Over 50? You Should Definitely Lift.
Our bodies are only adapted to last so long. As we age, the rate at which we regenerate inevitably slows. The rate at which we degenerate will, therefore, gradually age us.
With ageing comes a range of effects non of us desire. These can include anything from slower mental faculties to aching joints and the myriad degenerative diseases that plague our society today, such as heart disease and Alzheimer's.
Today we know more about what lifestyle choices mitigate and facilitate these processes that cause our biological ageing. Which is really exciting, as the more we know about these processes the more we can take control and have positive influences on our own destiny’s.
Strength training is one such factor that we know will have a huge effect on the way our body holds up against the test of time.
The first thing to understand is that all movement is in some way an expression of strength. Strength is the ability to produce force and without producing any force you cannot produce movement. Loss of movement quality is often one of the first warning signs that your physical self is not what it used to be, (read; degenerating).
At the extreme example my grandmother struggles to get out of a chair by herself, and if she has a fall, she’d absolutely needs help getting up. My father who's a little younger at 68, has pain in his ankles, knees, shoulders and many other joints thanks to a lifetime of ware and tare. These all started as an ache in a particular joint position in his 40’s and 50’s.
A basic principal to understand is that movement begets movement and stagnation begets stagnation. Meaning that once you start to notice the loss of range of movement in a particular joint, if left unaddressed, the chances are that the restriction will spread. What starts with you feeling a little pain or difficulty getting into the deep squat, progresses over a decade to be difficulty even getting below parallel or chronic knee pain.
The connective tissues fuse, the nervous system effectively forgets how to co-ordinate movement and stability in that range, the muscles lose strength in their inner or outer ranges. All this means that you have effectively lost that range of movement. Any activity that requires that range will be difficult, painful, impossible or likely to cause injury.
Intelligent, well planned and progressive strength training can solve all of these problems. If started early enough it can effectively prevent the onset or spread of these restrictions and functional loses. If started after the onset of these degenerations it can halt and even reverse the effects.
Expressed in terms of real life, this means that strength training can extend movement quality, repertoire and safety well into the later decades of a persons life. Which means less pain, more suppleness, more freedom and longer lasting independence, the ability to do what you love for longer, (tennis, golf, triathlon, rock climbing, playing with the kids in the park, etc), more resilience to injury and more confidence in your body for longer.
You may be reading this thinking “I’m only 50, this article reads like its written for 70 year olds”. Well, thats the point. If you’re 50, 45, 40 and you start a good strength training and movement program now, you will be in remarkably good condition when you are 70. If you take no action now to positively affect how your physical body holds up, you will regret it later!.
We all know people who are much older in their physical body than their years state. We also all know people who are much younger, more spirited and energetic than their age would have you think. Some say that good or bad genes are to be credited with these differences. But to be honest, even though genetics does have a real impact, that’s a complete cop-out!. Even if you have the worst genes in the world (you probably don’t), you can decide to do something about it and take the actions you can to affect your own outcomes. Or you can sit around and wait for chance to decide your fate.
Personally one of the biggest motivating factors for me to stay in shape is how my body might function at 60+. I know I’m only 30, but i want to feel strong and robust my entire life. Anything I can do to improve my health span and stay young through all my decades I’m going to do.