The Best Training Plan for Your Age
Want to stay spry until you hit 150? Get down the gym. With studies showing resistance training as the best training plan to decrease your body’s biological age, there’s never been a better time to start, no matter your age.
Exercise isn’t just about improving your health today. Every minute spent in the gym fortifies your body against potential ailments far in the future. A new study from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, for example, has found that if you maintain a healthy body into your mid-40s then you’ll have a 37% lower risk of having a stroke after you’re 65.
So what’s the best way to sustain a healthy body through the years? Have you age in mind. Because – as you may have noticed – time takes its toll on your body. Each candle on your birthday cake means fluctuations in your hormones and body composition, so your training needs to adapt to suit. If you’re in your fifth decade knocking out the same routine as the 20-year-olds, don’t expect to see their gains. Here’s how to manipulate your training to ensure you only look as old as you feel.
Good news – in its third decade you body is primed for power sports and large muscle growth.
Right now you’re packing more testosterone than a bull in heat, so take advantage with heavy metal. According to PT Sean Lerwill, the hormone’s responsible for strength gains (not to mention an aesthetic win) by inducing your body to build muscle and burn blubber. So swerve the cross trainer and head straight to the weights room to take advantage of a body primed for visible abs.
But it’s not just hormones cheering you on; your body composition is geared towards more gains with less work. Swedish research found your youthul physique is crammed with more type II muscles (the so-called “fast-twitch” fibres) deployed for power, as opposed to the smaller type I muscles suited to endurance. So instead of steady state, switch your cardio to high intensity training during your twenties to incinerate fat and avoid a premature paunch.
As with your pension, investing in your body early means a later life payoff. Although it’s muscle memory you’ve got to thank, rather than your bank manager. That’s because rcent research has indicated that once you’ve built the nuclei that turn protein into muscle, they hang around. And now’s your prime for laying the foundations to ensure you’re maintaining in a decade, not struggling from scratch. Otherwise you’ll be (weakly) kicking yourself as the big 40 rears its grey head.
Those post-pub curries are becoming harder to shift. Although you can still build some serious muscle in your thirties, a 1% drop in testosterone per year means it’s likely you’ll have to think about changing your workout and boosting your metabolism to get rid of fat that’s starting to become more stubborn, according to Lerwill.
You’re in good company. In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, scientists found that men who managed to maintain their weight for 40 years still gained 3 pounds of fat each decade – while losing 3 pounds of muscle. In other words, father time’s besting your body in the muscle and fat negotiations.
A six-pack is still possible, but you’ll have to dedicate more time to fighting the flab it’s hiding under. “By combining smart dieting with the right training there is no reason for having any fat covering your abs after three months of dedication,” says PT Coel Fulton. Just channel your inner Chris Pratt: watch the calories and do more high intensity interval training that will see you burn off the fat and build muscle at the same time. We can’t promise it will make you as funny though.
But we can guarantee that more intense workouts will also keep your cardiovascular fitness in check. According to a study published in The Journal of Physiology, your VO2 max (your body’s ability to use oxygen) declines by 10% per decade after the age of 30. But men who continue to compete and train hard can reduce this drop by about half, meaning you’ll still be able to exercise harder for longer periods. And increase your life expectancy.
You’re also at the time of your life where starring in your own little episode of Who Do You Think You Are? could become vital for your training. Speaking to your family could identify where your genetic weaknesses might be, from type II diabetes to strokes or heart attacks. “Do that and it’s possible to work out where you need to concentrate,” says Lerwill. Motivation to hit the squat rack’s easier to find when you know it’s keeping you not just trim, but alive.
You’re on the wane after 40, right? Ask 43-year-old Valmir Nunes, who completed the fastest ever time of the Badwater ultra-marathon – a 135-mile course in 50 degree heat across Death Valley. As he knows, greying hair comes with a side order of stamina.
According to scientists to from the University of Texas Medical Branch, though those fast-twitch fibres start to decline past 40, your slow-twitch fibres – the ones most associated with endurance racing – are less affected. The performance of weightlifters drops like an overloaded barbell after 40, but endurance athletes, such as rowers, see their performance fade more slowly, according to a study published in Experimental Aging Research. So keep yourself shipshape with these rowing machine workouts.
But what about our four-time cover star Jason Statham? He should thanks his parents for genetics that pay little heed to the sands of time. But whether your DNA’s for you or against, honing your training to your age is the simple way to make every stage of your life your peak years.
Fifties and upwards
According to figures from 77 Nuffield Health gyms, sixty-somethings typically work out seven or eight times a month, making them the most regular gym users in the country.
Should those numbers really be shocking? We’re told time and time again that the candle count on your last birthday cake has little to do with your muscle-power. In fact, a recent major study from the University of Chicago suggests that your biological, not actual age, is a much better indicator of your health.
If you finished training some time ago and are urging to get back on the horse, where do you start once you reach the big 5-0? “Start from the very beginning,”PT Keith Lazarus tells us. If the lift is an old favourite the muscle memory does not forget, but there’s bound to be some issues due to the time out. “My clients will first grab a weight, show me a movement and go from there, because the movement may have changed over the years – maybe they’ve sat on their hip too long, or there’s been a shoulder injury.” The emphasis should not be on the load. Put your ego to one side and take it light.
Once the muscle memory’s kicked back in – with guidance from a personal trainer to iron out those bad habits – accelerate with extra load. Beyond that, it’s looking at functional fitness as opposed to split sessions as total-body exercises put the emphasis on mobility, the quality that’s taken for granted by younger gym-goers.