I love road biking on long straightaways. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy hill climbing too, but there is something about having complete control over my speed, exertion level and being able to settle into a long groove. I can get into a constant tempo RPM turnover on the peddles or I can peddle-coast-peddle. However, there is a downside to the straightaway. If you coast too long, you eventually end up coming to a stop or you go so slowly that it requires a lot of effort to get back up to a comfortable speed. So, now the reveal on this thinly veiled analogy to fitness over 50: When we are younger it is all about the speed, climbing hills and pushing harder. Now that we are more mature, we are in the straightaways of our lives. The downside is the same where if we coast with our fitness at this stage of our lives, we eventually come to a stop. Indelicately, I say it can be a “dead stop”.
Longevity and fitness
I run the risk of being a “Captain Obvious” with this statement, but here it goes: Cardiovascular fitness has direct relations to how long you may live. Can’t really do a mic drop on that one, so why write an article about it. Because there is more to it than that. In the health & fitness world, we are coming to the end (I hope) of the Silver Bullet age in which a “one size fits all” solution can be applied to any problem or malady.
There is no shortage of studies done proving this point. A study done by researchers at John Hopkins, was published as a letter in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology showed that as we age it is not only important that we stay cardiovascular fit, it actually becomes more important that we stay fit as we age.
METs (metabolic equivalents) are essentially a measurement of how many times more your metabolic rate is increased vs. say sitting on the couch. 10 METS means your rate has increased 10x over what it would be when you are at complete rest. You can see that the difference in height between the blue bar (10 METS) and the black bar (14+ METS) increases as age goes up.
As with all knowledge trends, someone finds a study to contradict the one that seems to give us a solution and therefore creates a debate trying to show that we can keep doing what we are doing and that “it is just the way things are”. A blog in 2012 by BMJ Journals wrote an article, Run for your life….at a comfortable speed and not too far, which was making the point that chronic extreme exercise can be deadly, was taken by other bloggers to mean that little to no exercise is best. Wow. What a twist.
Then we have society memes to deal with from our parents and grandparents generations. That is the “I’m just getting old”, or “that’s what happens when you get old” way of thinking. Programming can be hard to undo especially when it has been part of our entire lives.
The point to all of this is that there is not a one size fits all solution and that when you combine the need for cardiovascular fitness with new information on strength training and then layer on diet, any of us can get to a “why bother?” state of paralysis. Fortunately, we 50 somethings are the first generation of people to have an almost unlimited supply of knowledge at our finger tips to help us combat the meme programming and scientific study sound bites.
You also have the SupawesomeLife Fitness team to help you sort through it. We love geeking out on this stuff and sifting through it.
Let’s look at the other
factors we mentioned
Staying Active – where to start
My how times have changed. This wasn’t much of an issue 100 year ago. Energy was expended getting to work (more than driving a car), the work was more physically demanding (instead of being on computers), even making meals required more energy expenditure (no take out). We are busier than ever, but expend fewer calories than ever. We were built to be physically active and unless we make it a priority, today’s culture will allow us to be almost completely physically inactive. For us 50+’ers we have lived most of our adult lives in these sedentary careers.
How do you get peddling again after you have been coasting for a while? The basic info that we have all heard is “start with a simple 30 minutes of activity a day, such as walking”. Now, I love me a good walk. Don’t get me wrong. If that is all you can do, I give you a high five with a backhanded low five. It is better than being completely inactive. However, if you are exploring your SupawesomeLife, there is more you can do that is better for your longevity and fits into that same time frame. Strength training isn’t just for bodybuilders and powerlifters anymore.
Benefits of even moderate strength training – the short list:
Moderate = 30 minutes, little or no muscle soreness
- Makes you stronger & fitter
- Ok, obvious. But don’t forget how many injuries (muscle pulls, join pain, back issues) you hear about from people doing everyday tasks. Being stronger can eliminate those injuries or at the very least lessen them.
- Protects bone health and muscle mass
- Use it or lose it. Strength training not only stresses the muscles to make them stronger, but it tells your body that you still need it and to not let it go away. The stress put on the skeleton works the same way, if you are moving all that weight, your body realizes that it needs a structure to support it.
- Strength training keeps the weight off for good
- Simply put muscle requires more calories to be burned to maintain it than fat does.
- Strength training increases energy levels and boosts your mood
- Endorphins are released during and after a strength training workout causing a boost in mood and energy levels.
How do you get started in strength training? Simple, by just moving your body through full range of motion exercises, you have started strength training. Think of exercises like push-ups, pull-ups (maybe not right away), squatting on a chair and standing up without using your hands. If you are a little more advanced than this, you can look into getting a small set of weights for home use (buy them on Amazon, Target, Walmart), choosing an at home all-in-one machine, lots of really good video programs out there (P90X, PiYo) or better yet (in my opinion) getting into the weight room at your gym. Be sure to do at least a little research or get some coaching on what and how to do it.
Diet does matter
I remember those good old days of being able to eat copious amounts of pizza almost daily along with submarine sandwiches for lunch after eating a solid breakfast and still not gaining weight. (*sigh*) While the thought of that is romanticized, I actually enjoy my food more now than ever.
Our ideas on food (what to eat, what is healthy, what to avoid, how much to consume) has changed radically in the past 2 decades. When us 50+’ers were young, the “fat will make you fat” idea was making its way around. Then, of course the pendulum swung the other way to the Adkins style diets where carbs were the absolute enemy. Again, this brings us back to the point of being grateful that we have so much information at our finger tips. If you are willing to sift through it.
There is a diet plan out there to produce just about any result you want to achieve.
- Fat loss – Ketogenic
- Detox – Whole30
- Build muscle – bulking diets
- Lower Cholesterol – China Study diet/vegan
- Gluten Issues – Gluten-Free diets
The point being, they are out there. You will need to do some research and read some books. There is no shortage of diet plans and options. Even though many of them say they are the ultimate answer, remember that there is no one size fits all for us. You will have to find what works for you and your body.
The easy part believe it or not is picking the diet, the hard part is changing 50 years of food programming to make it happen.
This is where I put in a shameless plug for the SupawesomeLife Cooking System or SLCS. Out of all the things talked about in this article, the absolute hardest thing is staying on the diet plan you selected. There are so many recipes that are so new to most of us that food prep time increases exponentially. SLCS can help you cut that back down to normal levels or less. We produce 30 meals in 3 man hours that are 100% within our food plan. That one gets a mic drop. Plenty of free information on SLCS here on the SL Cooking System section of our web site.
Summary in bullet points
- As people in our 50’s it is more important to us to stay active now than ever in our lives. We want to retire and still be able to move and travel. We want to be able to pick up our grandkids. We want to be around to see our grandkids grow up.
- Strength training continues to be shown as the best form of exercise as we age. The form of strength training can be yoga sculpt, boot camps, or an assortment of body weight movements. What is important is that we are putting healthy stress on our muscles and skeletons to let our bodies know we are still using them.
- Diet is the fuel that makes all this work and the fuel needs to be used. The time you invest learning about nutrition will be returned to you in years of life.