Growing up is never easy, neither is growing older.
For those who have enjoyed an active life – whether it’s competitive sports, lifting heavy weights or running marathons, we will all begin to see a decline in recovery and capacity to train. The easier we make it on ourselves to accept this natural occurrence, the better equipped we will become at utilising the capacity we have within us, preventing injury and inflammation of the joints. Muscle mass declines faster as we age, even more so when we do not lift weights regularly or eat an adequate amount of protein. There is a negative impact for those who lose muscle mass as they age. However, this impact is associated more with the inclination to prioritise aerobic exercise over strength training. It is doubtful that people over 50 who lose muscle will never gain it back. The startling fact is that this drop is associated with a decline in strength and mobility. Over time, that combination can increase the risk of chronic pain and reduced ability to move due to arthritis and loss of power in the muscle that stabilises joints. In addition, as weight fluctuates with older adults, it will more likely become fat gain rather than muscle. That adds to compromising body composition even further.
Aerobic and weight training
The information above shouldn’t put you off implementing aerobic exercise into your routine; instead, older adults need to combine your most loved form of cardio exercise and strength training. It’s important to note that you will lose lean muscle mass when combining aerobic exercise with weight loss. Therefore, it would be ideal for resistance type training, such as walking on an incline, doing stair climbing, or cycling on a bike to reduce the risk of losing precious muscle from cardio. If your primary intention is to lose some belly or body fat, use HIIT to your advantage. Start with intervals and alternate between higher and lower-intensity effort. Combine this with active recovery to further preserve muscle during your progressive fat loss goal.
The importance of protein
Protein is the building block of muscle. Therefore it’s essential to ensure you are eating enough during the day. When on a restricted caloric diet, protein will help you sustain balanced energy levels during the day and keep hunger at bay. As you plan your nutritional requirements, it’s also essential to load up on many vegetables and healthy fat sources. Add leafy greens, cauliflower, broccoli, avocado and nuts to your meals. Using this as a basis for your meal plan will ensure you stay on track with caloric targets. In addition, you will be less likely to become overwhelmed with cravings and hunger during the process.
Here are my top five tips that will help you stay in shape as you age
One: Lift weights regularly.
Cardio is essential, but lifting weights is your saving grace. Keep building and maintaining your muscle mass, preserving it as much as you can. Weight training will serve you well into old age, keep you lean, mobile and active throughout the years. My advice would be to train with weights two days on and one day off. If prolonged soreness is starting to inhibit fast recovery, allow yourself an extra day to recuperate.
Two: Recover adequately.
If you are anything like me, training is a way of life, and you understand the need to push yourself beyond the current boundaries. Although this is needed to become stronger and build muscle in hindsight, it can also become your downfall as you age. As hard as it is to swallow, training requires a lot more recovery time, and smashing our bodies with exercise should now come to an end. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put in a considerable effort, but it’s also essential to know your limitations and not get caught up feeling guilty at not giving it your all. Make it short, sharp and sweet in the gym (or at home). Work out for 45 minutes, and then end it. If you are building your strength, rest periods will take up to one-two minutes. Therefore, your training may last for one to one and a half hours. End your training when there is a bit of fuel left in the tank.
Three: Pre-make all meals.
I’ve always pre-prepared all my meals for many years, even if it was only for two days in advance.Doing this has saved me many hours agonising whilst I am hungry and calories that I could have over-consumed due to my rising hunger levels.Plan in advance and pre-cook as much as possible. Make it easy to do, and you will be more inclined to keep maintaining the effort.
Four: Learn to listen to your body
As I mentioned before, smashing your body isn’t going to get you too far. Actively listening and tapping into your energy levels will help you determine what kind of workout you can do and make the most of the time you do have. I have learnt to accept that I cannot do any marathon sessions anymore, and I narrow my training to 35–45 minutes at a time. I actively recover on the treadmill walking or enjoying the sunshine outdoors with my dog on my days off. I have learned to accept this.
Five: Stay consistent throughout your life
Remember that better health and longevity is a lifestyle plan. I understand that these pandemic lockdowns make it hard to remain consistently on a weight training program. The best you can do is give it your best shot, using the equipment you have. The best way to transition into a more mature based program is to pay close attention to training and nutrition as a lifestyle. Become flexible with the differences your body may experience as you age well, and be sure to live life as abundantly as possible. Take the good with the bad, and be flexible, knowing your body is the boss now – and obeying the signs will keep you in peak condition.