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Age is just a number

Picture someone who is 'old'. Zimmer frames, hunched backs, shuffling feet and moving slowly might be what comes to mind. However, these don't have to be synonymous with ageing. You need to start moving now if you want to reduce the chances of becoming 'old'.

The world's oldest powerlifter is 93 in the video above. The world's oldest female body builder is 74 in this video. There are many examples, but you get the idea. They will have been active in their sport for numerous years, there's no secret to the fact that if you don't use muscles, you lose muscles. With this in mind, they will be able to move around much better than their inactive peers.

Functional muscles Muscles are functional. They generate movement. Or, they at least pull on tendons, which in turn pull on bones, which in turn moves us. Either way, it's muscles that started that. They are the contractile element in the body. We need them to function and do what they were made to do. We lose movement, we lose function. We lose function, we'll soon lose health. We lose health, and then we lose our quality of life.

Use it or lose it One of the truest clichés. If you don't use your muscles, you lose them. It's as simple as that. If someone has had surgery and been bed-ridden for months, their muscles will atrophy, which is muscles wasting away. They will struggle to function after being bed-ridden for so long.

So what has this got to do with getting older? The way I see it, a lot of people are active in their younger years. As they grow older, this activity lessens, for a myriad of reasons; studying, getting into a career, getting married, having kids, discovering alcohol... Whatever the reason. As you age, this inactivity goes on for longer and longer. Muscles aren't getting used for years now. Come retirement, you've served your time. Time to relax and have plenty of 'me' time. More inactivity. Now you've been inactive for decades. Problems occur. Zimmer frame required.

But your metabolism reduces as you get older, this is just the process of ageing! Metabolism is the oldest excuse in the book. Yes it reduces, but it reduces slowly. I've read a quote off one study suggesting that for men 5% every decade and for women 3% every decade, and in an article suggesting more like 2% for everyone every decade. Either way, not at a rate where it is a good enough excuse. The best way to combat this drop in metabolism is by exercising, specifically of course by using resistance training.

An 80 year old who has been inactive for 50 years compared to an 80 year old who has lifted weighted for 50 years will be drastically different in their functionality. That's obvious. An 80 year old who has been inactive for 50 years can still build muscle, that might not be so obvious. Multiple studies have shown that this can help slow down the age-related muscle loss that occurs. So, it's not too late to start lifting weights and reaping the rewards.

Range of motion In my opinion, weight training has to come in before a drastic loss of range of motion has happened. This also happens over time to sedentary adults, you lose range of motion if you don't USE range of motion. It's obvious in those who haven't been very active for years. Shuffling their feet along the floor is a sign of it. It can be very hard to come back from there. Of course the longer you leave it, the worse it becomes. You need to get mobile and get moving before those symptoms start to show, as it will be an arduous journey coming back from such poor range of motion. If you can get started before that happens, you are in for a good shot at changing your quality of life.

Snowball effect of fitness Old habits die hard. If you don't exercise, chances are pretty high that you'll stay that way. It's a tough slog, but old habits will die even harder if you don't get started sooner. Those that exercise, feel better, feel stronger, feel positive about exercise in itself, and will genuinely then want to  exercise. The more active you are, the more inclined you are to be even MORE active. Someone who is fit and healthy, may feel more inclined to go on a big walk on Sunday, go to that extra gym session, go to that extra class, happily walk to the shops rather than drive or take the stairs instead of the elevator. It becomes a bit of a snowball effect. Someone who is sedentary will not feel so inclined to do any extra level of activity beyond what little they do already.

The bottom line Move. Do what you enjoy, but move. It doesn't have to be in the gym. But you really need to move. Also, walking is not enough, so don't say you do enough. In particular:

  • Improve your posture with resistance training. This will stop you from developing a hunch, from shuffling your feet, from requiring a zimmer frame.

  • Improve daily functional movements with resistance training. Getting up off a chair will be easier, reaching up to a cupboard will be easier, and most importantly, if you end up on the floor, getting up will be easier.

  • Improve cardiovascular function with resistance training or some form of cardio. Your heart and lungs will improve.

  • Improve range of motion with some form of stretch routine. If your range of motion drastically needs improving, you may need to really focus on it. Stretches will help this. If you're unsure, think of attending a Yoga class.

Thanks for reading!


P.S. I train my Auntie, Mum and Dad. All over 60. My Mum and Auntie regularly deadlift using a 30kg kettlebell off of a 2 inch wooden block for 10 reps comfortably. My Dad can do that very comfortably with a 40kg kettlebell. All 3 of them have realised how much better it is to be strong and mobile in their older years.


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