Everyone gets old. Its unfortunate, but that's the way it is. We need to enjoy it to the max.
But how healthy (and enjoyable) our last years will be depend on what we do in our 30's, 40's, 50's & 60's primarily. Not what we do in our 70's & 80's or even 90's (the guy in the picture above is a 90 year old Bodybuilder). When people think about retiring they think about becoming financially secure through the accumulation of wealth. But what about the accumulation of Health? The money isn't much use without being able to partake in daily activity without help.
What the hell is that? Age-Related Sarcopenia is the loss of skeletal muscle for any human. This loss of muscle general starts in peoples 30's. Studies show that inactive people can lose 3-5% of their muscle mass per decade. Even active people can lose that much and their type of activity may be a cause of this loss. Between 65 & 75 this muscle loss accelerates and can be responsible for falls and loss of mobility for people in this age bracket. That lack of mobility leads to further health complications and can also be very damaging to confidence and mental well being. There are other reasons for this muscle loss in some cases as well like Age-Related reduction in Nerve cells whose function is to send signals to your body for it to function or a decrease in concentration of various hormones and/or a poor diet with too low a protein intake. Its obvious already keeping the brain and body active continually is very important for all of us.
What are the issues with this muscle loss? Well it hampers day to day activity, slowly breaking you down bit by bit over a couple of decades. Simple things like getting off the couch or getting out of the car get harder than they should be. Your brain sends signals to your limbs to do what you want to do but because there is less muscle (or less active muscle) it takes longer to get everything fired up. Often the muscles that could do things for you in your 30's on their own, lets say lower limb, now in your 40's need the help of other muscles, maybe the muscles in your opposing limbs or your upper limbs. In simple terms this can be both metaphorically and actually a pain in the ass!!! And erodes your health and enthusiasm move by move, day by day.
What's the solution? Exercise. More specifically, Resistance Exercise.
I have got an education in perception over the last 6 months. This is "Lady" on the left (Billy RIP on the right).
Lady is our 6 month old German Shepard. What has Lady got to do with muscle loss, strength training & aging you might ask? Nothing really.
But, she is a extremely scary dog. At a seconds notice she can attack....and lick you to death!!! What I have met with Lady while out and about at the park or running or whatever has really surprised me. Some people are scared shitless of her to be frank. One woman who was running the opposite direction pinned herself to a wall while we ran passed with Lady looking at her and then me curiously with a face of "what the hell is wrong with her Dad?" Last week while at a football match a kid came up to the car where Lady was in the back, he said "Wow, she is so scary"! The truth is Lady is the biggest slob of a dog I have ever had, and that's saying something. She gets a lot of love and doesn't mind giving it back. She is good around kids and basically just wants to say hello to everyone. Her environment is positive.
My theory is, this is why;
You get the idea.
Its my belief we are conditioned by this kind of signage. It has created fear of German Shepherds and other breeds. Recent studies (check out the few links if you don't believe me) have found that the type of Breed a dog is has little or nothing to do with how dangerous it may or may not be. Its almost all down to the environment they are brought up in and how they are handled by their owners. The problem with some breeds like German Shepherds is they are particularly smart, and that means Humans can train the dogs to be dangerous. They are not inherently dangerous.
Images can create strong lasting impressions with people, and their perception of something can be that way for life. Which leads me onto Strength Training (more specifically Strength Training for non-athletes, women and older adults) and the real point of my anecdote. For years I would hear the following things about lifting weights
You may snigger. But that is one of the images that people see, particularly women, when people used to suggest lifting weights or strength training. The thing is strength training can be done in many different ways and with various types of resistance. These can include your own bodyweight, resistance bands, bungees, dumbbells, kettlebells, rings etc. But building muscle is good, it helps posture, it helps your metabolism, it helps activate your brain and maintain connection between your brain and body, you get the endorphin release of exercise and resistance exercise is a great stress reliever.
