and abdominal fat and this stomach fat inhibits organs from performing their jobs properly. It is one of the reasons that men die from one of the five big killers: heart disease, cancer, stroke, chronic lung disease, and accidents, at rates ranging from 40pc to 220pc higher than women.

Men suffer from work-related stress more than women and it is men who are more likely to abuse alcohol and engage in violent behaviour.

Women, on the other hand, accept the decline and allow gravity to take hold of their bodies. The skinny jeans are replaced with baggy tracksuit bottoms, with a T-shirt hanging over the edge to cover up their muffin top. In summer, a one-piece replaces the bikini and a sarong is a must-have accessory for the beach.

Age is but a number and it is no excuse to allow yourself to wither away like summer foliage. If you give up on your body then you must accept the consequences of not changing -- disease, ill health and obesity. You can make time for health now or make time for illness later.

Just because you haven't trained in your youth does not mean you cannot start now. It is more important than ever that the old dog learns new tricks!

For those of you who want to change, realise that it doesn't have to be this way. Stiffness in the joints and muscles can be greatly reduced by following a flexibility-style programme. Flexibility is one of the first things you lose as you age.

Just because you are in the autumn of your life does not mean that you should wither away. It is particularly important for women who are approaching menopause to engage in strength-training.

At menopause, estrogen levels decrease, making women more susceptible to osteopenia (low bone mineral density), which is eventually followed by osteoporosis (weak and brittle bones).

A 1996 study on 56 post-menopausal women who weight-trained for one year showed that bone density increased when the women lifted heavy weights.

The study found that there was a significant correlation between the change in bone mineral density and the percentage increase in strength, which suggests that post-menopausal bone mass can be increased by training.

They say a great red wine gets better with age and the difference between a good wine and a mediocre one is the way the grape and the soil have been nurtured and tended to.

What way will you mature? Will you be a Petrus Pomerol 1998 or a just a cheap bottle of plonk?

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