We train many Taylored Training members who are 60 plus.
They are strong, fit, dedicated and they train so they can look their best, feel their best, travel the world, watch their kids gets married become grandparents, and live life to the fullest!
So often when I hear about “seniors fitness programs” it is mostly comprised of lifting 3-5lbs weights, mini band exercises and training while seated on a ball or worse, stuck in a piece of exercise equipment.
How do we think that our 60+ population, whom with modern medicine, will most likely live another 20 to 30 years are best served by this style of training?
Going to get groceries, picking up grandchildren, traveling the world and doing so without injuries, back pain, apprehensiveness or difficulty SHOULD be the focus of their training.
It has to change.
Just like training our members who are 14-59, we need to train our senior population to have quality mobility, strength and a fitness capacity to easily do anything they want to do!
Have you ever tried to keep up with a two year old? Well I did recently when I visited my niece. She is busy and on the move. The ability to pick her up, run beside her and squat down to have a ‘cup of tea’ are all activities I enjoyed and I want all grandparents out there to also enjoy!
Here are the facts and what needs to change:
We seem to want to decrease activity with age, especially when seniors are hospitalized and this makes no sense.
According to a 2009 estimate, senior hospital patients spend over 95% of their time in bed. This in turn has lead to ‘posthospital syndrome’ a transient state of heightened vulnerability following hospitalization that is associated with an increased risk of functional decline and more often than not, readmission to hospital facilities for patients.
This means that after just a single hospital visit seniors see a huge decrease in mobility and function leading to a need to then leave their homes and decrease their ability to be independent.
Since we know that this is just a reality, what is the answer?
Although there are many attempts to create senior fitness programs as an avenue for preventative treatment, the type of fitness programming must change.
Recent ground breaking research studied nearly 6,000 adults. Researchers found that those participants who showed the greatest signs of cellular aging came from those who led sedentary lifestyles.
Adults who participated in high intensity exercise, such as 30-40 minutes of strength training and/or interval work 5 days per week, kept cells 9 years younger than their birthday cakes would suggest.
Researched noted that the intensity of the physical activity was key.
“If you think you can age 9 years slower by having a quick walk to the shops or brief go on the bike forget it – the team found no significant difference in telomere length between those with low- to moderate- intensity exercise levels and couch potatoes”.
This is hugely important when it comes to fitness programming and education. Since time is of the utmost value, especially as we age, why then waste time with completely ineffective forms of training?
How can we expect marching on the spot or seated bicep curls to help our seniors navigate obstacles on a sidewalk or in the winter months?
How can our senior population be independent to get their groceries if they are using 3-5lbs weights in their fitness classes then trying to carry 10-15lbs bags of groceries to their cars?
Speaking of cars. How can we expect this population to shoulder check while driving on the highway to visit the grandkids if they can’t move well and lack thoracic spine mobility?
How can they keep up with their 4-year-old grand daughter at the park if they don’t have the fitness level to quickly anticipate a fall from the monkey bars?
Speaking of falls, a serious issue for seniors, in a recent survey of 120 adults age 55 + in New York City, over 70% of those surveyed had fallen outdoors. Injuries scaled from scrapes and bruises, to prolonged soreness, fractures and surgery.
Now thinking back to our traditional training model of seated exercise with our senior population, can you see a direct correlation between their lack of physicality and movement and their higher risk for falling?
Our members are constantly challenged to get a little stronger everyday, move a little better and feel better. They are constantly learning new exercises and skills to challenge both their mental and physical fitness capabilities.
They are strong, fit and ready to tackle their retirement years on the golf course, tennis court or diving in Belize. They lift their grandchildren with ease, look forward to new adventures and learning new skills and they defy the stigma what being a ‘senior citizen’ looks like and feels like.
But is it possible to build muscle and strength in your 60’s and beyond?
Marcas Bamman, the director of UAB Center for Exercise and Medicine has found in his lab that despite popular belief that seniors can’t build muscle and strength that “older muscles will grow and strengthen”. In his lab men and women in their 60’s and 70’s who began supervised weight training developed muscles that were as large and strong as those of the average 40 year old.
According to Bamman the key is regular and progressive weight training. He says in order to initiate the biochemical processes that lead to longer, stronger fibers you should push your muscles until they are exhausted. The intensity is progressive overload but slowly increasing the amount of weight used is key.
So to answer my original question, soup cans, seated workouts and mini-bands just aren’t the answer. They just don’t provide the necessary challenge to improve the strength, flexibility, agility, balance and conditioning for our seniors. Training our seniors to be strong, agile, fit and independent is.