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Monday
Sep062010

Why is it harder to stay lean as you get older?

Like lots of people, I was considerably leaner in high school and college during my more athletic years.   Many of us who were high school and/or college athletes reminisce about how much better we looked, or how difficult things have now become to keep the same weight or "fit into my old jeans", etc. 

A common reason (or excuse) is the theory of metabolic slowdown that occurs as we get older.  Certainly there is a degree of validity to this.  However, a recent blog post I discovered makes things much more simplistic than complicated reduction in our respective metabolisms.

Rusty Moore of Fitness Black Book basically outlined a factor that is so simple, it's the last reason we consider when wondering why our waist lines were more trim during our teens and 20's - we were much more active back then.

I won't restate all of the article's points here so that you feel compelled to read through the original.  However, in a general sense think about how much more physically active we were as younger people, compared to our adult selves.  Or, said another way, think about the drastic reduction in our activity once we become everyday "office workers".

We wake up - drive to work or ride public transportation - sit at a desk or conference table for 8-10 hours - commute back home while sitting in a vehicle - then usually eat dinner and sit down once again in-front of the TV, computer, or possibly a book. 

Where is the physical activity?

In high school and college, you walk to and from most classes.  Chances are, if you're reading sites like mine, you were some sort of an athlete in the afternoons as well.  Two hours or more of sports practice or games 5-6 days per week.  Or maybe if you were fortunate enough to grow up in an environment that made it possible, you went  swimming at the lake or surfing at the beach, or mountain biking, or spent time hiking. 

No wonder we could "eat whatever we wanted"and still look like a shirtless underwear model  (or bikini model for you ladies) without even putting thought into complex factors like diet, counting calories, carb cycling, etc.

While it's a largely unavoidable fact that being an adult, and part of the working world means that the bulk of our time belongs to our company and will be spent in an office or behind a desk.  But it's up to you what measures you will (or won't) take to counter-balance this unavoidable slowdown in everyday physical activity.

Obviously joining a gym and getting some exercise either in the mornings or evenings (or even during lunch) is one easy fix.  If money is tight and you can't swing for a gym membership, you can find other ways to increase your "NEPA" (Non-exercise physical activity)like going for long walks, bike rides, workout DVDs (think P90X or Jillian Michaels), or even simple steps like choosing the furthest spot in the parking lot, choosing stairs over elevators.  Another idea I tried last year was 10-20 pushups and prisoner squats every time I leave my desk for any reason during the work day.

As Carolina Panthers' head coach John Fox is fond of saying, "it is what it is".  Adult life in the working world can drastically reduce opportunities for recreational physical activity, however it's up to you to take steps to fight back against "fitness atrophy".