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The Superfit Sixties


By Ross Baines – Physiotherapist

Everything old is new again and movement really is medicine.

If you have read “Younger Next Year” you will know the benefits of exercise in helping you age well.

What we eat and how we exercise are variables we can control to help us move well and stay well.

At Physioplus our BodyFit program is targeted for people who need to :

  • Review Fitness
  • Rehab Injuries
  • Restore Ability
  • Reach Goals

Click here for more detail on our BodyFit program

The following article provides detail of the increase in the numbers of older people exercising and the benefits of certain types of exercise.

A decade ago you might have thought about hanging up your trainers in your 50s, never mind your 60s. But in 2019 it’s a very different story. Today’s 60-somethings know that age is no deterrent to even the most challenging athletic goals. A new tribe of hard-bodied sexagenarians is emerging.

Superfit 60-plus members put in longer hours at their gyms than any other age group, averaging eight visits a month, according to the British healthcare charity Nuffield Health. More than one in 10 members of David Lloyd gyms are 60-plus. And it’s not the more gentle classes on the timetable that are drawing them in but high-intensity workouts and tough training regimens.

Sport England says the biggest rise in sports participation in recent years has been among older age groups, with running and cycling experiencing massive growth.

What matters as you get older is that you exercise intelligently,” says John Brewer, a professor of applied sport science at St Mary’s University, London.

There is certainly no shortage of role models who are inspiring the growing army of age-defying exercisers. And they are not all honed A-listers such as Madonna, Kevin Bacon and Michelle Pfeiffer (all 60). Take Chris Zaremba, a 62-year-old trainer and fitness model from west London, who was told by his doctor that he was “dangerously obese” at 50, but who turned his life (and biceps) around with hardcore gym sessions.

 Yazemeenah Rossi, 63, credits her commitment to exercise for giving her the body of someone a third her age. Picture: Instagram

Tamara Hill-Norton, the founder of Sweaty Betty, says Rossi reflects the changing face of the brand’s customer base.

 Ageing athletes shouldn’t rule out the occasional triathlon.


How to protect your knees

The fast-twitch fibres in muscles that produce speed deteriorate before the slow-twitch fibres that marathon runners depend on — “or, in other words, your long-distance running performances are not as prone to the effects of ageing, provided you train intelligently,” says John Brewer.

Wendy Smith-Sly, who won silver in the 3000m at the 1984 Olympics, is celebrating her 60th birthday by running the London Marathon with a 60-year-old friend this year. She says factoring in resistance work is essential for older runners. “We lose muscle mass naturally and making time for either a short conditioning workout with body weight exercises or kettlebells two or three times a week is important,” she says. “It helps to offset muscle wastage and maintain good running form and general muscle tone which deter injury.” Recovery is crucial. “I very often take an extra day between harder workouts as I know my legs haven’t recovered,” she says.


Tips for those in lycra

Cycling is one of the sports experiencing a boom in 60-plus participation, partly because it is gentler on the joints than many gym activities and running. It remains male-dominated — although more women in their 60s are taking to two wheels — but a study at the University of East London last year found that older men aren’t cycling “to relive their youth or prove they can still compete against other men”, but out of a desire to be mentally and physically healthy. Peter Herbert, a champion cyclist for his age, says workouts on your bike need to be carefully planned if you want to improve. “Because of the need for more recovery, it means you can fit in fewer training sessions,” he says. “That could mean less progress, so you have to train smart with the best use of available time.”

In one of his studies, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, Herbert asked a group of 20 athletes, mostly in their 60s, to cut their regular cycling load from a minimum of three hard weekly sessions to one workout every five days involving 30-second sprints on an indoor bike. In between, their activity was limited to steady cycling for no more than 30 minutes a day. “There were significant increases in the maximal oxygen capacity (or VO2 max) when they reduced their training in this way,” he says. “They reduced body fat and improved muscle strength and had significant increases in leg power.”


