What Type of Exercise Does Your Body Need as You Age?


We all have different needs when it comes to exercise and those needs continue to change as we age. When was the last time you really thought about your exercise routine, and more importantly, are you experiencing gains with your current program? Maybe what worked once at an earlier age for whatever reasons does not seem to work now.

First, celebrate your success. You have continued to exercise all these years and that’s a good thing even if – at times – it may not be as evident when you step onto your bathroom scale. Keep in mind, more than 30 percent of Americans do not exercise at all and only about 5 percent of the population exercise at what is considered a vigorous level. Approximately 69 percent of Americans are currently overweight or obese.

All the work you have put in has done wonders for your mind, body and spirit. More specifically, it has helped maintain your strength and lean muscle levels. A loss of muscle tissue occurs, for those who do not exercise, at a rate of about half a pound a year or 5 pounds per decade. As this happens, a few of the many by-products are loss of strength, power and balance. The average person who does not exercise experiences an 8 percent drop in their strength level per decade. By the time someone reaches age 65 they have about 25 percent less strength compared to when they were 30 years old.  On the aerobic side of things you lose about 10 percent of your aerobic capacity each decade after age 40. There is potential to lose as much as 25 percent of bone in both sexes, as a result of inactivity, sitting to much and menopausal transition in women. With all this decline comes balance issues and additional problems with functionality, that could ultimately lead to a loss of independence.

Write down what you and your body really need to get out of all this time you invest in yourself with exercise. You don’t own it until you write it down.

Needs Analysis

Prior to beginning any type of exercise program, it is essential that you undergo a needs analysis. The goal of this analysis is to create clearly defined goals that will help you make the most progress from your training. Ask yourself, what does your body really need at this point in time? Maybe you need more mobility work and less pounding (running) or loading (lifting weights). You may have been doing a lot of strength or cardio work but how is your balance? When was the last time you treated yourself to a good massage or took a yoga class? Find out what you need (by testing yourself) and set some goals.

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Mobility work: Thoracic spine rotation. Photo credit: http://huffingtonpost.com

Assessment

Work with a coach and complete an assessment to determine where you stand regarding the following areas:

  • Body Composition
  • Strength
  • Power
  • Aerobic/Anaerobic ability
  • Mobility
  • Flexibility
  • Balance

Ask yourself: How do you judge improvement if you don’t measure it?

Exercise Program

This is where most of us get lost and end up wasting a great deal of time. The first goal is to find out what’s tight and lengthen it and then what’s weak and strengthen it. The second goal should be to get an individual to move better, also known as movement competency. Once an individual can execute a movement efficiently and with full range of motion, then and only then should the volume be increased. When someone cannot execute a particular movement pattern correctly, do not increase repetitions, the number of sets or especially the load.

Focus on primary movement patterns using the Big 6 when it comes to your routine and don’t sweat the small stuff:

  • Squat
  • Hip Hinge
  • Carry
  • Lunge
  • Push
  • Pull

An optimum training program should increase strength, power, improve cardiovascular fitness and more. A strength and conditioning program should change body composition by way of adding lean muscle tissue and decreasing body fat. Balance should improve and flexibility and mobility should increase. But you won’t know if you don’t periodically measure it. Is this the case for you?

Focus on adding in a bout of sprint work to your weekly cardio routine. This can come in the form of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) involving, as an example, sprinting or rowing. Focus more on quality rather than quantity when it comes to HIIT and remember the key is manipulating the intensity.

Finally, focus on adding in more mobility work each time you exercise and make it part of your recovery process on off days.

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Foam Roller. Photo credit: http://t-nation.com

Prescription

  • Strength training (Big 6) 2-3x/week.
  • Fitness: Elevate your heart rate 2-3x/week for 15-30:00 (wear a heart rate monitor). Add HIIT at least once a week.
  • Power: work on vertical or horizontal jumping 1x/week (jump rope, box jumps, DOT drill, etc.)
  • Add more mobility work (foam roller etc.).
  • Do Yoga
  • Baseline/Follow-up Assessment

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