I’ve been thinking a lot about ageing recently. Not because I am reluctant to age or have any kind of hang up about getting older. I am actually not that bothered by ageing. However, I’ve been looking into how (and if) we can “train to age” using exercise.
I want to make sure I am in the best shape possible to counteract all those naturally occurring changes my body is going to experience. So maybe I should approach ageing as I would any other “event” in the diary. Put together a training plan and make sure when it arrives, I am ready physically and mentally?
Boom, you’re officially old
Ok so I know age doesn’t just arrive on one specific date like boom, you’re an old bitch now. But, we do know there are some key times in our life when age starts to have bigger negative effects on our body.
Once we hit 30, yes 30! Our muscle mass starts to decrease approximately 3-8% per decade!! Some research even goes so far as to say we lose 1% per year!! We also know that once we hit perimenopause / menopause thanks to the drop in oestrogen, our bone density also starts to decrease quite steadily. Honestly, us women have so much to look forward to in life!
I think one of the biggest worries in growing older for me is losing my physical ability to be able to stay active both for work and socially. Age related mobility limitations are a fact of life for many older adults. I really don’t want that to be a fact of life for me.
Stop the Clock
Now I know there is no way to stop the clock. As much as I would love a little ‘death becomes her’ style potion to turn back time. It isn’t happening, despite what Instagram influencers tell us.
Exercise, however, can actually help when it comes to ageing. Specifically resistance training. It can provide our neuromuscular system with an appropriate stimulus to reverse and modify some muscle weakness and functional loss due to old age!! Reverse and modify…..who doesn’t want a bit of that?
Why aren’t we being told this while there is still something we can do about it!? We are constantly being told about how to ‘look’ younger with botox, fillers and crazy vampire facials. Yet, bar the recent Davina McCall menopause awareness, no one is telling us how exercise can help us. Its worthing noting that exercise not only will help us biologically slow down some of the signs of ageing. It also can help slow down the appearance of ageing in your skin.
The time is now
If like me you’re in your 40’s – NOW is the time for you to start building lean muscle mass and increasing bone density. We want to start to counteract the naturally occurring deficits we will now be experiencing thanks to our age!
I recently completed an online quiz to calculate my “fitness age” and was pleasantly surprised that I came out as 29! Not bad giving I’m 42 this year! Although I know its highly subjective and not accurate, it was still a nice little reminder that my regular resistance training routine has and is paying off in terms of slowing down ageing. The stronger we can become in our 40’s
What do we need to do?
There isn’t one specific training plan for us all to follow to help slow down our biological age. However, there are some key things we should consider when training for age:
Did you know that your grip strength is actually associated with biological age?? Research now tells us that the weaker your grip strength, the older your biological age! So you might want to consider introducing some exercises into your training that incorporate grip. I don’t just mean those old-school spring-loaded hand devices. I mean exercises using kettlebells, deadlifts, dumbells etc. These will be supporting you in developing overall strength as well as grip strength.
Train the movement not just the muscle
Resistance training with a variety of loads moving in different directions not only works to prevent muscle loss but improves overall strength and mobility as you get older. Even when the focus is just to boost muscle, these kinds of exercises are the most effective. As we get older, training your overall movement is more important than simply building muscle. Having greater functional strength and mobility is more crucial than just isolated strength.
One of the most overlooked factors of physical fitness is balance. This is especially important as we get older, but balance is something every age group should think about. Balance is important in order to remain upright and steady when sitting up, standing, and walking. Balance can improve in just a few weeks by exercising at least twice a week.
Endurance exercise is one of the best ways to protect the body’s metabolism from the effects of age. It reduces body fat, sensitizes the body’s tissues to insulin, and lowers blood sugar levels. Exercise boosts the HDL (“good”) cholesterol and lowers levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and triglycerides.
Learn a new sport/fitness skill – Try something new
Learning new things can make older adults’ brains 30 years younger in just 6 weeks! Researchers have found that learning three new tasks simultaneously boosts mental power and protects against Alzheimer’s disease. So maybe try taking up a new sport or exercise class and challenge yourself physically and mentally.