Staying Young- a real solution

Posted: June 19, 2015 in Strength and Conditioning for Health and Fitness
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Age is just a number. It is our attitude that makes us young or old. It is a fact that our body will eventually reach its age when it will start to have a decline in its abilities. But it is also a fact that our body, even if it is already old, will still respond to training and it will become stronger and fitter. The effects of ageing can be minimized and reversed. We just need to be open minded, execute a well designed training program, and be optimistic.

Doing regular strength training is a very effective way to stay young. What it offers that may not be in other physical activities is that it can be easily monitored. Variables like intensity, volume, and rest period are easily controlled and the variety of exercises and routines is endless. A study published on 2011 found out that training with weights and calisthenics in a circuit fashion reduced blood pressure during the first 60 minutes after exercise in the elderly with treated hypertension. The exercise routine with the highest volume reduced blood pressure in the next 24 hours following exercise. This suggests that implementation, monitoring and supervision by qualified and experienced professional is important for elderly individuals when performing exercise. A good written record of each training session would easily show the training volume. Blood pressure may be monitored before and after the training session. Good planning of activities along with good training monitoring would indicate an appropriate training volume and intensity. This maximizes training benefits.

An earlier study conducted on 2009 was done to determine the effects of strength training on physical function. The subjects were 50 inactive adults aged 65 years old and above. Their strength, power, body composition, and physical function were measured before and after 22 weeks of strength training. Physical function was measured using movements similar to that used in Activities of Daily Living (ADL). Examples of ADL are walking, ascending stairs, and getting up from a chair. These activities may seem insignificant to young and healthy individuals but they may be challenging to older individuals. After 22 weeks, the same tests were done on the subjects. Test results showed that the women improved significantly in walking test times (flat and ascending stairs), the men improved in stair climb test, and all subjects had improvement in functional tasks which are very important in their ADL’s. The study demonstrates that there are measurable effects of strength training to the quality of life of people aged 65 years and above.

A similar study was conducted on the same age group of men. It was done to determine the relationship between their muscular strength and economy of movement during aerobic exercise. Results indicate that cardiorespiratory capacity and economy of movement are associated with muscular strength during aging. Stronger individuals had better cardiorespiratory capacity and can move better. Moving better means they can avoid falling down and hurting themselves. They would be able to walk up and down the stairs with more ease and safety as compared to individuals with lower muscular strength. A good investment in strength enables them to enjoy their retirement years without depending on care providers for their hygiene and in going to places where they wish to hang out.

But why wait to reach 65 to start improving your quality of life? We better start now if we have not yet invested much in our health and well being.

bench press senior athleteI am lucky to be training 55 year old athletes. One is a sailor  just 7 weeks into the training program as of the writing of this post. The program started with 2 weeks of general conditioning and we were in the 5th week of strength training. He initially started with lighter loads and it took some time for him to learn how to lift with efficient and safe posture. Now he can deadlift a barbell as heavy as his bodyweight and bench press 60kg with ease. Not a lot of 20 year old guys can do that! But what is more interesting is this: as I was asking him about his friends, he said they also sail but they are not as fit as him. It is because they just sail with no desire to be better while the the 55 year old athlete really wants to be better. He always wants to improve himself. That is what makes him want to do strength training. And strength training makes him have the abilities of people less than half his age. His attitude is basically what keeps him young. Now he is not the oldest athlete who trains with me. There is another amazing guy about the same age who races with guys half his age in the Asian games and he beats them. He also desires to improve and overcome obstacles. These gentlemen are really amazing. Their mindset put them in situations wherein they were able to get other people to help them improve physically given their age.

These observations along with personal experience has shown me that strength training is a very good investment. I am now 40 years old but I feel like 28. Some say I look younger than my age so it is not just a subjective feeling. But to be honest I feel that my ability to recover is not as fast as before- but then again, it does not matter that much since I know more now than before. What I know now enables me to lift a heavier load than when I was a lot more muscular 14 years ago. If I knew then what I know now, things would be different in a great way. But what is more important is I can use my knowledge and skills to train a willing trainee to be stronger and fitter individual. It does not matter whether they are young or “old”. What matters is that they are willing to be coached how to Train Better, Live Better!

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