As physical abilities decline, it’s easy to think that activity levels should go down, too.
But the opposite is true. If you want to stay strong and coordinated, you need to boost activity.
The truth is that there may be no more important time to be active than when you’re 40 and older.
Strength, swiftness, stamina, and coordination all decline with age. You may notice it’s more difficult to walk around the garden, prevent your water from spilling as you walk across a room, or carry grocery bags from the car to the front door.
Part of that is that muscle mass and strength begin to decline at around age 40. Lean body mass (muscle) may go down between 1 and 2 percent per year. Strength may drop between 1.5- and 5-percent per year. The ability to repair lost muscle also slows down.
Coordination has less to do with muscle and more to do with connections between the brain and nervous system. Different parts of the brain need to be coordinated to allow you to perform nearly every physical task. These connections rely on white brain matter.
Poor diet and inactivity, particularly in people over 60, can cause trouble in white matter. It can lead to “ministrokes” that are unnoticeable but ultimately disrupt these essential connections.
This is all why activity and diet become increasingly important with age. Using muscle helps keep neural pathways connected and muscles strong. When muscle has a reason to stick around, it doesn’t leave as fast.
Some ways to improve strength and coordination include:
- Aerobic exercise like a brisk walk, jog, swim, bike, or classes. Try and do it or at least 30 minutes per day, five days per week.
- Do some strength- and balance-promoting exercises like tai chi, weight training, or Pilates for at least two hours per week.
- Try taking up a sport that encourages coordination like golf, tennis, basketball, or squash.
- Talk to a doctor if you have any injuries or conditions about safer ways to perform desired activities.
- Eat a Mediterranean-style diet and limit intake of processed food
- Do your best to get good sleep