You Want To Age Gracefully,
Lifelong Physically Activity Is A Must
what is supposed to happen when you grow old. You will slow
down, you will grow weak, your steps will become short and mincing,
and you will lose your sense of balance. That’s what aging
researchers consistently find, and it’s no surprise to
most of us. However, if you stay physically active your entire
life, slow and weak are adjectives you will never use as you
It is worth remembering that the people in those studies were
sedentary, said Dr. Vonda Wright, a professor of orthopedics
at the University of Pittsburgh.
a 40-year-old runner, decided to study people who kept training
as they got older or began competing in middle age. She wanted
to know what happens to them and at what age does performance
start to decline.
are surprising, even to many of the researchers themselves.
The investigators find that while you will slow down as you
age, you may be able to stave off more of the deterioration
than you thought. Researchers also report that people can start
later in life one man took up running at 62 and ran his
first marathon, a year later, in 3 hours 25 minutes.
a testament to how adaptable the human body is, researchers
said, that people can start serious training at an older age
and become highly competitive. It also is testament to their
findings that some physiological factors needed for a good performance
are not much affected by age.
say that you should be able to maintain your muscles as you
age, including the muscle enzymes needed for good athletic performance,
and you should be able to maintain your ability to exercise
for long periods near your so-called lactic threshold, meaning
you are near maximum effort.
have to know how to train, doing the right sort of exercise,
and you must keep it up.
hard and train often,” said Hirofumi Tanaka, a 41-year-old
soccer player and exercise physiologist at the University of
said he means doing things like regular interval training, repeatedly
going all out, easing up, then going all out again. These workouts
train your body to increase its oxygen consumption by allowing
you to maintain an intense effort.
of the major determinants of endurance performance is oxygen
consumption,” Dr. Tanaka said. “You have to make
training as intense as you can.”
have to choose between hard and often, choose hard, said Steven
Hawkins, an exercise physiologist at the University of Southern
performance is really determined more by intensity than volume,”
he added. “Sometimes, when you’re older, something
has to give. You can’t have both so you have to cut back
on the volume. You need more rest days.”
who says he no longer runs competitively, adds that he tries
to put his findings into practice. “I run a couple of
times a week and I try to make it as fast as I can,” he
said. “I’m not plodding along.”
exercise is rapidly gaining popularity among the over 40 demographic.
Doing bursts of hard exercise not only improves cardiovascular
fitness but also the bodys ability to burn fat, even during
low- or moderate-intensity workouts.
has also been amazed by some people who seem to defy the rules
of aging, people he describes as “those rare birds who
get faster.” Some
subjects in Dr. Hawkins’s research study, which followed
runners for nearly two decades, actually had better times when
they were 60 than when they were 50.
really don’t know why,” Dr. Hawkins confessed. “Maybe
they were training harder.”
are people like the 62-year-old man who suddenly took up running
and began running fast marathons. That man’s inspiration
to become a runner, said James Hagberg, an exercise physiologist
at the University of Maryland, was watching a lakefront marathon
in Milwaukee. “He got all fired up,” Dr. Hagberg
are people like Imme Dyson, a 71-year-old runner. She took up
running when she was 48 and loved it, she says, from the moment
she put on a pair of running shoes. Her daughter, who had been
a college triathlete, told her how to train.
said, ‘Mom, if your workout didn’t hurt, you didn’t
work hard enough,’ ” Ms. Dyson said.
consistently really is the recipe,” she said. And it has
made a difference for her, allowing her to run races, from 5K
to marathons, so fast that she is consistently among the best
in the nation in her age group. She has run a 15K cross-country
race in 1:19:08, a pace of 8:29 a mile. And she ran a 10K race
in 51 minutes 50 seconds, a pace of 8:20 a mile.
aging athlete does so well. But Dr. Hagberg found that studies
of aging athletes sometimes were distorted because they included
people who had cut back on or stopped training. That’s
understandable; there is no reason, researchers say, to exhort
everyone to maintain an intense effort decade after decade.
have to be an athlete to age gracefully. Even non-athletes and
people who maintain a vigorously active lifestyle as they age,
are stronger, less prone to disease and gain less weight than
people who exercise at more moderate levels. The time to think
about exercise is before you think you need it.
Turano on Exercise Intensity
Body Performance's Steven Turano explains how
fatloss and the biochemistry of your body is influenced
by exercise intensity, specifically as you age.