Oops: 9 Mistakes That Are Aging You
4. Aging Error: Dropping the Weights
Women Lose approximately 5 percent of their muscle mass every decade after the age of 30. “Resistance training is the only thing that reverses this,” says Brad Schoenfeld, adjunct professor in the exercise science department at Lehman College in the Bronx, N.Y., and author of Women’s Home Workout Bible (Human Kinetics). “It may even increase muscle growth to previous levels or above them.” Indeed, a 2011 University of Michigan study of subjects over 50 years old found that resistance exercise helped them gain lean body mass, and doing this earlier in life was even more effective. “Strength training is also great for bone density and increasing energy and strength,” adds New York City-based Kristin McGee, a celebrity yoga and fitness expert. “It keeps the metabolism running, helps with balance and stamina and is good for the heart. More muscle tone also means less saggy skin.” It can help improve flexibility as well, contributing to better posture, looser joints and a more limber body, which all equal a more active lifestyle as you age, notes Schoenfeld.
Youth Boosters: McGee recommends aiming for 20 minutes of resistance training three times a week, using weights or bands for curls, presses, rows, squats and lunges—or your own body weight for push-ups, chair dips, squats, lunges and planks. She says to pair this training with 30 minutes of cardio five days a week, or take advantage of activities like tennis that encourage cardio and resistance work.
5. Aging Error: Sleeping Unsoundly
“Getting regular sleep isn’t a luxury—it’s a medical need,” says Ashton. “Lack of sleep releases cortisol, which can age us internally and externally.” Consistency is key, too: a 2011 study in the journal Sleep found that changes in how much or how little test subjects slept over a five-year period in late middle age were associated with an accelerated cognitive decline equivalent to four to seven years of aging!
Youth Boosters: Getting a solid 7 1⁄2 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night lets you cycle through several REM patterns; it’s in this stage of sleep that the body is able to repair itself, and is important for healing, memory, skin elasticity, normal cortisol levels and metabolism, notes Mark Anderson, M.D., a partner at executive Medicine of Texas in Southlake and author of Stay Young: 10 Proven Steps to Ultimate Health (George House Publishing). If you’re having trouble falling asleep, Ashton recommends strategies such as keeping your room at 65 degrees, maintaining the same sleep and wake hours, and nighttime rituals like taking a warm bath. She says valerian tea or tart cherry juice, which help to stimulate melatonin production, are also great natural sleep aids. If tension keeps you up at night, Carolyn Dean, M.D., N.D., Maui, Hawaii-based medical director of the Nutritional Magnesium Association, recommends taking 1 to 2 teaspoons of magnesium citrate powder mixed with water or juice to relax those muscles.
6. Aging Error: Forsaking Fat
“Women typically cut fats from their diet as they age, because they’re trying to cut calories,” says Ashley Koff, R.D., Los Angeles-based author of Mom Energy (Hay House). But good, healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids help to keep skin supple, boost brain health, keep the heart strong, fight diabetes and can increase lifespan. “Cutting omega-3s increases cellular inflammation that accelerates the aging process, and eventually leads to organ dysfunction and loss of function,” says Barry Sears, Ph.d., president of the Inflammation Research Foundation in Marblehead, Mass. It also makes your skin look more irritated, less radiant and simply older, says Ashton.
Youth Boosters: Koff says the science around isolating omega-3s is relatively new, so she suggests eating whole foods containing an array of nutrients, including omega-3s—which is in line with 2011 research from Oregon Health and Science University that found people with healthier diets, rich in a variety of vitamins including B, C, D, E and omega-3s, had bigger brains and better cognitive function. Sears says to avoid vegetable oils rich in omega-6s (corn, soy, sunflower, safflower), limit saturated fats found in butter and cheese, and consume more extra virgin olive oil, almonds, avocados and fatty fish like wild salmon. He adds that we need 2 1⁄2 grams of DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids per day, which you can get with a tablespoon of cod liver oil or via a purified fish oil supplement. “Take with food to help emulsify the oil for better absorption,” he says. Koff likes New Chapter Wholemega ($12 for 30 softgels; vitacost.com) and, for vegetarians, Manitoba Harvest Hemp Oil ($10 for 60 softgels; manitobaharvest.com) or Udo’s Oil ($28 for 17 fluid ounces; vitacost.com).