It is probably surprising to hear, but the general principles of exercise training are the same regardless of age. However there are some aspects of ageing that require us to make subtle changes to the way we exercise as we get older.
Rate of Recovery
Probably the most important factor that differentiates exercise training in younger and older participants is their rate of recovery. As we age our recovery needs increase and as a result we need to modify the frequency of our training accordingly to avoid increasing our risk of injury. This risk can be offset by simply adding an extra day of rest between sessions to encourage full recovery and restoration. On top of this, varying the types of exercises you perform can also be beneficial. This means mixing up your strengthening sessions with activities such as walking and swimming, as well as leisure activities.
Rehydration is also important for recovery among other things. As we age our thirst sensation tends to reduce and our body’s ability to store water decreases. To counter this we need to ensure that we are more conscious of our water intake to avoid developing dehydration. Staying hydrated is also an important way to speed up our recovery rate and ensure that this process is complete.
The next difference centres around exercise goals. As we get older our ankle flexibility tends to reduce, our vision decreases and there are often changes to our posture that may be linked to reductions in bone density. All of these factors combine to increase our risk of falls. As a result a suitable exercise program for an older adult must include exercises that aim to train balance to offset this increased risk of falls.
Strength and Power
Interestingly enough our strength slowly reduces over time but is very much proportional to our activity levels. However power – our ability to use this strength at speed – decreases more rapidly. While this may not sound particularly relevant, it is often lack of power that hinders us most in our day to day activities. Similarly our endurance seems to decrease more rapidly as we age. Therefore an appropriate exercise program needs to focus more specifically on these areas.
The good news is that the more exercise you accumulate over the years the better your body will be as you age. While many people blame sporting activities in their youth for their “bad knees” or other physical ailments, the research shows the exact opposite is true. In fact it is only when someone experiences a significant injury that they are more likely to develop osteoarthritis in this area later in life. All of the data highlights that consistent exercise is the most powerful anti aging strategy that we have.
How have your exercises or activities changed over the years?