Should your workout routine change as you age?
We all know how hugely important exercise, movement and an active lifestyle are for our health and longevity. But even the most workout-honed bods are not immune to the ageing process, and for those of us who don’t have a regular fitness regime, the changes Mother Time wreaks on our bodies are even more noticeable.
“Unfortunately, we all age and the tell-tale signs cannot be stopped,” says Simon Bennett, owner and Head Strength & Conditioning Coach at TRI-FIT Endurance Performance Centre on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. “Our metabolism slows down leading to unwanted weight gain, we produce less testosterone leading to decreased libido and our energy and mood levels aren’t what they once were. Our bodies become more susceptible to injuries and we spend more money on posture related treatment like chiropractic and osteopathic care. In our late years we are at high risk of muscular and bone degenerative diseases unless we exercise regularly.”
Simon shares the most important inclusions and changes we should make to our exercise routines as we reach 40 and beyond…
It’s usually during our mid-30s that we typically begin to lose muscle mass and function, with physically inactive people losing as much as 3 to 5 per cent of their muscle mass with every passing decade. All too commonly, this loss of muscle mass is replaced by fat, which is why resistance training is essential as we get older.
“Strength training not only builds strong muscles, it also develops bone mineral density which will reduce bone related diseases like osteoporosis,” explains Simon. “Strength training will also help with testosterone production, something that’s important for both males and females.”
Simon advises that there’s something for everyone when it comes to strength training, ranging from powerlifting and body building for those who really want to push themselves and lift heavy weight, to cross-fit and TRI-FIT classes “for those who enjoy lifting weights but also want more. Basic strength training is a large part of the program but they have a more functional and athletic approach.”
For those who prefer light weight lifting, Simon recommends F45 circuit training and body pump classes, “and for those who simply don’t want to lift any weights, then bodyweight strength training like TRX and callisthenic training are fantastic”.
As we age, the neuromuscular connections that help keep us upright slowly decline, resulting in poorer balance. But the good news is those nerve pathways can be kept in check or even reclaimed by specific daily attention. A good habit to get into is to practice standing on one leg like a stork each morning while you brush your teeth. From an exercise perspective, Simon recommends yoga to “lengthen the muscles, improve joint mobility and stretch and strengthen all the tendons that attach your muscles to the bones”.
He advises, “Yoga comes in many styles, much like strength training, so find a local yoga centre and discuss what will suit your needs based on age, restrictions and goals.”
Maintaining good cardiorespiratory health is vital, especially as we get older. “With a strong heart and lungs, we can rest assured that our vital organs are in good health,” says Simon. “Go for a run, swim some laps in the pool, surf, ride a bike, even a fast paced walk will elevate your heart rate enough to burn some kilojoules, improve blood circulation and strengthen the heart.”
Keeping a handle on our weight (or avoiding developing handles in the first place!) is notoriously more challenging once we get past 40, and Simon says the H.I.I.T revolution is the most time-efficient way to halt middle aged spread in its tracks. “H.I.I.T training style allows us to spike the heart rate to near max efforts in short sharp frequent bursts leaving our bodies to continue to burn kilojoules for up to 36 hours post exercise – more kilojoules burnt in less time basically. Now people can be in and out of as gym in under 45 minutes which suits the fast pace of modern life.”
Foam rolling and mobility training
As we age, our tendons and muscles tend to get tighter, and our risk of injury – tendinitis, in particular – increases. Daily stretching is essential later in life, and foam rolling is a great addition to this.
Explains Simon, “You should spend at least 10 minutes prior to any exercise performing a variety of drills and movements using foam rollers, massage balls, broom handles and resistance bands. These movements allow for greater range of motion in our joints, the release of tight and overactive muscles from day to day activities and the breakdown of any adhesions that occur in the fascia, the fibrous connective tissue that surrounds our muscles. If this is tight then the muscles can’t be used efficiently, meaning added stress on tendons that will place you at a higher risk of soft tissue injuries.”
While maintaining a fitness regime throughout life is ideal, it’s never too late to start a fitness program. Simon has this advice for people who’ve had a long time between gym visits:
- If you have any illnesses or injuries that may inhibit you from physical training, see a physician to get medical clearance.
- Begin light and build into it. Start bodyweight training before advancing to more challenging styles of training.
- Ensure a variety of styles of exercise. Doing the same thing will lead to training plateaus. Mix it up!
- Strong people are harder to kill so keep the heart, mind and body strong.
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