As we age we start being less motivated to have a good workout. But being fit now, leads to a better quality of life in the future.
It is undeniable that we start to slow down as we age. Our fitness levels and recovery rates become compromised but science has shown that this is no excuse to give up your fitness goals.
We see many athletes retire by age 35 or even as soon as they hit 30 and we assume that it is because their body cannot keep up with the demanding physical activity anymore. However, a study by Yale University showed that our maximum exercise capacity or athletic performance, slows down by only a few decimals each year—not as drastic as we thought.
In fact, your body continues to gain strength throughout your thirties and age-related physical decline only begins at age 40—if you do not exercise. If you have been maintaining a healthy lifestyle all along, the decline has no significance at all!
So, where does the loss of muscle and strength come from as we age? Part of it is indeed due to ageing, as the mass of fast-twitch muscle fibres that produce power for high intensity exercise decreases steeply between the ages 31-40 at about 3% per annum.
But the main reason is due to the lack of use of muscles and joints on a regular basis. So, if you keep true to regular strength and cardio training, many ageing-related health problems can be kept at bay.
Is it too late?
If you have not been exercising, it is never too late to start. With the right types and amount of exercise, recovery and nutrition, you can reach a maintainable fitness level—within your limits. Here are some benchmarks according to age.
20s: No limits
At this age, you can do anything and everything you want. But we suggest a constant mix of strength and cardio, three times a week, for 45 to 60 minutes as a benchmark. Additional strength training for 30 minutes on the other three days per week can also be added, if you're up for it. And of course, leave a day of rest.
30s: Feeling the lagging metabolism
Your metabolism will start to slow a little. Not drastic, but you will find that you put on a little weight after skipping a few workouts. So, we suggest you keep your heart rate up, yet do not compromise on strength training. Do circuit training for an hour, four days a week, incorporating a mix of resistance and cardio training. This will keep your energy levels up and decreasing your body fat. On another day, do intense cardio for 45 minutes to one hour. You get two days of rest.
40s: Really feeling the slow metabolism
Drink a pint of beer, have a burger, it adds half an inch to your waistline. You feel sluggish and unmotivated, but that means you just have to keep exercising! We suggest you keep weight training for an hour, three days a week and do cardio training for at least 45 minutes for five days a week. The length of the workouts does seem a little longer, but you need it to counter the slow metabolic rate and natural loss of strength.
50s and beyond: Take a chill pill
Your strength will ebb away naturally but your metabolism rates will drop, so cardio is important especially when you move into your 60s and 70s. We suggest taking it slow and mixing it up, depending on what you prefer. Just make sure you do 5 hours of significant aerobic or strengthening exercises in one week. You can spread them out or combine a 2-2-1 hour workout week, whatever works for you. If you want to do more than this, feel free to as well!
Here's some extra motivation:
If she can do it, why can't you?
The importance of fitness as we age
It might seem like too much, especially if you have not been exercising for some time. So, it is important that you do not rush to do such volumes of workouts, but rather build towards this lifestyle.
When your functional fitness improves, the ability to move about comfortably in your daily life also improves and contributes to an improved body composition. This prevents bone loss, heart disease, obesity and age-related injuries, which come from the loss of balance and agility as we age. Maintaining muscle mass helps retain that balance and reduces risk of falling.
While it is never too late to start being fit again, there is no reason to delay as well. Studies have shown that if you can't stand up with one leg while sitting on a chair, you risk not being able to walk in your 70s.
Try it out yourself or ask an older friend or relative to try it, and if there's difficulty it is high-time to start exercising.
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