You do not have to fall apart as you get older - It is very possible to slow down or even hold back the ageing process. When we pass the age of 50, our bodies face a variety of anatomical and physiological changes. We can reverse or slow down these changes through regular physical activity.
Joseph Pilates said "the spine was the key to physical and emotional well-being. Neutral spine alignment is everything." He went on to say "If your spine is stiff at 30, you are old. If it is flexible at 60, you are young."
Pilates training develops deep core muscles in the back and abdomen to support the spine. Many people including myself, can adhere to his exercise system. It has true benefits to health as we grow older.
He was so ahead of his time. On a global scale, only over the last 25 years have we really taken onboard his ideas. His exercise system is the way forward for older people to enjoy later life. It can transform your all round mobility, strength, and posture well into your 80's and beyond.
If you take a look on YouTube at some footage of Joseph Pilates exercising in his later years, you can only be awe inspired by his physicality and mobility.
- Less production of testosterone
- Muscle loss including fast-twitch muscle
- Connective tissues less elastic with age
We are at our strongest and most powerful in our thirties. This remains constant up to our fifties.After this, we lose around 10 oz of muscle mass every year. By around 70, men and women will face a 40% reduction in muscle mass. Sound scary?
This muscle loss is due partly to less production of testosterone. The loss of muscle also includes fast-twitch muscle fibres (muscles used for quick movement). The risk of falling in the elderly is linked to this combination of decreased fast-twitch muscle and overall muscle loss.
Connective tissue becomes less elastic with age too, which explains why many elderly people complain of muscle stiffness.
Resistance exercises for older people show sustained or increased muscle strength, elasticity and muscle mass.
As we get older, muscle mass reduces whilst body fat increases. As mentioned earlier, this decline in muscle mass is due to less production of testosterone. Because muscle uses more calories than fat, the combination of muscle loss and fat increase slows down your metabolic rate.
Aerobic and resistance training can increase the muscle mass. After resistance training, the muscles burn fat to re-build and strengthen themselves. This is where the fat loss occurs. Using these exercises stops the onset of weight gain in the form of fat.
Changes in diet can also enhance your body composition in the ageing process. Increased protein intake combined with reduced carbohydrates, will help maintain muscle mass and reduce body fat. Unless you reduce your calorie intake with age, you will naturally gain weight in the form of fat.
As we get older, our bodies weaken. Known as 'Kyphosis', the shoulders round and the head comes further forward.
Weight-bearing exercise or resistance training helps keep the skeletal and muscular system strong, thus preserving your back in the correct position for a good body posture.
This is the term used to describe how we walk. With age, the speed and stride length decreases. The pelvis can tilt and ankle movement can reduce.
- Core strength training keeps the abdominals strong which stops the pelvic tilt.
- Regular mobility exercises maintains good mobility in the ankles.
- Moderate aerobic exercise sustains good stride length and frequency.
Being fit and strong into your 80's and beyond is very doable. The most sensible way to start a fitness program, especially if you are new to training, is to consult a professional gym instructor or personal trainer. They will assess your current health and fitness levels before setting up a training program that suits your needs and yours alone. As you gain in strength and fitness, your trainer will notch up your aerobic and resistance exercises. Don't worry, your fitness instructor will manage your exercise regime so it is always safe and progressive.
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