Exercise and Ageing

Have You Been Told To Act Your Age and Stop Running Or Exercising? Let’s Bust the Myth that You Shouldn’t Exercise Just Because You Are Getting Older. 

What Happens to the Body as We Age?

It is widely known that as we age we begin to lose muscle and cardiorespiratory fitness (endurance) levels. Both muscle mass and cardiorespiratory fitness generally peaks in your 30’s, following which they begin to slowly reduce, this process generally speeds up between the ages of 65 and 80. Whilst these reductions obviously reduce overall strength and fitness levels, they can also cause issues in other areas, most notably balance; This is one of a few reasons that falls increase as you age; Falls are the leading cause of hospitalisation and death in Australia. This is something that isn’t talked about enough and needs to be changed. As we age the risk of other comorbidities also increases, these are conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular/heart disease, and cancers.

What Can We Do About This?

Just because these things happen doesn’t mean there is nothing we can do about it. Whilst it is impossible to reverse these things from happening completely, it has been shown that muscular changes (that result in increased strength and muscular endurance) can still occur as we age. For men, this occurs at a similar rate no matter the age, however, for women, this process is blunted compared to younger women; This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t still do this exercise, this actually highlights the importance of training (especially for women) as you age. The same is true in terms of cardiorespiratory fitness levels, the less we exercise the quicker they can decline; And the more we exercise as we age the more we can get back. 

Exercising has also been shown to reduce the risk of many of the comorbidities talked about earlier. Exercise can act as a protective factor for conditions such as strokes, diabetes, some cancers, cardiovascular/heart disease. Exercise can also improve mental health and quality of life and has been shown in some cases to delay the onset of dementia.

Is it True That I Can Exercise but I Will Never be as Fit or Strong as Someone Younger? NO, THIS IS 100% NOT TRUE.

It is easy to be disheartened with exercise because you have to work hard and don’t always see the same results as you think younger people are getting, but guess what? Exercise can keep you fitter, stronger, and more importantly healthier than younger people, especially younger people who do not train. Let’s take a look at this picture of the difference in some triathletes at different ages compared to a sedentary person:

In the picture above, we have 3 cross sections of people’s thighs (what you would see if you cut it in half and looked down). The white that you can see in the middle of the legs is bone, and the white you can see outside the darker colour (which is especially prominent in the middle picture of the 74-year-old sedentary man) is fat tissue. As we can see here, the 74-yr-old triathlete and the 40-year-old triathlete have legs with practically the same amount of muscle, whereas the 74-year-old sedentary man has a large reduction in muscle mass and a large increase in fat mass around the legs. This proves to us that with the continued use of exercise you are able to stay strong and fit which lowers your risk of all cause mortality significantly. This means that the chance of injury or even death for the majority of cases is heavily reduced if we can just stay fit and strong.

I Don’t Like Exercising, How Can I Stay Fit and Strong?

Not everyone likes exercising and that’s okay. There are plenty of tips that we can use to make exercise more enjoyable. Here are some good ideas that you can use to make exercise suit you: 

  • Take the dog for a walk – This one is great because it is something that your dog really loves, dogs need to be walked at least once or twice a day to ensure they don’t make your house look like a cyclone has gone through it. If you can incorporate two 10 minute walks into your day this is a really good start. 
  • Find an exercise buddy: Sometimes exercise is seen as boring, this can seem especially boring if you are thinking the whole time about how hard it is. A great way to get around this is to find a friend who you can go on walks/complete exercises with, this can be a great way to distract each other as you are talking about things that aren’t related to exercise, you may find that time really flies once you stop thinking about it. 
  • Take the stairs: Whether you are going to work, the shops, or just walking around with your friends, choosing to take the stairs is a nice easy way to make sure you are getting the extra exercise in without having to take too much extra time out of your day. 
  • Do a class: There are a bunch of exercise classes for people of all different fitness levels or exercise tastes. You have got dance classes, strength classes, balance classes, and cardio classes, just to name a few.
  • Make everyday activities like exercise: This one is nice and easy, every time you stand up from a chair do it 5x, or every time you bring a cup down from the shelf, bring it down and put it up 5x. Doing this will help you get your strength up in small increments without adding too much extra time to these activities.

There You Have It.

  • We have now gone through many of the benefits of exercising as we age. We hope you now know some benefits of exercise that you didn’t used to know. We also hope if exercise hasn’t been something that you enjoy in the past that some of these suggestions can help you with that. 

If you have any questions, are unsure what type of exercise you should do, or would like a program tailored specifically to your needs come down to Peakhurst Physio, our physios specialise in getting you exercising the appropriate way to make your life better.

If you would like to know more please click Here to book with one of our experienced Physios.

By Peakhurst Physio

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