The Aging Process

No one likes to think about it and no one likes to experience it, but we all grow a little older each day.

How we decide to do our aging is important. Health is, of course, our most precious possession. Without good mental and physical health, life would lose a whole lot of its appeal.

The total aging process is more than maintaining good health; it is accepting it, enjoying it and most of all, understanding it.

Here are a few of the important factors regarding the aging process. As you age, there are changes in muscle mass within the body and increases in amounts of body fat. Aging also causes changes in bone mineral content, decreases the BMI (body mass index) and it causes a loss in total activity. Lower caloric intakes from reduced activity lower the ingestion of needed vitamins. All of these basic health structures lead to less movement, and the downward spiral begins.

Statistics show that women over age 70 are seldom able to lift a 10-pound weight. Muscle mass deteriorates 1 percent per year for each year over the age of 20, leaving you with less ability for endurance or muscle strength. The next extremely important factor concerns bone mass. Between the ages of 20 to 30, bone mass starts to decline, and at menopause, women begin a rapid loss in bone mass. By age 70, a loss of 30 percent of the bone mass is not uncommon. Building bone, compact bone which makes up about 80 percent of total bone mass, should be started by age 11. That means proper nutrition of building bone and proper exercise for muscle and bone building for your kids.

Several factors decide the body's skeletal formation; gender, heredity and race, estrogen status, body type, nutrition, activity patterns, smoking habits and medication. Work with the factors you can change. Nutrition and activity are keys to building and maintaining your bone mass and smoking and medication habits are adjustable too. Weakened bone structures are susceptible to fractures and further loss of activity.

Lifetime calcium habits can change these depressing downward spirals. Vitamin D aids calcium absorption, exercise training enhances calcium absorption, and exercise training enhances bone growth. Exercise done out of doors will add to the absorption of Vitamin D. Finally, weight bearing exercise increases bone density, thus creating a stronger, heavier bone structure.

Add it all up and exercise combined with good nutrition can increase the physical activity in the older generation. And it can add to life expectancies even in the advanced ages.

Jerry Vance is certified by the American Council on Exercise and teaches fitness at the Carson City Community Center and for the American Lung Association.


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