But here is the key, building pounds and pounds of muscle takes a lot of training. Ending up as muscular as these lovely ladies above takes insane amounts of training, near perfect diets and maybe more! What it is really about is living the last 15-20 years of your life without being bent over, without needing help to pull yourself off a chair or being afraid to go on trips due to worrying about fatigue and the length of the day or the steps you may have to climb. Maintain muscle and challenging your neuromuscular system on a consistent basis will pay off, you are investing in your actual Health Pension. Investing in this pension, will leave you use the "other" pension for great experiences and adventures, and not to pay doctors or pharmaceutical companies thousands of euros, dollars or pounds just to alleviate pain that they cannot really help you with anyway. A drug will not help you move better, it will only give short term release.
Strength & Mobility (see my article on what a strength & Mobility class may feel like) training for aging adults is not about aesthetics alone. It is about living fuller lives and generally feeling better about yourself and creating energy to enjoy your time off. Maybe further pursuit will come out of it and it may become a hobby, but basically what Strength& Mobility classes are for is balancing your body and your life and opposing all the damage been done sitting in offices, siting in cars and lying on couches. Trainers like myself literally pull you back into line over time. Particularly with the general population and anybody over 35 or someone out of exercise for a prolonged period of time I implement a "Joint-by-Joint" approach as developed and popularized by Physical Therapist Gray Cook and Exercise & Movement Physiologist Mike Boyle with some adjustments and use of other disciplines to find my own Holistic approach that is ever evolving. Strength & Conditioning Coaches, Trainers, Therapists etc have to be mindful of just using "popular" methods which often don't have much more than a good marketing campaign. However while they have marketed themselves wonderfully, there is a lot of substance to the practice of a "Joint-by-Joint" approach.
While first using it in my own training over a couple of months a number of years ago I then started using it with teams and athletes I was training. Over time I have seen the benefits of this approach. Soft tissue injuries with my athletes are at a minimum while ordinary Joes move better, lose the lower back pain, play more golf, sleep better etc. Its implementation and uses vary from population to population and from individual to individual. With an advanced athlete mobility and stability training using the joint-by-joint approach as a guideline may just be part of their warm up and movement prep or indeed for small short individual mobility and/or active recovery sessions. Whereas with a 54 year old office worker it may form the main part of the program. With the athlete it may be complimented with Strength & Power work where other learnings are implemented, while with the office worker I will involve other methods that may vary from Elasticity Training to Yoga to Pilates to Movement Flows I have picked up from other trainers and therapists or have devised myself. Where a professional athlete may use bands to warm up and activate for a hard session, a previously non-active 34 year old woman may use them to train her muscles to make getting up earlier in the morning easier. A lot of these methods are very interchangeable and should not intimidate people. Other trainers will manipulate these methods in many different ways, but most good and thoughtful trainers will bring you to the same place, freedom of movement and happiness. And this brings me back to perception, there is a perception there that gyms are for athletes, young people, the rich, the "beautiful people", vain types etc. This is simply not the case. Life has changed, we don't toil in the fields anymore, we are simply not as active as we once were and to balance that people need to find outlets to find that balance.
The investment you put into your health on a consistent basis while young will have long term benefits, but from a mobility and postural point of view.
Practicalities and Implementation
One session a week of structured or supervised strength & mobility training will certainly help anyone, two is probably optimum. However long term its not just what you may do in a class or a gym that will really count, its bringing what you learn about your body with you. I give Personal Training Clients little circuits that they can do at home. 10 minutes a few mornings a week can really compliment the more concentrated or intense classes and sessions you do once or twice a week. However I believe any more than 2 structured fee paying classes a week is too much. I don't believe its sustainable. Personally from a business point of view I want to build long term relationships with my clients, hitting them hard and fast early is probably not the best policy in my opinion. That viewpoint and practice may have short term losses, but I think it (and many trainers I know report same) will benefit both me the professional and ultimately the client.
While toiling away at your desk racking up the hours to make the money to put away, think about putting away some time for your health. Drop the perceptions and get at it!
For anyone Interested in learning more I work out of Ballincollig, Cork where I can facilitate individuals or teams. I also offer online Training Programs for GAA, Soccer, Rugby, Hockey, Aussie Rules (any field sport really)Boxing and other Combat Athletes, which are considerably cheaper than 1-to1’s.