Aging is a natural part of the human existence and whether we like it or not, here is the cold, hard truth: We peak physically in our twenties and have to be increasingly vigilant as we age to maintain our vitality. The crazy part is that there are two simple things that we can control to prevent aging too fast, yet people ignore the facts and instead search for magic elixirs and quick-fix solutions. Whether you're concerned with beauty, fitness, quality of life or health, there are two great equalizers:
Lifting weights and eating high-quality protein.
It doesn't matter if you're male or female, 25 or 75, by eating enough protein and engaging in regular weight training, you can slow aging, better your appearance, improve your health and prolong your life, as well as the quality of your later years.
I recently spoke with Dr. Stuart Phillips and his message is clear: You need to eat more high-quality protein. His Physical Activity Center for Excellence at McMaster University has done a lot of research on this subject and their latest results reveal that only 11% of Canadians over the age of 50 are eating enough protein daily to battle the effects of age-related muscle wasting (sarcopenia). Combine this with the fact that only 10% of all Canadians perform some kind of weekly weight training, and this is a significant problem.
The amount of research and evidence on this topic is overwhelming and well-understood. If you start weight training and eating adequate dietary protein in your 20s and 30s, you'll be much better off as you age, but this isn't an excuse for Baby Boomers to give up. It is never too late to start adopting these habits. Sarcopenia begins naturally in the 4th and 5th decades of life, making your 40s and 50s an ideal time to increase dietary protein and weight training, but even those in their 60s and beyond can benefit. They've even done studies on institutionalized, frail 90-year olds and demonstrated that weight training can make a significant impact on strength and quality of life even at that stage of life!
We've known for years that aerobic activity is good for the heart, but it's time to get serious. Walking is great, but walking isn't going to help build muscle or maintain bone density. Dr. Phillips' recommendations for the 50+ crowd? Two weight training sessions per week. Why? Because when you're stronger in old age, you have a lower risk of disease and lower risk of premature death. The stronger you are, the more muscle you have, the less likely you are to become sick or die. Yes, it's great to be active, but without muscle and strength you won't have as many years to enjoy being active.