People turning 50 may want
to consider tweaking their exercise routines because as they age stiffer
joints, slower recovery from injury and the loss of lean body mass are among
the perils facing the youngest baby boomers, fitness experts say.
Studies have shown that
even a 90-year-old can build muscle, so the half-century mark is a good time to
retire joint-stressing high jumps and to start lifting dumbbells to build
strength.'Strength Training Past 50'
Dr Wayne Westcott,
co-author of the book "Strength Training Past 50," said maintaining
lean body mass becomes harder with ageing.
"The average man in
good shape is about 85% lean weight, organs, blood, bones, muscles and
skin, to 15% fat. The average healthy woman has a 75/25 ratio,"
said Westcott, fitness research director at the South Shore YMCA in Quincy,
"It's more challenging
with age but if you do strength training you can maintain your lean muscle to
about age 70," he said, adding that an older woman who doesn't resistance
train will lose up to 10 pounds (4.5 kilos) of lean mass per decade.
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Westcott places equal value
on cardiovascular training.
approximately 20 to 30 minutes of resistance exercises two to three times a
week. Then try to have an equal amount of aerobic activity four to five days a
week," he explained.
Westcott added that older
adults, who are hitting the gym in increasing numbers, might want to avoid
explosive, high velocity activities, such as high jumps.
In 1990 there were 1.9
million health club members aged 55 and above, while in 2012 there were over 10
million, according to a 2014 report by the trade association IHRSA
(International Health, Racquet & Sports club Association).
Dr Barbara Bushman of the
American College of Sports Medicine said regular physical activity, rather than
a sedentary lifestyle, has the potential to minimize the physiological changes
that occur with age and inactivity, in addition to limiting the progression of
"Older adults can
benefit from exercise, and although absolute improvements may be less than for
younger adults, relative increases can be similar," Bushman said, adding
that older adults may take longer to make improvements.
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Why weight training is important?
At 54, Florida-based
fitness trainer and wellness coach Shirley Archer noticed that if she did not
weight train she lost lean body muscle at a faster rate. She also found it
harder to get it back.
Happily for Archer, who has
enjoyed running, cycling and hiking, her endurance activities remain unaffected
by her aging.
"I feel that I have
not lost any endurance," said Archer, author of the book "Fitness 9
to 5: Easy Exercises for the Working Week."
People lose muscle fibres as they age
As people age, she
explained, they lose muscle fibres that produce quick powerful bursts before fibres
that are engaged in endurance activities such as running or cycling.
She said that is why older
athletes, who cannot physically compete against younger athletes when it comes
to strength and power, can remain competitive in endurance sports.
The ageing exerciser also
faces longer warm-up and recovery times, as the body is stiffer and slower to
heal, Archer said. And the burning of fewer calories means paying even more
attention to diet.
Staying hydrated is also
"We need to be sure to
hydrate even if we don't feel particularly thirsty," she said.
"Hydration will keep all systems working much more efficiently - and even
help keep our thinking clear."
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