This is part four on our series that has been taking you through age related changes that have an impact on overall fitness and health. We started in the teenage years that talked about how hormonal changes make it the best time to be physically active. We then went decade by decade to where we are now: starting with the sixties and going to the point where you die, age related changes that have an effect on your fitness level.

Fitness In The Elderly

To sum up the past several decades, your teenage years and the decade of the twenties, your body spent its time on overdrive, pumping out hormones to help with bone growth, muscle growth, and the best neurological functioning of your life. Basically, your body was at its optimal level for functioning. For those that took advantage of these years through good nutrition and fitness programs, congrats. For those that didn’t, well, your body probably took more of a decline than those who were active but don’t worry, even for the elderly, all is not lost. Here’s some of the age related changes that you should be aware of starting at the sixties and extending into the eighties and up until the rest of your life. This post will be a two part post. Part one will be addressing muscle and bone loss related changes in your elderly years and part two will include nutrition, cardiovascular, and neurological changes that all have an impact on fitness levels as you get older.

Muscle Loss In The Elderly

By age sixty you’ve probably noticed how much harder it is to keep muscle mass on. Depending on your nutrition and overall fitness, by age sixty to seventy, there is about a ten to twenty percent of reduction in muscle power. By age eighty, there is a thirty to fifty percent of decline in muscle mass and strength. The main cause: your fast twitch muscle fibers (responsible for speed and power) have degraded quite a bit since your youth in your twenties. The good news: your slow twitch muscle fibers can become larger to compensate.

Although as age progresses you won’t have the same power as you once did in your youth, you can still keep your muscles sharp by making sure you use them. Make high intensity weight training a part of your workout. Stimulating muscles also helps to put stress on your bones – which is a good thing. Fitness activities that include weights help to slow and prevent osteoporosis.

Along with your muscles, the elasticity in your muscle fibers, tendons, and ligaments just aren’t what they used to be. More time will have to be spent on warming up AND recovery. If you’re not putting flexibility exercises into your workout routine, now is a time to start. It helps prevent injury and also increases blood flow to tissue. Remaining flexible is also a key component for preventing chronic pain issues.

Aging and Bone Loss

Like we talked in fitness in your thirties, forties, and fifties, all that bone that you packed on during your teens and twenties has already started to look more like a sponge than your last t-bone steak. By age fifty, women have lost about twenty to thirty percent of their bone loss and men have lost about twelve percent. Sorry girls, you tend to lose more than men because of hormonal changes related to a drop in estrogen after menopause.

The good news is that if you’re including at least moderate resistance weight exercise to your workouts, can have a huge effect on the amount of bone lost and can help slow down age related bone loss. In fact, exercise routines that include weight resistance can help to increase mineral re-absorption back into the bone.

Fitness Tip: engage your core. Age related bone loss causes a decrease in height of your spinal column. What this means for you is that you might start experiencing some chronic back pain. A strong core helps to stabilize your spine. Oddly enough, the longer you can hold the position of a plank, the less likely you are to have chronic back pain.

This sums up part one of age related changes that have an impact on the elderly when it comes to fitness. Part two will take off where this post left off and include changes that have effects on fitness related to nutrition, neurological, and cardiovascular changes.

Sources:

1. Clark, M., Corn, R., Lucett, S. NASM Essentials Of Personal Training. National Academy Of Sports Medicine. Baltimore: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. 2008. Print. 238, 380-381.
2. Porth, Carol Mattson, RN, MSN, PhD. Matfin, Glenn, MB ChB, DGM, FFPM, FACE, FACP, FRCP. Pathiophysiology: Concepts of Altered Health States. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health | Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. Print. 40-45.
3. Hampl, Jeffry S. Wardlaw, Gordon, M. Perspectives in Nutrition. 7th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Companies Inc., 2007. 197-198. Print. 666-672, 680.
4. Berk, L. Development Through The Lifespan. Bostom: Pearson Education Inc. 2007. Print. 568-576.
5. Fitness In Your Thirties, Forties, and Fifties
6. Fitness In Your Twenties
7. Fitness and Nutrition In Teens and Adolescents