You are between the ages of 40 and 75 years old. You’ve noticed recently, or perhaps for a while now, that you don’t have the stamina, strength or endurance that you once had. Taking the stairs leaves you more winded than you remember; carrying groceries; shoveling snow; mowing the lawn; lifting your children or grandchildren is now a task that sometimes leaves you feeling just plain old. You may even still be active. Playing sports, walking, swimming, travelling, biking. But, you can’t help but feel like these things take more out of you now than they once did.
Why? Is it just because you’re ‘getting older’? What does time have to do with it? What has happened within your time to make you now feel this way? Is
his inevitable, or is there something you can do about it?
The answer to these questions is multi-faceted but to start, yes, you are aging. However, it is not the time passing in and of itself; the answer is what has happened in that time. It is a condition that every human being on our planet suffers from as we age, and it is named ‘Sarcopenia’.
Sarcopenia is the slow and inevitable loss of muscle, bone and other soft tissues in our bodies as time passes. Believe it or not, this also includes our organs (including our brains). This process starts between the ages of 25 and 35 years old. It accelerates after the age of 40 and further again after every decade at roughly the pace of 1-2% per year!
So, let’s say that at the age of 30 years old you had 130 lbs of lean tissue. If you started losing lean tissue at the age of 30 at the conservative pace of 0.5% per year and you are now 55 years old you would have lost roughly 16 lbs of lean tissue. This is significant. And this is a conservative measure.
Sounds grim, I know. However, the good news is that this process can be slowed down and even reversed. And, it is never too late to take action!
How? The most impactful way that I know of is through consistent and properly performed strength training.
You might be thinking: “well, I walk; take pilates; do yoga; bicycle 10 km three times per week, “fill in the blank __________”; isn’t that enough?” These activities have both physical and mental health benefits, no questions about it. And, if you are performing any, all, or more of these activities, let’s please be clear, I am not encouraging you to stop; in fact I encourage you to keep it up! Here comes the hard truth though, these activities over the long run do nothing, or at least, very little to stave off the effects of Sarcopenia.
Progressive strength training is essential to ensure we keep our muscles, bones, ligaments, tendons and all of the other soft tissues in our bodies strong, mobile and healthy as we age. The stronger our muscles are the more we can do for a longer period of time. Regardless of the task at hand.
Do you want to have more stamina on the ski hill or golf course? Strengthen your legs, arms and your back. You may even notice that you’re hitting the ball a little farther, or you opt to take one more run before hitting the lodge.
You see, progressive strength training is what we like to refer as ‘global conditioning’. What that means is the benefits of being stronger overall lends itself to any task that you are seeking to improve. It has a ‘global’ effect on your physical conditioning and, as a result, your well-being and quality of life as you age.
While doing yoga, as one example, may make you more limber and reduce stiffness, aches and pains (all very good things of course!), beyond the initial strength improvements starting this regime, it will do little to build back that 16 lbs of lean tissue you’ve already lost.
We now understand from the scientific literature that muscle conservation and muscle health as we age is the biggest indicator of ‘all cause mortality’ (dying from any cause). Keeping your muscle also ensures a better quality of life as we get older.
So, how do you do it?
The prescription is simple, the practice is challenging (in a good way). Simply by performing 2 full body weight training sessions per week, we can significantly slow and even reverse, (meaning gain that lost muscle back), the process of Sarcopenia and all of the health complications that are impacted by this condition.
For simplicity sake I’ve put a bullet list of how to do it below:
- Each workout should contain and upper body push (like a chest press); and upper body pull (like a pulldown); and lower body push (like a leg press); a back extension, and 2 or 3 other exercises that will address muscle groups across two joints (like the knee and the hip).
- Each exercise should be performed slowly and thoughtfully
- The exercise should be performed to a deep level of fatigue and get progressively harder every workout *this principle is called the ‘overload principle’ and is essential to gaining back lost muscle
- There should be no pain, but you will need to endure muscular discomfort (AKA: ‘burning’)
- You must breathe constantly and freely; no breath holds!
- After your first workout, you should wait 2-3 days before performing your next strength training workout to ensure that your body recovers and adapts properly.
- You may still be active during your recovery process, performing activities that give you joy and make you feel good. However, don’t over do it. Stressing the body too quickly after a challenging workout will interrupt the recovery process and will slow down your results.
If you are looking for more information, or would like guidance on how to safely get started on a resistance training regime, please contact us for a free consultation and we’ll be happy to guide you back to strength!
Thank you for reading, please feel free to leave comments or questions below. 🙂
Co-owner / Personal trainer @ OneUp Fitness