Exercise – Why less may be better in your 40s and beyond
Exercise is a bit like Marmite – you either love it or hate it. We all know the many benefits of exercise and how good it is for us on so many levels. However, there is an aside which nudged me to write this Blog.
I am a woman let’s say well beyond the age of 40. In fact, I am now 54 years young. No shame in that either. I am not precious or self-conscious in telling people my age. Nothing to hide, yet so much to be proud of in these wise years. A lifetime of experiences and learning from mistakes made along the way.
In my work with women in their 40s and beyond and in fact younger in some cases. Issues of weight always pop up in the sessions. Weight issues are also something I have struggled with myself, particularly in the younger years. Interestingly the past year issues of weight popped up again and in a sense accidentally.
People describe me as a “curvy” woman. I have hips, and I’m short. A weight gain of 2kg looks like 7kg on me. Last year at this time I was called “obese” by the GP, which was to say, the numbers on the chart were not in my favour. Of course, I already knew this as I was doing a fair amount of comfort eating after moving home from England to Scotland. I know my own eating patterns better than anyone. Coupled with the fact that I also work from home in Scotland and mostly online creating Journals over at www.theinsightfulway.com, and conducting Skype sessions for www.flourishbeyond40.com and www.isobelmcarthur.com. This involves a lot of sitting on my backside.
At the time I was living in a Farmhouse in rural Scotland with not another soul or houses nearby and life felt a little lonely. So I found myself sedentary and eating too much. Calories in and calories out were way out of balance and weight began to creep on slowly.
Another move a few months later into town and feeling much less isolated brought positive change. I became more active and let go of a little weight, enjoyed the feeling of getting into my clothes and feeling at home in my body again.
Fast forward to joining the local gym, and getting up at 5 am and following a routine of HIIT class, lifting heavy weights in the gym, and swimming each day. Weight literally began to fall off. I wasn’t feeling hungry and my calorie deficit went the opposite way. I felt truly fit, healthy, energized, toned but I noticed I was “losing” my face and tried to ignore this fact as I was enjoying all the exercise and associated benefits.
On one of my monthly work visits to Yorkshire, people kept asking me if I was ill, some were very honest and said I looked gaunt (another word for haggard), and generally looked unhealthy. My husband felt the same way and said so on many occasions.
So I took a long hard look in the mirror and yes it was true. My body looked a lot better, but my face had suffered and had lost its fullness. This prompted a memory of being told years ago “when a woman reaches a certain age, she has to choose between her butt or her face”. This isn’t necessarily true for all women, but perhaps women who have a certain shaped face – like mine.
The past two months there has been a major turnaround, as the focus has now been on cutting back the daily workouts to four a week. My food intake has increased significantly and I am eating what I should be and slowly regaining a few kilos. My curves are coming back. Yes, I chose my face over my butt. Lifting heavier weights and gaining some great fat burning muscle and increasing tone feels good. Although my weight is creeping up, my body fat percentage is going down.
There are certain factors to consider when you exercise in midlife and beyond. Firstly, recovery time in between workouts. Young people tend to recover in around 18 hours. A person in their 40s and beyond can take up to 36 hours.
Not giving yourself adequate recovery time can actually age you according to John Higgins, MD, associate professor of medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Centre at Houston and director of exercise physiology at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Centre. He pointed out that if we use the same muscles too soon after a workout can trigger inflammation.
Classes such as HIIT can be incredibly fun, and people love it for the calorie burn too. Dr. Higgins has found that these workouts have led to rhabdomyolysis – which can be very dangerous particularly if you become dehydrated. He recommends 48 hours between classes to give adequate recovery time.
Many women fall into the cardio only trap, with no weight training. In midlife and beyond we are losing muscle at a high rate. Muscle is a great thing to have on our body as muscle burns calories constantly, even at rest. As a result, a body with no muscle burns fewer calories, plus there is no tone.
Building Lean Body Mass
Weight training two to three days a week will help you maintain and build lean body mass. You are not going to look like a weightlifter, we are not made that way. Yes, you may see a little increase on the scales. This is because your body fat percentage is changing in your favour. Why not invest in body fat monitor scales to see this for yourself.
If you are using machines, start to include weights as they help to stabilize your core. Mixing up both adds variety and interest.
Prolonged exercise causes the body to change its metabolism and as result, there are more free radicals released that damages cells and may speed up ageing. We are already overexposed to free radicals in pollution and an unhealthy lifestyle; we really don’t need any more to be flooding our system. There are many plastic surgeons who believe that running is not good for facial tissues. Skin flopping up and down will eventually loosen. Not a great youthful look. As we move into midlife and beyond osteoporosis becomes a factor. Our body needs a little impact on bone health.
The bottom line is that we cannot do the same thing we did at 20 without there being a consequence. It is easy to fall into overtraining mode, and as a result, move towards burnout due to chronic fatigue.
Balance is key. Yes, exercise, and eating healthily is vital, but it is necessary to take a different approach than you did in your younger years. Your body will thank you and so will your face.
If you enjoyed this blog, then you may enjoy our other blogs on the site too.