By investing wisely in skincare, cosmetics, hairdo, dieting and dress, we can take years off our appearance. Until we walk across the room—slouching, awkward—and poof! it’s all gone.
Poise and Confidence at 70+
We’re all used to putting time, effort and money into looking good—up to and including dieting when the pounds start to mount up. But how many of us are paying attention to our posture and how we move? And how attractive can even the best dressed and coifed woman look with poor posture and a clumsy, unsteady gait?
Poor postmenopausal posture and gait
As we age, our spine tends to become more rounded. Our neck may tilt forward. Our weakening muscles may no longer be strong enough to maintain good posture. Our gait may be stiffer and more uncertain. Why does this happen?
Loss of estrogen
The loss of estrogen tends to decrease bone mass density and muscle mass. As a result, the spinal column compresses and tends to become curved. Joints become stiffer and less flexible. And our weakened muscles are in no shape to take up the slack.
Health issues, diet, life style
Some of us get arthritis. Some have osteoporosis (a condition which causes bones to become weak and brittle). Some of us are not eating a diet that promotes strong bones and muscles. Some arrive at the age of 70 after a 50-year life style of hopping into the car to go around the block. So, what with one thing or another, at 70 many of us have reached an age where moving about feels bad and looks worse.
Fortunately, there are many things we can do to improve our posture and regain some of the grace and confidence of our earlier years. All it takes is a good, consistent exercise program, the right diet, and a strong commitment to feeling and looking better.
Four helpful exercise programs
1. Tai Chi
An exercise program imported from China, tai chi was originally developed for self-defense. It consists of slow, graceful moves accompanied by deep breathing. When practiced regularly, it increases flexibility and balance, and improves posture.
There are many different kinds of yoga, and all of them can help you build bone health in hips, spine, and wrists—the bones most vulnerable to fracture. Yoga also sharpens coordination, concentration and balance, and helps build muscle. There are eight specific yoga moves that can help improve your posture.
Folk dancing, Lindy hop, foxtrot, rhumba, samba, salsa, tango, swing dancing—it’s all fun and a lively, social way to get your heart pumping, your lips smiling and your hips swinging while building stronger bones, better coordination, and greater stamina. Dancing should be used in concert with taking tai chi or yoga for balance, flexibility, and correct posture.
4. Lifting weights
According to some experts, weight lifting may be the single best way for older women to maintain fitness. Luckily, building muscle strength with weight training is possible at any age. Studies show women in their 70s, 80s and even 90s build significant muscle mass by lifting weights. And anything that involves weight bearing activity, will also strengthen bones.
Note: Before you commit to any exercise program, check with your primary doctor to review how much and what kind of exercise is right for you.
The best foods
For stronger bones your body needs calcium (for bone mass) and vitamin D (to help absorb the calcium). Four of the best sources are: yogurt, milk, salmon, and spinach.
Note: Like most good things in life, calcium and vitamin D are good for you in the right amount, neither too little nor too much. Your doctor is the best judge of whether—and how much—you need to increase your calcium and vitamin D intake.
For stronger muscles, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) says that women should get about 46 grams of protein each day. Some of the best sources are: lean meats, fish, Greek yogurt, eggs, nut butter (peanut butter, almond butter), and legumes (beans, peas, lentils).
For more information:
• nim.nih.gov - aging changes in bones
• ncbi.nih.gov - muscle strength after menopause
• webmed.com - weight-bearing exercise
• webmed.com - benefits of tai chi and qigong
• webmed.com - bone density
• webmed.com - balance and yoga
• sportsmedicine.about.com - fitness tips
• articles.sun-sentinel.com - strength training
• northcentralsurgical.com - foods for strong bones
• livestrong.com - foods high in protein
• womenshealthmag.com - dance workout