by Chris Raymond
Can you reverse the effects of aging and turn back the clocks of Father Time? Someone eating a healthy diet and exercising often still can experience a decline in physical performance and have an increase in debilitating injury. Even some of the most highly trained athletes experience some sort of decline of about 1% to 1.5% per year until the age of 70, in which a more dramatic decrease can occur (Meltzer,D. Age dependence of Olympic weightlifting ability. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 1994). This is why everyone should be aware of the physiological changes that occur with aging and the trainability of older individuals. In addition, the potential health risks associated with physical inactivity for older individuals need to be considered. This article will address some of the age-related changes in health, the age related changes in neuromotor function, and some program design considerations of how to slow down the process of aging.
Age related changes in musculoskeletal health are significant to look at because of the major effects it has on body composition (BMI, body fat percentage, Lean Body Mass) and the physical function of the body that can lead to impairments and injury. The term osteopenia refers to a bone mineral density of -1 to -2.5 standard deviations and osteoporosis is defined as a bone mineral density of -2.5 SD which results in bones with more fragility and less strength. Poor bone mineral density is linked to a higher risk of skeletal fractures and less physical inactivity. The term sarcopenia refers to the loss of muscle mass and strength and is typically associated with advancing age. One study by the American College of Sports Medicine, Exercise and Physical Activity for Older Adults, says that after the age of 30 there is a decrease in the cross-sectional areas of individual muscles, along with a decrease in muscle density, reductions in tendon compliance, and an increase in intramuscular fat. This means muscles have a reduction in size and strength as we age and we store more fat within muscle.
Age related changes in neuromotor function are seen with an increased risk of falling which can lead to serious health consequences effecting overall quality of life. The one good thing that research has shown with aging is that the body does not lose the ability to adapt to resistance training. Improvements in muscular strength, bone mineral density, Muscles mass and functional capacity in gait or activities of daily living are all benefits from a progressive resistance training program. A recent interview of Cary Nosler, a health guru over the age of 70, talks about some of his personal experiences in aging and fitness. He talks about how recovery, personality, goals and diet are essential to aging well. Recovery from injuries and work outs just take longer. High intensity work out that once took a day to recover may require multiple days. Cary mentions that “you must be true to yourself” when it comes to what you should expect from your body. Having immediate goals that can contribute to success are better for preservation of the body.
Program design considerations for older adults for many years have been aerobic fitness. It is important to recognize that resistance and aerobic training are just components of a well-rounded program. Other components such as balance, flexibility, and postural stability training must be included as well. The program design for older adults is similar to that of a younger person but with more considerations. A universal approach of one set of 8-12 repetitions at a low intensity gradually increasing intensity and volume is recommended.
Chris Raymond is the full time instructor for the Personal Fitness Trainer program at MTTI. This program prepares students to become ACSM certified personal trainers which is the gold standard in the industry. In addition, students are trained in program design, wellness coaching, health and fitness assessments, and essential business topics such as marketing, sales, and organizational skills. Chris is passionate about raising the industry standard for personal training and bringing like-minded individuals together to be successful in the industry. “Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.” – Jim Rohn