Continuing our exploration of healthy aging I thought it would be helpful to take a look at what fitness for older gay men should look like. Last week we talked about placing too much emphasis on appearance. I wasn’t suggesting that diet and exercise weren’t important so, for the next couple of weeks, let’s talk about what maintaining our health should look like for queer men as we get older.
Focus less on what you see in the mirror
The mirror is not a bad thing, but it shouldn’t be your sole focus as you get older. Staying fit as we get into our fifties and beyond is even more important than it is for younger men. But, it’s different.
Your body composition is going to shift as you get older. It is far more easy to gain fat and far harder to put on muscle. That’s just the reality with declining testosterone and the other things that come with our aging bodies.
Understanding where your body’s at can be a helpful way to understand how successful your efforts are. There are a number of tools on the market that can help. If you have the funds detailed body composition scans are a great way to see what’s really going on. A trainer I used to work with used a small device called a Skulpt. While not as accurate as a medical scan it’s good enough to show you where you’re improving and where you need work.
Healthy body fat is important, not a six pack
BMI or Body Mass Index is the most common way to measure fitness. The issue with BMI is that it doesn’t predict very accurately for people who are very lean or muscular. My last BMI was calculated at 29 which puts me just under the obese range. I may be packing a few extra pounds, but I’m certainly not close to obese.
Talk to your doctor if your BMI doesn’t seem to make sense and explore the ways to measure and monitor your body fat if need be.
The point as we get older is to prevent obesity and maintain a body fat percentage in the healthy range. If we take that too far, not only will we look older but, we also risk compromising our muscle mass. Preserving muscle mass is critical as we get older.
It’s also important to remember that all fat is not created equal. Visceral fat, which accumulates around the internal organs, is the most dangerous and can be hard to spot on an otherwise fit enough older man.
What you eat matters
No discussion of fitness for older gay men would be complete without a discussion about food. What you put in your body matters. Every body is different and finding the dietary approach that’s right for you is a matter of looking inside and seeing how healthy your system really is.
Some of us do better with higher fat and protein and lower starch. Some of us are the opposite. Some of us fare better on a plant based diet, others not so much. All of us should be eating a lot of fresh vegetable and some fruit. None of us should be consuming large amounts of highly processed food.
Consult your doctor, or find a good nutritionist. Do an honest analysis of how, and what, you’re eating. If changes are needed make them slowly so you have more chance of sticking to the new program. How you fuel your body might be the best predictor of your overall health as you get older. Without healthy food that works for you, all your other efforts will be in vain.
Next week we’ll continue our discussion about fitness for older gay men focusing more on the exercise part of the equation.