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The Fountain of Youth

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Your waistband is getting tighter, you haven’t been able to touch your toes in 10 years, and the last time you sprinted after a Frisbee you got winded in a few seconds. Not to mention the fact that your memory isn’t as sharp as it used to be.

But if you’re blaming those changes solely on the fact that you’re over 40, 50 or 60, you could be missing the real cause -— and the solution.

Aging is inevitable, but a mounting stack of scientific studies proves that much of the decline we blame on nature is really the result of a sedentary life.

By getting off our duffs, we can slow the downhill slide, delay or prevent debilitating diseases, enhance our quality of life, and even save on health care costs.

The Aging Process
The prospect of gray hair and wrinkles is the least of your worries. Underneath the skin, changes traditionally attributed to aging include a reduction in bone mass, the loss of muscle tissue, and the deterioration of one’s sense of balance. Cognitive changes — such as impairment in recent memory — are common.

As we age, our likelihood of developing certain diseases increases. Cancer, cardiovascular disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure are much more common among the elderly.

But don’t let this list of woes discourage you. It turns out we do have control over the rate of our demise.

Many of the changes we once saw as inevitable can be slowed or even reversed, researchers say. They’ve even coined the term “sedentary death syndrome” to describe the maladies that are caused or made worse by a couch-potato lifestyle.

The Exercise Prescription
Staying younger longer takes an investment of three to four hours a week.

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise most days of the week and at least two weekly sessions of strength training.

Both are essential: aerobic exercise, or cardio, for your heart and lungs, and strength training to maintain muscle, bone and balance. Both burn calories and help maintain healthy weight.

Moderate aerobic activity means brisk walking, biking casually, dancing, hiking, doing light yard work, or using exercise machines such as treadmills and stationary bikes.

Strength training involves lifting weights, doing calisthenics such as push-ups and sit-ups, using strength equipment in a gym, or doing yoga.

Help Yourself, Help Your Employees
Need to work on your own fitness?

Try these ideas:

  • Get a dog. You’re more likely to take daily walks when you know your pet needs the exercise, too.
  • Wear a pedometer. People who track their steps get more exercise than those who don’t. Work up to 10,000 steps a day for significant health benefits.
  • Schedule exercise in your calendar like any other appointment. If you can’t spare 30 minutes straight, fit in two 15-minute sessions.
  • Put a treadmill in the break room. Encourage employees to use it during lunch hour or breaks.
  • At company parties, don’t just sit around and eat. Schedule activities like softball or horseshoes.
  • Talk to the American Cancer Society, which helps businesses create wellness programs.
Learn More
Want to feel younger as you age? Check out the free online article “How To Slow The Aging Process,” available from the NASE at health.NASE.org.

The article covers:
  • Learn how to prevent and reduce many of the physical changes associated with aging
  • Get specific ideas about actions you can take today to age more gracefully
  • Find ways to help your employees fight off the effects of aging



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