Once you hit 40, it begins. You don’t notice it at first, but women in their 40s and men in their 60s lose muscle strength at about 12 percent per decade.
That translates to as much as a pound of muscle per year which slows down our metabolic rate, makes it harder to control weight, weakens bones, and makes us unable to perform the task of daily living. Losing muscle and gaining fat also make us look older.
Why does this happen? First, it is a lack of sufficient exercise, a slowing down in the ability of muscles to synthesize protein, a decrease in hormones, and muscle marbling with more fat in the cells. All of this is compounded for women who are born with less muscle than men (22 percent of lean mass compared to 40 percent for men).
This is critical information in view of the Silver Tsunami coming our way by 2025 when it is predicted that one in four seniors will need in-home help bathing, dressing, walking, etc.
What can we do about it? Exercise, of course. According to a recent study, you can reverse two decades of typical muscle loss in just 60 days with the extra bonus of an improved appetite and self esteem. You sleep better and depression is less likely to occur.
Another study found that as we age, we need much more protein found in meats, fish and poultry as well as nuts and legumes. But first, get off the couch. Turn off the television and your social networking. Walk, swim, dance. Get thee to a gym and work out. The life you save will be your own.
Allen Joines, Mayor of Winston-Salem
“I’m personally committed to our Childhood Obesity Prevention Program for the City of Winston Salem, in partnership with community organizations. Additionally, we support and promote community-based senior programs involving walking, dancing, and exercising events.
“My personal commitment is my workout schedule of four time a week and daily nutritional meals. This routine allows me the energy to perform my daily work schedule and maintain flexibility and strength. As a result, I feel great and enjoy supporting our community programs in keeping our citizens strong and healthy and for those who are not active, we encourage our citizens to join us in healthy living with our ongoing programs.”
Robbie Perkins, Mayor of Greensboro
“I don’t think there’s any questioning the value of good nutrition and exercise. As a lifelong distance runner, I have long relied on exercise and healthy eating to fuel me through my day and to give me peace of mind. Whether it’s a jog through downtown Greensboro or a bike ride on the way to work, healthy activities are a way of life for me. Each of us deal with stress and the pressures of life in different ways, but I encourage everyone to incorporate some level of physical activity and balanced nutrition into their daily lives.”
Pricey Harrison, N.C. Legislator, District 57
“Exercise is a priority. I always find some time to exercise every day, even if it’s only a walk. It may be a matter of getting up extra early or working out at the end of the day, but it is important to my mental and physical health to get some kind of workout at the end of the day.” Having just turned 55, she adds, “I’m now eligible for Belk’s senior discount.”
Jim Melvin, President, Joseph M. Bryan Foundation
Jim Melvin, who served a decade as mayor of Greensboro, still goes to work every day and usually ends the day peddlng furiously on a recumbent bike. It’s an unbeatable combination in his case because “I still come to work as excited today as I was 40 years ago because of the opportunity to work on some really meaningful stuff.” The “meaningful stuff”is the philanthropy he directs as CEO of the $100 million Joseph M. Bryan Foundation. As he approaches his eighth decade, exercising mind and body remain his modus operandi.
Richard Gottlieb, President/CEO, Senior Services
“It was Helen Hayes who said “If you rest, you rust.” Being sedentary is a significant health risk and any degree of movement and physical activity is beneficial. Many older adults in their 50s and 60s are trying to save for retirement. Equally important is to invest in their health during these years so that they can maintain an active lifestyle in their later years. I personally exercise six or seven days a week, either lap swimming or walking. I always feel better after exercise, both mentally and physically, and I try to make my exercise program so routine that I don’t even think about it. I can’t imagine life without some form of exercise!”