Staying fit is something one must consider for our entire lifetime, and most principles apply to everyone. However as I age, and I train clients over 40, there are some conversations that keep popping up more than with my younger clientele. For instance, many people find it harder to lose weight in their 40’s as opposed to in their twenties. Additionally, recovering from injury or exercise seems to take a bit longer as we age. Life knocks us down, but we may not get up as fast. The reasons for this may be different depending on the person you’re talking to. Either way, a conversation about aging is very helpful in understanding how to proceed with our ongoing fitness journeys. This blog addresses some common hormonal changes that can impact our fitness levels as we age.
1. Testosterone and Estrogen
Our reproductive hormones not only determine the development of male and female sex, they serve other important functions. Testosterone is responsible for muscle and bone strength in men and women. This has a direct impact on our bodies ability to burn calories. When we have more muscle, our metabolism operates more efficiently. In women, estrogen has been linked to brain health, and better blood circulation. Generally speaking, our levels of both these hormones decrease as we age. Consequently, we lose muscle mass, bone density, and in some cases mental sharpness, and sexual desire the older we get. On the other hand, an overabundance of these hormones can also cause issues. For example, estrogen dominance can lead to weight gain, and too much testosterone in women can lead to ovarian cysts.
“It was all so simple then” is a phrase we sometimes use to refer to the days of our youth. Remember when all you had to think about was going to elementary school, doing homework, watching cartoons, and playing with friends? By the time you reach age 40, you’ve probably been married, divorced, secured a loan (for a house, car, or college education), had children, lost a loved one, been injured in an accident, or survived a major health crisis. Furthermore, you may still be paying bills, going to work everyday, caring for your parents, raising children, and in need of therapy! If this sounds like you, chances are your cortisol levels get raised quite often. Cortisol is commonly referred to as the stress hormone. It is secreted when we have to deal with a challenge. Among other things, it slows digestion, and causes an inflammatory response so our bodies can focus on surviving, and getting out of danger. The problem is that when we are chronically stressed, our digestive system over time stops working efficiently, and we live with prolonged inflammation in our bodies. Chronically raised cortisol levels also lead to the production of more fat cells within the body.
One of the ways we cope with stress is to eat food. Eating with friends or family can provide a sense of comfort, and relief from daily tension. Sometimes the food itself makes us feel better in the moment. Imagine eating a pint of ice cream, or a couple of slices of pie after a long day at work. Whether it’s a recipe that makes us think of simpler times, or the impact of consuming the food on our brain chemistry, our diet can alter how we feel, and bring satisfaction in a world of frustration. If we eat to cope with stress, we are more than likely over consuming sugar, and products made with flour. This will pack more fat onto a body that might already have imbalanced estrogen, testosterone, and cortisol levels. This could lead to pre-diabetes or full blown diabetes because our insulin is becoming less effective. Insulin is a hormone that helps clear the blood of excess sugar from our diets. This hormone can stop working due to chronic overuse. This is called insulin resistance. At this point we will need to introduce insulin from an external source to keep our bodies from going into hyperglycemic shock. Problems with weight management are almost guaranteed at this point, not to mention the possibilities of heart disease, and stroke.
All hope is not lost! There are many people living their healthiest lives over 40! You can be one of them. Get your hormone levels checked if you think you might be experiencing problems in any of the above areas. Also implement some lifestyle changes that will bring balance to your body. Please read some of my blogs about Proper Nutrition and Exercise. The Weight Is Over, pictured below, is the memoir of a dear friend of mine who shares her struggle to shed emotional, spiritual, and physical weight brought on by depression. Get your copy of this encouraging story today. Keep your head up! You got this!