One of the wisest things anyone ever said to me was, “It takes energy to make energy.” In other words, if you spend most of your days sitting around with little physical activity, your body will adapt to that sedentary lifestyle. Your energy level will deteriorate.
On the other hand, if you use a lot of energy being active, your body will adapt by making the energy you need for your activities. You’ll have more energy – just like you did when you were younger.
Far too many folks age 55 and older simply accept a loss of youthful energy as part of the aging process. But that’s not true. Scientific studies have shown that people can build muscle and improve their fitness at any age.
In an article on the ScienceDaily.com website, Mark Peterson, Ph.D., and research fellow in the University of Michigan Health System, says “Our analyses of current research show that the most important factor in somebody’s function is their strength capacity. No matter what age an individual is, they can experience significant strength improvement with progressive resistance exercise even into the eighth and ninth decades of life.”
Having energy means the body will actually have the desire to get up and get going. But creating that energy after years of being mostly sedentary will take effort. There’s another wise and very true saying: “A body at rest tends to remain at rest; a body in motion tends to remain in motion.”
Why should you do the hard work of making your body adapt to being in motion?
There are many reasons other than being more youthful. Some that are listed by the National Institute on Aging include: help reduce feelings of depression, may improve mood and overall well-being, and may improve or maintain some aspects of cognitive function, such as your ability to shift quickly between tasks, plan an activity, and ignore irrelevant information.
The National Institute on Aging is a valuable resource for the middle-aged. Their website offers numerous online booklets that can be accessed for free. One of the best is “Exercise & Physical Activity: Your Everyday Guide from the National Institute on Aging.” This booklet has seven chapters of useful information on how to become active again no matter what your age; and a great deal of other information on the aging process.
But never make the mistake of starting off with a ‘gung ho’ attitude. Getting your energy and strength back will require a slow start. Connective tissue such as tendons and ligaments may have become stiff and more fragile over years of inactivity. You should rebuild those tissues slowly, so that they can handle your new level of activity.
Start with simple body weight exercises before hitting the gym and lifting weights. Climbing stairs or sitting down in a chair and standing up five or so times is a good way to begin the process.
Repeating the process of taking a can down from a high shelf and putting it back five times will stretch your shoulder muscles and tendons while getting arm muscles ready for strengthening work.
Do modified pushups: lie prone on the floor with hands slightly wider than shoulder width. Bend your knees and raise your upper body off the floor by extending your arms while keeping your body straight. Do two push ups from the knees; when these get easy, add two more pushups to the set.
This restoral of strength and energy can not be done on an on-and-off basis. You have to work out every day if you are over 50, because the older you are, the more quickly your new-found vigor will atrophy if not constantly reinforced, and the slower it will return once you begin training once more.
Aside from making your heart, muscles and brain more efficient, there’s another big benefit from building your energy and strength. According to the Centers for Disease Control, falls are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries among older adults. Having good balance can help prevent falls. But balance depends on strength, because it demands quick recruitment of various muscles to stay upright.
Being energetic and physically capable can help you stay healthy for the rest of your life.