Friday, April 25, 2008

Smart Training for Seniors

I subscribe to several health, fitness, and bodybuilding newsletters and read as much as possible about trends in those fields. I sort through the information looking for things that might be applicable to senior fitness. Some of the material is useful but, generally speaking, much of it not suited for people over 50.

Why is that?

Generally, around age 50 (the year we all become eligible to join AARP, coincidentally), we should approach exercise and training differently than we might have 10 or 20 years earlier. Though proper training will keep us fit and strong for the years to come — at the same time our bodies will not tolerate some of the kinds of training that might have been beneficial during our 20s, 30s, or even into our 40s.

One example that comes to mind is beginning trainees who try to do too much too soon. While most resistance training exercises and cardiovascular activities may be fundamentally the same at almost any age, workout duration and intensity should be scaled back in accordance with age. I realize this probably seems almost too obvious to mention, but you might be surprised at how many beginners ignore or deny it.

And it is not only beginners who should recognize the age factor. Even many longtime trainees often continue such practices as regular all-out effort, maximum poundage, low-rep weight training. I wouldn’t suggest an exact age for modifying that sort of training. But there is no getting around the fact that 50-, 60- or 70-year old tendons and ligaments cannot handle the same stresses they could at 20 or 30. At some point, higher repetitions with more moderate weights are probably a better way to go, even for those who are in top shape and have been training for most of their adult lives.

Don’t equate this with babying yourself. Beginners should know that progressive resistance training concepts have remained the same since the time of Milo. You begin with manageable weight and repetitions and gradually add to them. Progressive cardiovascular exercise works in much the same way. A 20- or 30-year old beginner may start training and many times be at full speed and intensity in a very short period of time. At 50, or older, acceleration should be more gradual.

Overuse injuries are common and most are avoidable. Respecting your tendons and ligaments as you grow older is one way of staying out of trouble. Short warm ups before training are a small investment that pays big dividends. Replacing low-rep maximum effort movements with respectable but moderate poundage and somewhat higher repetitions means you’ll likely avoid overuse injuries and will remain fit and strong a heck of a lot longer.


Mrs. J. said...

Very sensible advice, I think!
I train together with my daughter, and I decided very quickly not to try and keep up with her (at least, not all the way :)).
I still twinged something in my leg the other day: felt as if a very thin string snapped right in the middle of my quads (as I believe they're called). Happened while I was doing lunges. Not really painful, just a bit sore. I think I'll skip the lunges until I don't feel it anymore...

Davis Richardson said...

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