As we age, our body loses muscle mass (this process is called ‘sarcopenia’), which means that not only our muscle become smaller and weaker, but all our connective tissues lose their strength as well. Since everything is connected in our body, then changes in muscle lead to changes in bone structures, our hormone health, insulin resistance etc. It is thought now that strength training might not reverse all the changes that come with aging, but they might slow it down and help to live a fuller life for longer.
What if you’re not old?
Well, we start to ‘get old’ when we get to about 27 years of age. Isn’t it great? For 27 years you get to build yourself and for the next 50 – 80 years (depending on how lucky you get) you just try to eliminate the reduction in your body and your mind. Who said that life was fair? Do you feel old now?
So, this is inevitable?
Absolutely not and if you think it is, you couldn’t be further from the truth. Just because we get older, we shouldn’t get weaker, we shouldn’t forget things. This happens because we are too lazy, when we are feeling great, to do any preventative work to avoid this decline. Basically, the only thing that should really change with age, is the tempo at which you are performing your tasks. So, it is ok if your grandma gets up from the chair slowly, but it’s not ok if she can’t remember why she got up.
What to do?
There are plenty of things you can do, but I will focus on my specialty – strength training. This is the best way to avoid sarcopenia and keep your body happy. Strength training not only helps with maintaining adequate muscle mass, but it makes bones stronger too so you can avoid osteoporosis risks and risk of breaking a bone if you fall, which is extremely important. Indirectly, frequent training, can improve sleep, reduce depression, also help avoid type 2 diabetes or arthritis, as well as reduce risks of heart diseases.
Where should you start?
Start with seeing your doctor and do a full blood test panel, if it’s possible, see your physiotherapist, so they can determine imbalances and show you in a direction of where you need more work.
When you are all cleared by your doctors, you either find a good personal trainer or start training on your own (if you have experience in working out). I usually suggest talking to a trainer either way and maybe asking for a program. That means, you will have a couple of workouts with the trainer, you will be able to go through everything with them, talk over technique and check everything that seems unclear.
The most important part – don’t be intimidated by the gym environment. Yes, I am aware, that most people there are 30 something and if you are 70, it might seem a little strange, but just check multiple gyms, the feel in every gym is different so you will find something that will suit you.
For those, who are starting in their 30’s, you are in luck, because you can get ahead quite fast. Your body is still very responsive and your hormone levels, if they are normal, still allows putting on a decent muscle mass and once you’ve done that – you will have to just hold on to that.
So, primary, to feel great at an older age – you need strength training in your life. Don’t forget that movement is important as such too. So, go for a walk, breath in the fresh air, sleep well and eat right. And you should be able to live to your 120 and enjoy the life you live to the fullest.