Age is a defining factor in program development and progress, but not the sole determinant. To be more specific, the results of life on the body over time is something I consider with all programs, in that I look at the client's physical condition. The older a client is, the more time he or she had for life to wear the body down. Even the fittest people will wear down over time, us included. While we’re very fit, the cumulative effects of training, environment, genetic timers, etc. have affected the physical condition of our bodies. Age does affect training As humans age, the body undergoes physical stresses related to external and internal factors. For example, internally, cells wear down, die, and are replaced by other cells. Externally, the physical activity a person engages in wears down the body and the body must recover from this. As the body ages, it becomes less adept at handling these stresses. To that end, a person must compensate for them. Compensation in this context can mean many things, but a few examples are greater rest, reduced activity intensity, changes in diet including supplementation, and use of medicinal aids such as hormonal products. Gender makes a difference At Nathan DeMetz Personal Training, we treat both genders as equals. However, the body does not treat genders the same. Each sex has its own set of hormonal characteristics that define the body's outward characteristics and, to some degree, how the body functions. For example, women can have babies whereas men can't. Men are more prone to carry muscles mass whereas women are not. These gender difference play a role during all of life, but as we age, they play important roles in negative changes that occur. The abundance of primary hormones in men and women, testosterone and estrogen respectively, change over time. In aged populations, reduction in these hormones can cause changes in body composition, mental acuity, and physical performance. These are things that must be considered to a degree when pursuing health and fitness goals. You can still kick ass Regardless of age, gender, or other variables, such as previous injuries or current physical fitness, you can still kick ass. Sure, the fitter you are starting any program, the easier the program will be for you, most likely. That said, everyone has a starting point and yours is yours. I've watched 70-year-old people lift more than 20-somethings. I've seen 50-year-olds with ripped bodies. I've worked with 30- and 40-somethings who run marathons and squat hundreds of pounds. You can too. Or you can achieve whatever goal you hope to. You just need a good plan and put in the time as well as effort. Compensation for age When considering age as a factor for exercise programming, I consider two broad categories:
Adjusting for age-related physical issues
Adjusting for age-related life issues
These categories have multiple sub-sections, which are not necessarily exclusively connected to age, but can take on a distinct difference when considering older trainees. Adjusting for age-related physical issues The main areas to focus on when considering age-related physical issues are:
Injuries Injuries are former or current damage to tissues of the body that may impede progress toward or a goal or limit a person in another way. For example, if a person wants to build overall strength in a general (non-specific) manner, but this person has a shoulder injury that does not allow that person to overhead press, this injury will be a limiting factor until it heals. In that same line of thought, if a person previously broke his or her femur, yet it does not cause limitation, then it should not be a limiting factor. That said, I will want to keep an eye on that area, as it may be a weaker stress point in the body, which may be more susceptible to fatigue and injury as a result, especially if the injury occurred as an adult (adults generally do not see complete bone healing, whereas children can since the growth plates are still active). Surgeries While surgery considerations are related to injuries, many people do not view them the same. That is why I list them separately. In reality, the approach is no different than that for injuries. If the surgery has left a limiting factor, such as a pin the wrist that prevents full mobility of the same, then it must be accounted for as a limitation. If the pin is present with no limitation, then I still must keep an eye on it, since it may be a weak point, as mentioned above. Hormonal changes Over time, the hormones of the body change. This is partially attributable to natural changes that occur in the body due to normal changes and the breakdown of the internal parts or the diminishing performance of the same. However, how someone takes care of themselves plays a role as well. Maintenance of physical condition and the proper consumption of nutrients can help maintain hormonal function, while not doing so can impede hormonal balance. To counter hormonal imbalances, proper nutrition and physical care, as well as necessary doctor visits, can be essential. Slower recovery The slower recovery rate of persons as they age is documented in studies and anecdotal accounts. The exact reason for this slow recovery can be hard to pinpoint, as there may be more than one cause, and these causes can vary from person to person. Cellular aging (age-related) may be one cause but higher stress due to more responsibility (life-related) may be a cause as well. Hormone imbalances, injuries, cumulative physical stress, and poor diet, among other causes, may play a role as well. The method for countering these issues varies based on the presented problem and the severity of the same, but stress management, improved rest, better nutrition, and exercise intensity management, among other approaches, may help. Adjusting for age-related life issues
Work As an adult, work is something all people need to adjust for. That said, the 30+ crowd often have careers or at a minimum, greater life demands that mean work is a necessary evil. It comes before workouts in order of importance. The goal, then, is to find ways to fit workouts in around work. The way individuals do this varies. For many 9-5ers, the best approach is completing the workout before work, whereas persons who rise early for work may need to complete the workout after work. While this might seem simplistic in explanation, you must take a close look at your work schedule and determine what is the best time to work out, how long you can work out, and how many days you can work out. If you don't, and you try to "wing it," you'll find yourself with missed workouts and higher stress levels. Don't be that guy or gal. Spouse The spouse must be considered. He or she may not initially understand why the workouts are important to you, so making your significant other understand is important. This person must be supportive of your decision, but you must also remember to attend to them. That might seem silly, but imagine you leave for work before them, leave getting the kids to school or other morning activities as their responsibility. Now imagine you go to the gym right after work, and your spouse must pick up the kids after work and take care of activities such as shopping, picking up the kids, or making dinner. Your significant other might start to get pissed off and this does not make for a happy home life. Talk to your wife or husband to determine how you can get the workouts in, but still pull your weight at home. Kids Well, little monsters need love too, so when you're thinking about the wife or husband, you better think about the kids. Other responsibilities The other responsibilities that you, or any person face, must be considered. For example, maybe you play on a sports league or have volunteer work. You must think about these things when you factor in the number of workouts per week, duration or workouts, and other factors relating to workouts. Final thoughts Age does not define what you can or cannot do, though it does play a contributing factor. Ultimately, your level of motivation determines what you can or cannot do, including if you are fit. Find the motivation in yourself to reach your goals, consider the points mentioned above, and find a way to be a fitter, healthier you.
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Nathan DeMetz holds degrees in Exercise Science, Business Administration, and Information Technology as well as certifications in strength and conditioning, sports nutrition, run coaching, and other areas. His credentials come from organizations such as Indiana Wesleyan University, Ivy Tech College, and the International Sports Sciences Association. Nathan has 17 years of personal and professional experience in the health and fitness world. He works with people from across the globe, including locations such as Kuwait, Australia, and the USA