by Shae Slater and Emma Barrett, HBF

Side plank

I wasn’t overly concerned about turning 30 recently. Despite the hype, I knew I was still young at heart and truly believed the saying, ‘you’re only as old as you feel’.

The problem is that lately, I have been starting to feel, well… in my thirties!

I have always been a healthy eater and consider myself fairly active: I walk the dog regularly, swim when I can, and my pedometer frequently surpasses 8000 steps a day (the average Australian adult takes 7,400).

Recently however I’ve been finding that things in general are just getting harder. The morning alarm crushes my spirit that little bit more than it used to, it takes me at least two coffees to find the motivation to do anything, and I’m much more inclined to wait for the elevator rather than just take the stairs (I work on the first floor!).

I decided to ask Exercise Physiologist and HBF Fitness Coach Emma Barrett for some advice. What’s going on here? Are my thirties taking their toll on me? What things can I do to get out of this rut and get my strength and energy levels back to what they used to be?

She had this advice.

“Yes, there are some physiological changes in our thirties that, if not managed correctly, can really affect us both physically and emotionally.”

“Exercise tends to take a back seat to work and family commitments in our thirties when in fact we should be ramping it up to combat the front-lines of ageing.”

“Making physical activity a priority in your thirties and ‘exercising for your age’ is important to keep feeling fitter and younger for as long as possible. It can also pave the way for better health in your forties, fifties and beyond.”

Following are various exercises that can slow the effects of ageing in your 30’s.

1. Running strengthens your heart

Around age 30, the number of nerve receptors in your heart that tell it how fast to beat reduce. It’s a slow and steady reduction over time, but as the hearts gets fewer signals, its maximum heart rate drops – by about one beat per minute each year. As the heart’s ability to beat faster declines, so too does its ability to relax quickly. Essentially this means oxygen is circulated around your body at a slower rate. That’s why you might feel more fatigued and breathe a little harder during physical activities than you did in your twenties.

Adding interval (slow-fast-slow) training into your exercise routine will help improve your heart’s ability to beat at a high rate for longer periods – a real plus for your aerobic fitness. A short warm-up jog, followed by to 5 to 10 sets of short alternating sprint-jogs, finished with a cool-down jog will be just the exercise your heart needs to combat these declining nerve receptors.

2. Weight training helps reduce weight gain

For each year after 30 your body needs 12 fewer calories per day, but many of us continue to eat as much in our thirties as we did in our twenties. In fact, a recent study by HBF found that one in two ‘normal’ sized Western Australian adults will become overweight or obese after the age of 34.

As your body mass increases it requires more metabolic energy to move – which is why you might huff and puff a little more climbing those stairs. Ramping up your physical activity and deliberate exercise is essential to prevent thirties weight gain.

While cardio (running) helps, it’s not the best option for most people who want to lose weight in their thirties. Strength training (also known as weight or resistance training), burns more fat, and when performed with high intensity, boosts the metabolism, burning fat for hours after you have finished exercising!

Adding weight training to your routine 2-3 times per week will keep those pesky kilos at bay and give you a leaner and more athletic look.

3. Stretching counteracts declining flexibility

As you age, tendons in your arms, legs and core gradually lose their elasticity. People who have desk-bound jobs are among those most at risk as sitting in an office chair for hours every day severely limits their range of motion.

Sign up for a yoga class once a week or Google some moves you can try at home. It will introduce your muscles and bones to a range of motions you wouldn’t usually experience. Improved flexibility will make other forms of exercise in your thirties easier, and lower your risk of injury both when exercising and performing normal daily activities. Stretching also helps prevent loss of mobility in later life.

4. Resistance exercise combats deteriorating muscle mass

Your muscles start to weaken in your thirties and worsen with each passing decade. Along with an obvious loss of strength, reduced muscle mass also leads to weight gain (which we’ll cover in a moment). If you don’t take steps to maintain your muscle mass now, you could lose almost three kilograms of muscle by the time you’re 40.

Undertaking strength building exercises now will help to prevent the onset of severe muscle loss as you age. Resistance (weight-bearing) exercise is best. You can start by using only your bodyweight as resistance, and slowly add weights as you grow stronger. Two or three weights sessions per week will make a real difference to the amount of muscle mass you have.

5. High impact exercise helps prevent brittle bones

Bone density peaks at age 30. After that the thickness of your bones reduces because bone resorption (when bone is broken down within the body so it can be replaced by new bone tissue) outpaces the formation of new bones. This leads to brittle bones, increased likelihood of fractures and illnesses like osteoporosis as we age.

High impact, load bearing exercises stimulate bone formation because bones under moderate stress respond by building density. Some great (and fun) examples of high impact exercises include jogging, running, hiking, tennis, jumping, skipping and dancing –(basically the type of activities that might cause weaker bones to break).

Start now or you may not be able to do these types of activities in your forties and fifties.

6. Physical Activity has an anti-ageing effect on our cells

Telomeres are pieces of DNA found at the end of chromosomes (like the tip of a shoe lace) that protect them from fraying and help to prevent cellular deterioration (ageing). Several scientific studies have found evidence to suggest that exercise, together with a healthy diet, helps limit telomere erosion to produce an ‘anti-ageing’ effect. Reducing the risk of age related illnesses like cancer and heart disease.

So there you have it. An Exercise Physiologist says it’s completely normal to find things a little tougher in your thirties. But importantly, all hope is not lost for the future – if you do the right things now.

According to Emma: “It’s important to remember the physiological changes that occur in your 30’s do so gradually. There’s still heaps of time in your thirties to set yourself up for excellent health and fitness in this decade and for decades to come”.

So what are you waiting for? Go get ‘em tiger! Rarrr!

The content of this article is not tailored for any particular individual’s circumstances. The author does not take into account your physical condition, medical history or any medication you may be taking. Any advice or information provided by the author cannot replace the advice of your health care professional. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent those of HBF unless clearly indicated.