One of the most iconic eras in American automotive technology was the development of the muscle car in the 1960s. From Ford’s Mustang to Chevy’s Corvette, all of the major companies built cars that not only looked great, but could also really perform. Soon, many will be turning 50.
Those that have had regular oil changes and the scheduled factory maintenance are still functioning out on the streets. Those that haven’t been serviced properly will probably be in junkyards. The physiological systems of the human body are similar to a car’s. With the proper fuel (nutrition), maintenance and operation, it’s possible to have a long, healthy and vibrant life full of enjoyable physical activity. Just like an abandoned car will fall apart over time, an individual who is sedentary, who makes poor nutritional choices and participates in risky lifestyle habits such as smoking or drinking too much alcohol, will experience the effects of rapid aging and possibly a premature death.
But the good news is that for most sedentary, deconditioned adults it’s possible to adopt healthier lifestyle habits that can restore the body to good health even into the later years of life, just like a car can be rescued from the trash heap and restored to good working order. Healthy behaviors such as regular physical activity, proper nutrition, hydration and effective sleep patterns are all recognized as effective means for reducing the risk of developing many chronic diseases that can occur during the aging process.
The following is what you need to know to ensure you keep your body in great, youthful shape as you get older.
- Do high-intensity resistance training
If you’re 50 and above, it’s not enough to just do low or moderate-intensity exercise. The research indicates that moderate-to-vigorous intensity when training is more effective for stimulating the hormone responsible for muscle growth. Exercise is physical stress applied to the body. High-intensity exercise two to three times a week can provide the mechanical or metabolic stress necessary to stimulate production of naturally occurring anabolic steroids, which promote muscle protein synthesis and increase lean muscle mass. These help mitigate the effects of aging. Speaking about his extensive research studying the impact of exercise on older master athletes, Professor Keijo Häkkinen, a leader in exercise and sports science, has pointed out that strength training seems to minimize age-related strength decreases at all ages, with master athletes at the age of 75 years “demonstrating higher absolute strength values than untrained men at the age of 40.” In other words high-intensity exercise can act like a fountain of youth.
- What is high intensity training?
Intensity refers to the amount of resistance used for strength training exercises. Using heavy resistance stimulates the body to produce testosterone, growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor (IGF) which help muscles produce new cells.
- You’re never too old
If you’re in your 50s or older you can still do the high-intensity stuff. With the appropriate progression of intensity you can and should participate in higher-intensity exercise as long as there are no medical concerns. Older adults who do high-intensity resistance training and cardio respiratory exercise can increase their strength and lean muscle mass, helping them to maintain youthful levels of energy.
- Mobility exercises help prevent injury
While strength training helps grow the contractile element of muscle, mobility training keeps you elastic and resilient and helps prevent injury. With mobility training you’re working the system of connective tissues including fascia and tendons. Yoga is a perfect example of mobility training because you’re only using your body weight. Another is a TRX workout where you are just moving in all planes of motion. It’s important to have one heavy strength training or power day, followed the next day by some kind of light movement day — doing something like a body workout.
- Plan your week
Mix up your high-intensity training with mobility and cardiorespiratory workouts. On a Monday do a high-intensity day, Tuesday is mobility day, Wednesday may be a cardio day and then Thursday or Friday you go high-intensity again – with Saturday and Sunday rest days. If the weekend is the best time for you to make it to the gym then one high-intensity strength training day during the week combined with one on the weekend can be enough to elevate muscle-building hormones. That way you’re only getting high intensity two times a week to develop muscle strength, then for two days a week you do low to moderate intensity movement training to develop tissue strength. It’s important to allow at least two days rest between heavy strength training days to allow the body to fully recover (that’s when the muscles grow new cells).
- Have carbs and protein post workout
As you age it’s important to have some sort of carbohydrate protein supplement when you’re doing training, because that can help support the rebuilding and tissue recovery process and protein synthesis. We always talk about nutrient timing for athletes but if you’re over 50 years old and you do a heavy training day you should have a recovery shake waiting for you right away. You should also have a recovery meal within 30 minutes of finishing training because it will help you recover quicker for what you want to do the next day.