Wed, 28 Jun 2000

Keeping fit turns back the biological clock for men

By Clare E. Urwin

SURABAYA (JP): Fitness is youth. Staying young by exercising is a smart move. In today's cut-throat world, men have to look competitive in a younger workforce. Socially it is no longer acceptable to disregard one's physique and appearance.

Becoming fit is the second tactic needed for dragging back a man's biological clock. The good news is that even if you consider yourself to be an athletic illiterate, hopelessly out of shape or past your sell-by date, it is never too late to start.

Fitness does not mean sacrificing one pleasure after another in a frantic effort to hold off Father Time. Neither does it mean training nonstop in a gym and pounding forever on a treadmill, with the result being that your body ends up as a look-alike for either Tarzan or a stick insect.

Fitness is fun. Being fit makes you look good, feel good and keeps you young.

We all know that exercise is good for us. It tones our bodies, builds our muscles, protects our hearts and stops us aging. However, after the age of 30 most men do not take any regular exercise whatsoever.

Between ages of 30 and 60, men also characteristically work too hard, are often very stressed and do not get enough sleep. An occasional round of golf, a game of tennis or a quick walk to the bank have to suffice for keeping fit. It's not enough!

A man's comfort zone will keep him stuck in this inactivity mode ad infinitum, the apparent justification of family and financial pressures conveniently limiting any time for alternative pursuits. Unfortunately, this typical scenario has a very high cost.

The average 25-year-old man is about 18 percent fat. But, without exercise, by age 65 he is about 38 percent fat. Much of that fat gain is due to the loss of vital active muscle.

Every decade from the age of 30 men lose up to six pounds of muscle. It is not often obvious, because the size of their arms and legs often remain the same as when they were younger. However, in reality, fat has replaced muscle.

Aerobic power is the most telling measure of biological age, and this also dramatically changes for the worse through inactivity. Without exercise the aerobic capacity of a male is 40 percent lower at 60 years of age than that of a young adult.

Regrettably, the majority of men accept this decline as unavoidable aging. They are wrong. It is the result of the misuse, disuse and abuse of their own bodies.

Top researchers on aging state that there are two main factors in fitness which defeat Father Time: aerobic power and muscle power. So, first acquire a large transport system of strong heart, lungs, veins, arteries and blood vessels which can circulate the largest possible supply of oxygen around your body.

Second, build a large lean muscle mass to use all this oxygen for optimum strength, energy and endurance.

Men have a natural aptitude for aerobic power. Age is no barrier. If you continue sustained aerobic training into your 30s, 40s and 50s, you can actually get better than you were in your 20s!

Even starting regular aerobic training in your 60s will bring a huge improvement.

Any sport which vigorously uses the large body muscles is excellent aerobic exercise. For instance, running, cycling, swimming, fast power walking, tennis, squash, badminton, skiing and rowing.

At the gym, using machines such as the treadmill, rower, stair master and exercise bike will provide the same benefit.

Slower activities such as golf and regular walking, while beneficial to overall fitness, are not as effective for longevity as intense exercise.

Consequently, rotate moderate activity with periods of vigorous exertion. Act, look and be like a proper athlete. Sweating, turning red in the face and getting short of breath are compulsory!

Muscle power is produced by building and maintaining a large mass of lean, active muscle tissue in a man's body. Weight training is the best way to achieve this. But being merely bulky and bulging is not the object. Making enough new muscle to increase your youth is the key.

Research shows that big gains in muscle mass can be acquired up to the age of 60; moderate amounts until age 100!

Muscle is the Ferrari of the body's tissues. Its strength cuts right to the core of being a male. A big powerful muscle is like a finely tuned engine, constantly ticking-over. Even idle, it burns calories, keeping your metabolism high, giving you energy all day long and stopping the fat from creeping around your belly.

As a man, the fatter you are, the less male sex hormone testosterone is available. When you are lean, testosterone is easily accessible, and weight training increases the production of testosterone. This combination of adding production and reducing fat is the best natural method for greater potency, even in older men.

Developing your muscle mass is vital to real fitness and for winding back the years. Weight training, as well as building muscle, strengthens bones, hardens joints, improves sport performance and, of course, drastically improves your appearance.

Want to look like a leader and have a more commanding presence? Harden up your muscles!

The easiest way to begin weight training is to join a gym which has a qualified instructor. High-tech machines give you instant expertise because they direct you through the proper range of motion for each exercise. Free weights are great when you have the experience.

Work on your large muscle groups first, such as your back, chest, legs and buttocks, then move to the smaller ones, such as the arms and shoulders. Fortunately, these antiaging muscle groups are easy to work with and strengthen quickly. In as little as two weeks you will see harder and firmer muscle, much better defined.

But be careful and move slowly! Too fast and you use momentum instead of muscle movements, putting added stress on joints, bones, ligaments and tendons.

Smart exercising means being efficient with time. It is not an open-ended commitment to nonstop training. Exercise at least three times a week, evenly spacing the workouts. Incorporate a minimum of three, 20-minute sessions of vigorous aerobic activity and spend equal time on weight training.

Do any sport you love for at least two hours each weekend. Buy the best sports equipment and footwear you can afford. New technology afford a high performance advantage, so use it. This is an investment in your health and longevity.

The clock is ticking for all men. Break out of your comfort zone. Begin the challenging, invigorating journey to regain the fitness of your youth.

Turn the clock back and keep it turned back. Good luck.