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BRIDGING THE GAP

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RESEARCH and PRACTICALITY

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Drop some fat and gain independence

The risk of you losing functional independence coincides with your increasing body fat level.

Several reports I have recently come across give insight and support to fitness counter acting the process aging. One study found a direct link between body composition and functional capacity. The cross-sectional and longitudinal study looked at 1,499 healthy men ranging in age from 25-70 years old. Another study looked at similar parameters in women aged 20-64 years old. One major finding, and something well known, is that the functional decline over time is not only due to aging.

Numerous studies have found similar findings. Some of the performance made in measurements made in men and women ranging in age from 20-84 years old included:

      1. aerobic power,
      2. muscle function,
      3. body composition,
      4. peak oxygen uptake,
      5. resting and exercise rate pressure product,
      6. among others.

Their main finding - the deterioration of the body and effects of often lead which often lead to functional life can later in life can be avoided if individuals maintain an active lifestyle and reduce their level of body fat.

Those two factors -an active lifestyle and low body fat level go hand in hand. In fact, along with diet, exercise is the greatest factor in determining your body fat level. More so than genetics. More so than hormonal imbalance.

Back to the studies I first mentioned. Looking exclusively at aerobic power, aging, body composition and functional independence in men and women, the studies found that if physical activity and body composition remained constant over the years, than the rate of decline in aerobic power was far less than in those who were sedentary or gained weight and body fat as they aged.

So what body fat and activity levels are necessary to significantly slow the aging process in order to maintain functional independence?

Not as much as you might guess. Not a body fat level of <15 percent,but rather one of <23 percent in men and < 25 percent in women provides significant protection against losing functional independence. A body fat above 28 percent doubles your risk of lose, while your risk of losing functional independence triples at a body fat above 33 percent.

In terms of physical activity, engaging in heavy, aerobic exercise for as little as 30 to 60 minutes per week improved fitness and reduced the risk of functional loses. Both studies, and others,confirm that over 50 percent of functional capacity is lost due to a sedentary lifestyle and increased body fat!

Of course, it will take most sedentary people time to get adequately fit so they can exercise at a heavy exercise intensity. But look at the benefits! In addition, as you gain fitness you’ll you'll it easier to incorporate that 30+ minutes of intense exercise into your weekly workout plan.

Remaining functionally independent in our latter years is what most of us dream of. And it is possible. By combining a healthy diet, with exercise and lifestyle modifications you can improve your health and chance of a independent life.

Written by Dr. Sternlicht for www.seniorsafety.com on 10.16.05