We’re all getting older. How do we keep getting fitter?
There’s no particular age at which the question first appears. Some people start getting concerned about the affects of aging when they approach 40, and some when they’re staring down at 30.
I’ve actually heard a 27-year-old complain about getting old!
With the current life expectancy at about 82 in Canada, where I live, and about 78 in the US, it seems a bit ridiculous to me that people panic about things “going downhill”, often before they’re halfway through their estimated lives.
And let’s not forget that these ideas can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
You start to think you’re too old to ride roller coasters or play a pick-up game of basketball or bungee jump or still have a 6-pack and you stop trying to do those things.
People stop being active after college and start eating out regularly and travelling for their stressful job and then blame the extra fat around their midsections on getting older.
The truth is that many of the side effects we normally associate with aging are more the result of a change in lifestyle than they are of the passing years. Now, I’m not saying that you’ll keep your 21-year-old line-free face without a boatload of botox. Or that your skin won’t be a little looser and more wrinkly as the years pass.
But why the hell does that matter when you can squat your bodyweight, do 20 full push-ups, feel great (and not broken!) after a day running around with your kids, or have 10% body fat?
When you focus on what matters you’ll feel proud of what you’re achieving as you get older.
So what’s the most important way to maintain fitness as you get older?
As you might have guessed, it’s the same thing I recommend for my clients in their 20s:
Prioritize building and maintaining muscle mass.
While people in their 20s can more easily maintain muscle mass because of higher natural levels of testosterone and growth hormone, muscle hypertrophy becomes slightly harder to achieve and maintain as you enter your mid-30s and 40s.
The more muscle mass you’re able to attain, the more you can afford to lose when the slight and (somewhat) inevitable decline that comes with the passing decades.
So weight-training, 3-5 times per week is the key to healthy aging.
And jumping around doing different exercises every day isn’t going to cut it.
Progressive weight training, where you increase your weights on foundational exercises as your neuromuscular coordination and strength improves, builds muscle predictably and keeps your injury rate down.
In order to make the most of all that training, you need to fuel yourself with the right quantity and quality of food. Make sure you’re eating enough calories so that you have something to build muscle with. Prioritize protein, at about 1g per pound of bodyweight, and try it get it from to a variety of sources (chicken & other poultry, fish, lean red meat, some dairy, nuts, beans, legumes) so that you’re also getting plenty of micronutrients.
Without protein, your body won’t be able to repair and build muscle…and we’ve already established that’s what you want.
So whether you’re 29 or 49, more muscle mass will keep you healthy, young, and fit.
So it’s time to hit the gym!