The Lifestyle Coach

IF Irene Estry could bottle her youthful enthusiasm, she’d be a millionaire. At an age when many women will reach for anything and everything in a bid to fight the signs of ageing, the 67-year-old fitness fan is so in shape she even keeps the Coronation Street cast on their toes.

It’s important to do both cardio (aerobic) as well as resistance exercises. Aerobic activity is the only thing that gets rid of fat from all over your body including the marbled fat deep inside your muscles — dieting alone can’t do this. There’s more: All brain experts will tell you that physical activity will do more for brain health than the expensive computer-based brain games that are so the rage these days (though doing both might not be a bad idea!). Aerobics also helps the brain by reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke and improves cognitive functioning by slowing the age-related shrinkage of the frontal cortex of the brain which is where “executive functioning” like reasoning and problem solving take place. Reports show that as many as fifty million older Americans may get Alzheimers by mid-century. While research is underway to prevent or postpone the disease, scientists already know, as Jane Brody writes, “…people who exercise regularly in midlife are 1/3 as likely to develop Alzheimer’s in their 70’s. Even those who start exercising in their 60’s cut their risk of dementia in half.” Now THAT’S saying something!!

All of us know that we tend to put on weight as we get older. This is due partly to our tendency to be less active while continuing to eat the way we always have. But it is also due to the fact that we lose, on average, 3 to 5 percent of our muscle tissue each decade after age 30 so that by the time we reach seventy-five, our resting metabolism (basal metabolism) will have slowed, and dropped by about 10 percent– unless, of course, we become active enough to maintain our muscles and consciously eat fewer (but more nutrient-rich) calories.

Here’s a dramatic example of what can happen: If you eat just 100 calories more than you burn up every day, you can expect to gain more than fifty pounds in five years. In order to lose this fat, you have to burn it up as a source of energy. (ie., if the calories you eat are less than the number of calories you are burning as energy, then the additional energy you need will have to come from stored fat.) To sum up: Aerobic or fat-burning types of activities will help with weight loss as will increasing your resting metabolism rate through weight-training or resistance exercise to maintain muscle mass. According to research done at Tufts on people fifty to seventy-two years old, muscle mass can actually be increased more than 200 percent with exercise.