- Your metabolism decreases with age, by about 10% from your 30’s to your 60’s, and a further 10% from your 60’s forward. This means you main gain fat more easily.
- Your maximum oxygen consumption decreases by significantly each decade from 25 to 65 years of age, and then decelerates even more quickly – which means intense cardiovascular efforts can be very difficult.
- You grow less responsive to energy stimulating hormones called catecholamines (like epinephrine), and as a result, your maximum heart rate decreases, which also can decrease the intensity of hard efforts.
- The total amount of blood your heart pumps per beat and the ability of your muscles to extract oxygen from that blood decrease, which can affect your cardiovascular capacity.
- Your muscle strength peaks around 25 years old, plateaus through 35 or 40 years old, and then begins to decline quickly, with 25% loss of peak strength by the time you’re 65. This is due to a loss in the number of muscle fibers.
- Your tendon, ligament, and joint elasticity is decreased as “cross-linkages” form between soft tissue fibers in these areas. This can cause a loss of 2-4 inches of lower-back and hip flexibility.
- Your bone density decreases as the calcium content of bones gets lower and the matrix inside the bone begins to deteriorate, which can lead to increased risk of osteoporosis or fractures, especially in women.
Based on the list above, activities to slow aging should focus upon:
- Muscle Strength
Weight lifting machines are perfect for introducing your body to exercise, especially since there is significantly lower risk of falling or injury. Free weights and elastic bands can be included once comfortable with machines. A 68-year-old friend of mine recently became certified as a TRX instructor, and this is certainly more challenging, but completely do-able, even for senior exercisers.
- Cardiovascular Endurance
Treadmills can easily be used by slow aging, and can actually help with building both cardiovascular fitness and balance, since a rail is there to help if you need it. Elliptical trainers and bicycles are also good for cardiovascular endurance, and for beginners, a recumbent bicycle is a great option.
Rather than simply riding a bicycle at a set pace, if you’re aging, you should go out of your way to attempt to include a few hard intervals that involve hard breathing and burning muscles. This will help to boost the slowing metabolism.
- Bone Density
Bone grows stronger in response to loading and impact. While impact-sprinting on a treadmill may be difficult for you, loading of the bones and spinning along the long vertical axis is a very good idea, and can be achieved with exercises such as squats, overhead presses, chest presses, or lunges.
While many yoga classes require a degree of balance that can be difficult for seniors, a beginner yoga class is the perfect solution for improving flexibility. In addition, you can include a full body stretch routine after exercise, when the muscles and joints are more warm and pliable.
A Workout Program To Slow AgingTo a program that address the variable listed above, I’d recommend starting with the following routine, 3-4 times per week:
- Warm-up for 10 minutes on a recumbent bicycle, alternating 2 minutes of easy pedaling with 2 minutes of hard pedaling.
- Perform a full-body stretch, including flexibility moves for the upper and lower body such as arm circles, leg circles, toe touches, reaching for the sky, and torso twists.
- Do a full body circuit on exercise machines that consists of 2-3 sets of 10-12 repetitions of chest press, seated row, shoulder press, pulldown, leg press and leg extension and leg curl.
- Finish with abdominal bracing on the ground, which simply involves lying on the ground with the knees bent and feet flat on the floor, then pressing the low back down and tightening the abs, holding for 5-10 seconds, releasing, and then repeating for 10-12 repetitions. This does not involve low back bending and extending, and can build abdominal strength while being easier on the spine.