As we age our body shapes change due to a gradual shift in body composition. This shape is determined by bone structure, internal organs, body fat, and skeletal muscle tissue. Only two of these can be modified — body fat and skeletal muscle tissue. For women, after the age of twenty 1/2 pound of muscle weight is lost a year and replaced with fat.
This means that even if you keep the same weight, a woman will have added ten pounds of body fat by age 40. It is the loss of ten pounds of firm muscle that makes us cringe when we look at ourselves in a swimsuit or shorts. Dieting alone won’t ameliorate this natural phenomenon, but exercise and strength training can. The most important components of your fitness program are muscle strength, cardio-respiratory efficiency, flexibility, and acceptable levels of body fat. To do this, we suggest a combination of low impact aerobics and body sculpting.
Aerobics literally means “with oxygen.” These exercises involve large muscle groups and can be maintained for long periods of time. This type of exercise trains the heart, lungs, and cardio-vascular system to deliver oxygen to the body. As the heart becomes more efficient, it does not have to work as hard to deliver this oxygen. The aerobically fit individual can work longer and harder and recover from exercise quicker than those who are not fit. As one ages this type of exercise becomes increasingly important. Most trainers suggest a twenty minute workout, starting at 50% and working up to 84% of your target maximum heart rate. Your class instructor can help you figure this all out with simple calculations.
Low impact aerobics is just what is sounds like. This is no jarring, jumping, or knee harming, heavy-duty swiveling, but rather stretching and then sustained exercise. This can include dancing, aerobic machines, cycling, golf, hiking, canoeing, ice skating, walking, light step aerobics, square dancing, swimming, Tai Chi, or any other exercise which fits the guideline of always having one foot on the floor — you don’t do any jumping or hopping.
Body sculpting can be light weight lifting and resistance training with elastic bands, exertubes (dynabands), exercise balls, etc. Body sculpting improves your strength and muscle tone and helps preserve bone density. After muscle training our bodies continue to burn fat for many hours. The combination of aerobic exercise and muscle training, proper diet, and stretching is an excellent program for getting fit and keeping healthy.
Make sure when you begin that your exercise program includes both aerobics and sculpting components. Remember to start slow and build up with the help of your class instructor who knows you and your medical history. Doing some of everything and varying the program will keep you from becoming bored and motivate you to come back for more as nothing beats the feeling of being fit and knowing that you look good.
As always, consult your primary care physician before starting any exercise program. Be sure that your diabetes is adequately controlled and you know what adjustments to make in your medications for the increased activity. For the first weeks of a new exercise program, test your blood sugars before each meal and at bedtime. If you take insulin, test your blood before you exercise and take note when you last ate. Everyone with diabetes should test their blood within 15 minutes after exercising and be prepared to properly deal with any low blood sugars that might occur.