Do not go gentle into that good night: Exercising as we age

Keeping moving as we age is much more important than is often given consideration too and it is often just accepted that as we get older we can do and will do less. From our 30’s we start to lose muscle mass, medically known as sarcopenia, at a rate of up to 3-5% per decade in those who are physically inactive. So given that most people have sedentary jobs, if you buy into the idea that as you get older you can do less then it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy, especially where the accepted inactivity alongside the sedentary job push us towards the 3-5% figure.

There are a number of reasons for sarcopenia occurring which include;

  • Age-related reduction in nerve cells responsible for sending signals from the brain to the muscles to initiate movement
  • A decrease in the concentrations of some hormones, including growth hormone, testosterone, and insulin-like growth factor
  • A decrease in the body’s ability to synthesize protein
  • Inadequate intake of calories and/or protein to sustain muscle mass

Yet whilst we can’t stop the process from occurring we can take steps to significantly slowing the process down.  Simply remaining active will mitigate some of the effects and slow down the rate of muscle loss and the addition of resistance training, 2-3 times per week, will significantly slow down the rate of tissue loss.The use of resistance training has been shown to  positive effect the neuromuscular system, hormone concentrations and protein synthesis, three of the major factors in muscle loss.

If I can take my Grandad as an example he was physically active through his working life as a panel beater, switching from a 20lb sledge hammer to a 14lb one only 3-4 years before he retired, worked in his garden every weekend, and in the evenings during the summer, and on retiring took our family dog out walking for a couple of hours along with my other Grandad and his dog every day the weather permitted. He remained active until a few months before he died and while he slowed down he didn’t stop. I know several men in the mid fifties, not old be any means but definitely an age where it seems acceptable to do less, who would put men half their age to shame in terms of their physical abilities, one can squat  twice his body weight, press his body weight overhead and run 5km in under 22 minutes.

For further inspiration here are a couple of links to Ross Enamait’s blog. The first is of a 92 year old man in a powerlifting competition, he deadlifts 130kg as part of it, and the second is of an 81 year old man doing a number of feats that would be impressive regardless of his age.

Here is a link to Dan John’s blog about how simple the resistance work can be.

Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *