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