Expert advice on feeling better than ever in mid-life
Sandra Bueckert knows what it’s like to feel like you’re getting too old and too fat.
Though she had been a personal trainer and bodybuilding champion for years, giving birth to two kids and struggling to find a work/life balance left Bueckert with more than 50pounds that she could not seem to shake. “I was living inside a meat suit,” says the 42-year-old,who is now beautifully toned. “I stopped looking when the scale hit 200 pounds.” Instead of giving up, Bueckert, founder of Calgary-based One On One Personal Fitness Instruction, dug deep about eight years ago and began to exercise first thing in the morning, before daily responsibilities such as work, kids and husband could get to her. She also revamped her eating habits, eating smaller portions and healthier fare. Inch by inch, pound by pound, she emerged from the “meat suit” and, in 2005, won the women’s middleweight and overall female title at the World Natural Sports Organization regional bodybuilding championships. “You know what? I look better now and I feel better now,” she says. “I know myself more at 42.As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become truer to myself.” How many women would say they look better and feel better at 42 than at 22? Not many, and that’s a shame, says Bueckert, because being fit, 40and fabulous is within everywoman’s reach. (For information about Bueckert’s new class, see the spotlight.) Whether you’ve let yourself go or you’ve never lifted a weight in your life, the good news is it’s never too late to focus on fitness, say the experts. We spoke with Bueckert and other Calgary-based experts about how every woman can be fit, 40and fabulous. Why is it important to be fit at 40? As both men and women get older, 40 seems to be a milestone in terms of losing muscle mass, possibly losing endurance and needing more time to recover, says Sharisse Kyle, a sports medicine physician at the University of Calgary’s Sport Medicine Center. “And with women, it’s not just physical issues,” she says. “For a lot of women, there are many issues—they maybe working, childbearing, they may have young children at home. All of those things make it more difficult to maintain fitness.” Maintaining is key, though, if you want to live long, live well, beat stress and avoid conditions such as osteoporosis, the progressive loss of bone density. “For women in particular, they’re a bit more prone to osteoporosis in older ages and so it’s very important for them to think about maintaining muscle mass,” says Kyle. How? Kyle, who is also a 50-yearold recreational triathlete, says weight-bearing activity is key for the lower body, while lifting weights is critical for the upper body. How to exercise Really, it doesn’t take a lot. “To maintain muscles ’mass doesn’t take very much. As little as a 10-minute (strength training) routine three times a week will work,” says Kyle. Strength training can be as simple as using soup cans for bicep curls and doing lunges across your living room, she says. Whether you’re starting out at home or in the gym, Kyle recommends consulting with a fitness expert such as a personal trainer, a sports medicine physician or a physiotherapist before beginning your program. Seeking instruction early on will ensure you avoid injuries. And while strength training is important to maintain muscle mass, don’t forget about cardiovascular exercise, which is key to keeping your cardiovascular system in good shape. Aim for 20 to30 minutes of heartbeat-raising activity every day, says Kyle. At a minimum, you should include three cardio sessions per week. But, you say you have no time . . . Wrong, say the experts. “You have time. Stop kidding yourself,” says Bueckert. Whether you exercise in the morning, after kids go to bed or throughout the day in minibreaks at work or at home, it’s all about prioritizing. “You have to be a little bit selfish with your time,” says Colleen Parsons, the director of the U of C’s health and fitness programs in the faculty of kinesiology. Set boundaries with your family and co-workers so they understand that fitness is important to you. Parsons, who is also over 40 and recently completed her sixth Ironman, suggests leaning on your support network to help you commit to your workouts. Organize walks with friends or arrange to take turns babysitting so you can hit the gym. Though demands on your time will always threaten to pull you away from exercising, keep in mind that everyone around you benefits when you stay fit and healthy. “Finding that balance is really critical because until you get yourself in to good health and fitness, you really can’t give 100 per cent to the other things,” says Parsons
Exercise isn’t enough to stay healthy, so keep a few things in mind when it comes to nutrition. “Calciumand vitaminDare really important for women 40and over becauseweneed topreserveour bone density in order to decrease the risk of osteoporosis,”writes Sarah Remmer,aCalgary-based dietitian with Nutrio Consulting, in ane-mail. From ages 40 to 50,women should consume 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day,whilewomen 50and over should consume 1,200 milligrams per day. Remmer recommends skim or one per cent milk, yogurt, low-fat cheese, soymilk and canned salmon for quality sources of calcium. And to help your body absorb the calcium,make sure you get enough vitamin D. The recommendation for women 40 and over is between 400 IU and 1,000 IU per day. While sunlight is a source of the vitamin, it’s “very unlikely that we will get enough from the sun,” says Remmer. To boost your intake, eat foods such as mackerel, tuna, sardines and fortified milk. And if you think you’re not getting enough calcium and vitamin D from your diet, she suggests consulting with a doctor or registered dietitian about a supplement. Beyond proper calcium intake, Remmer recommends boosting fibre intake (eat more whole grains, beans, lentils, seeds, nuts, fruits and veggies) to help keep you feeling full, to keep your digestive system healthy and to lower your risk of developing high cholesterol and diabetes. Keep processed meat consumption toa minimum and focus on lean proteins such as fish,which is high in omega-3 fatty acids. And last, strive to eat at least three to five different colours of fruits and veggies a day, she says. “Different colours mean different vitamins,minerals and antioxidants.” Adjust your expectations Even if you’re eating and exercising like you are 20, the bad news is your body isn’t fooled. “As you age, you lose muscle and your metabolism slows down,” says Bueckert. “So even if you were eating like you were 18, things just aren’t being put on your body in the same way.” The good news, however, is you can be fit, 40 and fabulous with a little effort. Eating a balanced diet, lifting weights, incorporating cardio and giving yourself enough recovery time will keep you healthy for years to come. And don’t expect a complete turnaround if you’re just beginning. Start slowly, recommends Parsons, because “changing your entire lifestyle in the blink of an eye is a recipe for disaster.” Set realistic goals on yourway to becoming your best self yet, say the experts. “In previous generations it was just accepted that at 30, 40 or 50 you had to stop doing things,” says Kyle. “That’s not the case anymore. People realize that if they do some maintenance, they can still be just as fit—if not more so—than when they were younger.” As Bueckert can attest, it is indeed possible to be fitter than ever at 40. She believes there is a lean fighting machine inside everyone—the key is helping it find its way to the surface. “You have your own body just waiting to reveal itself.”
Download the PDF Here
By MICHELLE MAGNAN
Calgary Herald, 2008