Diets don't work: Speedy at 60, nimble at 90, exercise is key in old age
Our Diets don't work blog is by Ascot-based personal trainer Adam Atkinson. He offers health and fitness advice on our websites each month.
Last week saw numerous media reports on Dr Charles Eugster who broke the 200m indoor running record in the over 95 category. The elderly runner only started competing on the running circuit last year, but also managed to set a new British record for the 60m which he completed in an impressive 15.32 seconds.
Although new to running. Mr Eugster has previously won 40 gold medals in rowing and commented “it proves you can set challenges and goals at any age and still achieve them”.
In fact, the older we get, the greater the benefits of exercise are. In training there is a well-known law of diminishing returns. This means that the fitter and stronger you get, the harder you have to work for smaller gains. An Olympic sprinter, for example, has to train for four years for a gain of just tenths or hundreths of a second. However, the inverse is true; so the less fit and strong you are, the easier and faster you will get fit once you start training. This also applies as we age. The older we get the less stable our joints become and the less muscle we have. Yet just a few exercise sessions a week is all it takes to stop and even reverse this decline.
Fitness and strength in old age also have a bigger impact on our quality of life.
Let’s take an overweight and unfit 20 year old as an example. Although unfit, he can still get around, get up stairs and generally enjoy life. Yet if we take this example and fast forward 40 years, being unfit has far worse implications: inability to look after yourself; inability to do simple tasks like going up stairs or going for the weekly shop; almost the difference between life and death.
So as we age the benefits of fitness are even greater than when we were younger. It’s the difference between playing football with your grandchildren or having to watch from the sidelines. Being able to go for a walk in the country with your family or staying at home.
At Diets Don’t Work PT we have seen many of these examples in the real world. We have a 70-year-old who takes her grandson to touch rugby….and plays in one of the games; we have a 64-year-old who, although new to the rowing machine and formerly 18+ stone, won a silver medal at the British indoor rowing championships. We even have an 84-year-old grandma who no longer needs social support and is now fit and fully independent.
Science also backs this up. Two studies released last week (one from the US and one from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm) show that exercise and healthy eating can slow and even reverse the effects of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in the elderly.
So it’s never too late. In fact the older you are the greater the real-world benefits of exercise will be. Just two or three sessions a week is all it takes!
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Adam Atkinson www.dietsdontwork.co.uk
07830 148300/0800 0407526 firstname.lastname@example.org