I recently had a chat with a friend about the different injuries we pick up from time to time and we started bemoaning our old bodies and it got me thinking back to another conversation which I seem to encounter a lot more frequently these days. I was telling someone about a niggle that I had been suffering from during my runs which had made running more difficult for me. I was rather surprised at her reply which was “Don’t you think you should stop running and take it easy, you’re not getting any younger” Her view was that as we get older, we need to take it easy as the body is ageing.
She is not alone in this line of thinking. I know many people who are surprised at the amount of exercise I do and even more surprised when I announce I am training for one race or the other. I recently completed my first triathlon and I got many strange looks and are you mad? sort of glances from a variety of people whenever I told them what I was training for.
These people seem to think as they and everyone else around them get older, the best way to prepare for it is to slow down, take it easy and do less exercise.
This is despite mounting evidence that incorporating exercise into one’s lifestyle especially as we age has numerous benefits and in many cases actually helps prolong and maintain good health into old age.
Of course this doesn’t mean if you’ve never done any exercise before you should suddenly get up and decide to run a marathon. That is just asking for trouble. Exercise needs to be introduced slowly and gradually and built into a routine. This does not mean you cannot run a marathon but you DO have to train for it. Importantly we must acknowledge that as we get older our bodies start to age and decline and this can lead to us being slower at doing things but this should certainly not stop us from doing anything. We see from sportsmen and women that they are at their strongest in their 20’s and 30’s. Most footballers retire in their mid thirties for example bar a few. However, exercise can continue to be a part of your life regardless of your age. I have friends in their 60’s, 70’s and 80’s who still train very regularly some of them everyday.
The recent paralympics has certainly shown us what the human body working hand in hand with the human spirit is capable of achieving.
So what type of training is suitable for the older generation (40+)? Well there are no limitations, I recently read about a gentleman who took up running at 61 and has gone on to run many marathons including an ultra marathon. Maybe that is not for everyone but we can all find and participate in some form of exercise. It is key to find something you enjoy and that you can do, especially if you have particular health problems or previous injuries which may limit you. For this reason, it is therefore important to consult your Doctor/GP before embarking on any exercise program.
Provided there are no medical problems preventing you from exercising then strength training is certainly an important part of an exercise regime especially as we get older. It has so many benefits but in particular as we age, we need and rely more on stronger ligaments, bones and joints and strength training helps with this. It can also help reduce signs and symptoms of osteoporosis, arthritis, diabetes, depression etc
Women in particular tend to be averse to using weights usually stating that they dont want to bulk up (become muscular), they dont feel comfortable going into the weights area in a gym as it is usually populated with alpha males! or they are not sure what to do with the weights. Women would benefit greatly from strength training and I would encourage them to speak to someone in the gym who can give them a basic program to start off with.
In my next blog, I will cover why we should do strength training in more depth, however strength training with regular aerobic exercise is particularly beneficial so don’t rule out the cardiovascular training. (Cardiovascular training is training that helps improve your heart and lungs, it usually involves raising your heart rate and keeping it elevated for a period of time and is also referred to as cardio or aerobic exercise. This kind of exercise will include swimming, running, cycling, dancing etc)
So do remember, you are as old as you feel and you will feel very old if you don’t do any exercise. Dont forget the body is designed to move not stay still. For many older people when they retire, keeeping fit helps them to stay independent for longer and have an active and fun existence.
So come on! What are you waiting for? Get off the sofa…………………….