Unfortunately, the older folk who tell you 'I used to exercise everyday. I did 3 marathons and lifted weights 4 times a week, before I had kids! My kids are 20 now, and I think that has kept me in good physical nick over the years' may actually be mistaken.
If they haven't continued any exercise over the 20 years, unfortunately the gains they had made from that exercise stimulus would have significantly declined. In fact, if they had completely stopped their exercise program, they would have seen an approximately 23% decrease in cardiovascular endurance within the first 5 weeks alone; after 8 weeks seen a 1-1.5% of muscle strength per week. Without doing the maths, just consider what 20 years might look like.
Of course, the rate at which these losses will occur will decline after a period of time, however we also need to take into consideration the effects of ageing and what it does to your body beyond a certain age.
It's sad to say it but after we exit our 20s, it’s all downhill. (Shocked face emoji).
Our aerobic capacity reduces by 10% per decade, regardless of our activity status. Maximum heart rate reduces by 5-10 beats per decade. Blood pressure increases. Vital capacity (max. amount of air expelled from the lungs after maximal inhalation) reduces by 40-50% by the age of 70. Approximately 250g of muscle is lost per year between ages 30-60; and we lose 45-60% of muscular strength from the age of 20 to 70-90 years. Now, that's a little frightening.
Let's not get too worried about the inevitable and think 'oh boy, what's the use of trying now, I'm too far gone'. No sir, that's not the attitude! Every little bit of exercise can help slow the rate, or even slowly prevent the risks associated with sarcopenia (age related muscle loss), dyspnoea (age related loss of muscle strength) and reductions in cardiac function.
Some functional risks associated with reduced physical capacity as we age may include, but are not limited to; not being able to easily rise from your chair at work, becoming short of breath walking up a flight of stairs, a higher risk of falling and subsequently sustaining a serious injury due to reduced bone density. Not all of these are extremely serious (except for the latter) however, wouldn't it be nice to know your capable to do these simple day to day things as comfortably as you could when you were 25?
I would say, most definitely.
If we look at some of the benefits of exercise at any stage of life, we can see how important strength and cardiovascular exercise are, and how they may help reduce the negative effects associated with ageing. These benefits include:
· Increased muscular strength
· Increased bone mineral density
· Increased balance & coordination
· Increased aerobic capacity and cardiovascular function
· Reduced blood pressure
· Increased insulin sensitivity
I've briefly covered some of the physical consequences of muscle loss due to ageing and inactivity, however what about the motivational and psychological consequences?
There is somewhat of a trend to physical inactivity when ageing - which I personally believe we need to address, and subsequently change, as a community. The trend reads as follows:
1. Age and work demand increase
2. Motivation to participate in regular exercise decreases
3. This inactivity results in an increase in joint or back pain
4. Exercise is avoided for fear of making aforementioned pain worse
5. Muscle and joint stability decrease steadily over time leading to further health issues
Unfortunately, this type of scenario is far too common.
Many adults with osteoarthritis, sore backs and knees, believe exercise will further aggravate or potentially cause injury to the already niggling area. However, this is not actually the case.
Research has found that exercise can help reduce the pain of arthritis suffers, as well as reduce the functional disability associate with arthritic pain. Therefore strengthening the muscles surrounding the joint with resistance training, along with flexibility and functional movement exercises are incredibly beneficial to those who may live with the inflammatory disease.
In this day and age, the common 'sore back' can be somewhat blamed on extended periods of sitting. We sit up out of bed, sit down to eat breakfast. Drive to work (sitting). Sit at a desk to work. Get up to just sit back down and eat lunch. Drive home 8 hours later (sitting). Prepare dinner and sit on the couch to watch Masterchef. Woah, that's a lot of time spent on our bums.
Constant hip flexion causes significantly tighter hip flexors and weaker, under activate glutes, which may be cause lower back pain. Therefore targeted exercise that aims to strengthen and lengthen the hip flexors, along with neutrally activating the glutes; can significantly help reduce this pain.
Usually, if something is niggling due to inactivity, exercise won't harm it. In fact, it will most likely help it. If a joint lacks stability, work on strengthening the muscles surrounding that joint. If lower back pain is causing discomfort, incorporate mild flexibility exercises to lengthen the spine and strengthen key stabilising core muscles, hip flexors and hamstrings. If arthritis causes you discomfort, warm the body and incorporate strength and mobility, because as they say 'Use it or lose it'.
Yes, that’s a lot of information to digest, but if you are still following me, then great!
Now what? Feeling like you should probably get out there but don't know where to start? Then that is what we are here for.
Our LIIT Functional group classes is designed for people getting back into it. We focus on low impact strengthening and mobilization exercises, and taper to the individual needs and concerns. With a maximum of 8 people per session, we are able to coach, demonstrate, adjust and periodise for all.
Don't hesitate to contact us for more info!
Stay Happy, Healthy and Real this Summer!
Founder / Head Trainer
0423 761 421