Have you started rising to get out of your seat with a faint groan? Or started hungrily scrolling through corrective surgery web pages like you once enjoyed celebrity gossip magazines? Have you noticed that the conversations between you and your friends have quickly gone from diapers and preschool options, (let alone bars and clubs) and now tend to circle around podiatrist recommendations and protein bars?
Sounds like middle age – congratulations. No, really, congratulations on being in the midst of what can be an exciting period of transition and lifestyle changes. Middle age is when many people find a sort of rebirth of their zeal for body health and fitness. (Just ask the nation’s runners – 55% of all U.S. marathoners in 2014 were between the ages of 35 and 54.) Maybe it’s because the children or other family members who once dominated your attention and energy might be a little less needy, leaving you with some energy to spare.
Or maybe it’s because you’re noticing a significant change in your metabolism or muscle tone. Regardless of the reason why you might feel a renewed dedication to your health and fitness, focusing on your fitness is a great idea. It turns out that, while exercise is certainly important for all ages, the benefits for those in middle age are especially numerous.
- The skin you’re in loves exercise. When you work out, the pores in your face dilate, purging out the trapped dirt and oil (just be sure to wash your face afterwards). Also, exercise helps to regulate hormones and reduce stress, both of which can have a dramatic impact on your skin’s appearance.
- Your energy level loves exercise. "Contrary to popular belief, exercising doesn't make you tired -- it literally creates energy in your body. Your body rises up to meet the challenge for more energy by becoming stronger," says nutritionist Samantha Heller, MS, RD, a nutrition advisor for the Journey for Control diabetesprogram. It starts at the tiniest level, with the mitochondria, in fact, where exercise stimulates your body’s production of these tiny powerhouses. The more mitochondria present, the more energy that is being produced.
- Your bones love exercise. Weight-bearing exercise, in particular, helps to strengthen bones by increasing bone mass. This is a significant benefit when many middle-agers are concerned about the loss of bone strength, or even osteoporosis. Even a simple walking lunge can build density in your hip bone. Your studio trainer will have many bone-strengthening exercises for you to try.
- Your mood loves exercise. Whether it’s a renewed charisma and self-confidence, a stabilization of mood-altering hormones, or a reduction in stress, exercise is your (and your loved one’s) best friend. Exercise pumps up your body’s endorphins which can act both as attitude boosters, and also natural pain killers. (Plus, it’s way cheaper, and more fun, than therapy.)
- Your future loves exercise. More movement now = more movement later. Putting forth the effort with making your health the best it can be now sets yourself up for a higher quality of life as you age. Dr. Timothy Church, director of preventive medicine research at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge notes that, "Exercise strengthens the entire human machine — the heart, the brain, the blood vessels, the bones, the muscles. The most important thing you can do for your long-term health is to lead an active life." Not only that, but researchers at Harvard and Stanford conducted a study that found that exercise was just as effective as medicine for the prevention and treatment of pre-diabetes, diabetes, and heart disease.
Sure, middle age has its share of gripe-able attributes. However, so many of those woes can be turned upside-down by refocusing your energies and attention to your fitness and health. Investing in YOU is indeed a worthy endeavor – one that will pay out in satisfying dividends for decades to come.