Why weight training is essential

Weight training has been proved to be the best means of offsetting some of the effects of sarcopenia, the natural loss of muscle that occurs as we age. “In the US there is a massive trend for weight training from 60 onwards and it is beginning take hold here,” says Chris Zaremba. Progression is important — Zaremba says he lifts weights every day, targeting a different set of muscles each time, but that 60-plus beginners should aim for two to three times a week to start. And while we shouldn’t be fearful of lifting heavy weights, people should start at a manageable level. Roberts recommends starting with a weight that allows you to lift up to 12 repetitions — this might be 4kg for women and 6-7kg weights for men — and working up gradually. “There’s no reason your goal shouldn’t be to use weights of 20kg eventually,” he says.


Perfect for balance and flexibility

Nahid de Belgeonne, the founder of the Good Vibes yoga studios in London, says the 60-plus tribe — men and women — dominate many of her classes and are as flexible, strong and mobile as those half their age. “Yoga is something that responds to consistency, so whatever your age you can get better at it,” she says. Basic standing poses, such as the tree, the warrior trilogy and the half-moon, promote flexibility, co-ordination, balance and strength.

I have clients in their 70s in better shape than some in their 20s,” says de Belgeonne. “Age is not a barrier with yoga.”

Hot yoga is an option, but make sure it’s in a class that offers infrared heat, shown to be soothing to tired muscles.

The Times



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Caleigh ( Athlete and student )

“After two sprained ankles within twenty-four hours of one another, intensive physiotherapy got me off crutches and to an overnight snowshoe camp and European soccer tour within weeks.”


Nell (Educator and (again, thanks to Ross) considerably more knowledgeable Cricket Spectator)

“I was referred to Ross by my doctor, originally, for treatment of shin splints. When Ross could see my progress was not as expected, he communicated with my doctor regarding the possibility of a tibia fracture – a subsequent CT scan confirmed it was. Thanks to Ross’s professional experience and keen attention to underlying symptoms, my injury was more accurately diagnosed and is now, with his physio support, healing well. Ross’ quiet sense of humour and steady encouragement have made my physio treatment experience very positive”.


Peter ( still strolling along. )

“Ross took the time to understand the impact heel pain had on my activities and analyze the mechanics and footwear that aggravated the pain. With therapy and the custom orthotics he prescribed and recommended footwear I was able to happily stroll through the villages and countryside of Italy this Summer.”

(still strolling along.)

Paul Gray ( active dad and running enthusiast )

“My experience at PhysioPlus was extremely positive. 3 days after tearing my ACL playing soccer I had my first visit. I walked in on crutches and was wearing an immobilizer knee brace for stability. Ross was able to help me regain confidence to bear weight on my injured leg and I was able to walk out with the crutches in one hand and the knee brace in the other.

Ross was able to confirm from his assessment of my knee that I had, in fact, ruptured my ACL which had not yet been confirmed, being prior to an appointment with the orthopaedic surgeon or an MRI.

Ross had me work through a program pre-surgery to regain as much mobility and stability I could without having the ACL intact. After the reconstructive surgery was completed we worked through a program to continue to increase mobility and strength. Having access to the exercise room complete with equipment was extremely helpful. Ross was able to explain and demonstrate how to effectively work through the exercise routines.

Within one year of my surgery I have returned to running and have started some hiking. I would highly recommend PhysioPlus to anyone requiring treatment. The atmosphere is calm and everyone is extremely friendly and caring.”

Paul Gray
Active Dad and Running Enthusiast

Lisa Wren (Age 55)

“After completing an extensive painting project, I ended up with a frozen right shoulder, which was extremely painful and debilitating. This is when my introduction to Physioplus occurred. My physiotherapist, Ross Baines, was instrumental in getting me back to good health. Ross used various interventional techniques to encourage movement in the shoulder joint, always providing me with ample information about each. He was always professional and communicated thoroughly with the rest of my medical team. I have every confidence that the care Ross provided expedited my return to normal activity. I would not hesitate to recommend Ross and the entire team at Physioplus!”

Lisa Wren

Bruce Cook – previous hard core triathlete

“Most highly recommended for physio and rehab. Ross is a knowledgable and caring practitioner, going above and beyond to help you. Easy going personality and very supportive. Ross is easy to talk to with incredible results. A+ from me.”

Bruce Cook
– previous hard core triathlete