One gripe of mine is the notion that your body changes for the worse as you get older. Received wisdom says that we lose muscle; our metabolism slows; and we generally go down a slippery slope that leads to death as soon as the clock strikes midnight on our 30th birthday.
I disagree with most of this. For example, we lose muscle at a rate of about 8 per cent over a 10 year period without preventative action – hardly catastrophic! In terms of metabolism. Any slow down can normally be explained by general inactivity and the loss of muscle it brings about. Lifestyle decisions, in other words. So by training regularly, avoiding stress at home and in the workplace, and by resting well, you'll feel just as vibrant in your middle years as you did in your formative years.
Also by continuing to exercise as you get older you will lower your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, obesity, chronic back pain and osteoporosis helping you to stay fit and healthy with age. If that isn't a reason to keep active and keep up your exercise regime, I don't know what is!
The vast majority of any muscular losses can be halted. Muscle mass can be regained through structured resistance training.
Two total body resistance training sessions per week will help you keep your existing muscle mass and if you follow the principle of progressive load and consume enough calories, you can even substantially increase your muscle mass.
Resistance Training Exercises
Try a basic set of basic compound exercises, such as Barbell Squat, Barbell Deadlift, Bent Over Barbell Row, Barbell Bench Press, Military Press, Barbell Shrug. That will help you maintain your muscle mass long into your 40s – and beyond. Stick to low rep ranges (5-8), and try to do 3 sets of each twice a week.
Balance and Proprioception Training
Incorporating exercises into your training that help to keep your sense of balance firm and core strong, will help you to maintain your body's stability and maintain the ability to work at a higher level and avoid injury.
Try exercises such as Superman, One legged TRX squat, One legged medial Dumbbell Raises and Planks.
Mobility and Flexibility
Invest more time into improving your mobility and flexibility – otherwise you risk losing your range of movement as the years pass. While yoga isn't for everyone, a short daily mobility drill only takes five minutes and is an excellent way to start the day, allowing you to kickstart your body after a night's sleep. It will also give you longevity in your training, helping to stall issues such as poor posture, neck and lower back pain.
Mobility and Flexibility Exercises
Aim to rotate your hips, shoulders, knees and ankles, and open up the spine. Simple exercises like Squats, Lunges, Cat Stretches are all an excellent idea.
Cardio will help you burn calories, raise your metabolism and keep your heart functioning well.
I recommend a mixture of low and high intensity cardio each week.
Low intensity activities will help you shed fat while also cultivating an active lifestyle that will hopefully establish habits you will carry on through your later years.
When exercising at a low intensity you're aiming to train at a specific heart rate – somewhere around the 105-120 beats per minute band, which is the zone where your body burns fat for energy.
Low Intensity Cardio Exercises
Try activities such as walking, cycling, dancing and swimming. The benefits of swimming are numerous: it improves your coordination, enhances your cardio system, aids fat loss, and gives you a top-to-toe stretch while you're at it. There's also the all-important low-to-no impact element: because you're not pounding the floor, your muscles and joints will thank you the next morning.
High intensity cardio should be done once or twice per week to help stimulate your metabolism and keep your high output fitness levels maintained.
High Intensity Cardio Exercises
You can perform these workouts with your own body weight, using exercises like Squats, Planks, X-jumps and Burpees. Try interval training protocols like Tabata drills to add structure and timing to your workouts.
Rest and listen to your body!
As you age, one of the more important considerations to make is that whilst you can still perform at a very high level, you’ll notice that recovery takes a little longer. Hormone levels change a little and the joints have a little more wear and tear on them. This just this means is that you need to take that extra rest day between training sessions. When needed, listen to your body!