When it comes to muscle mass, the majority of people reach their peak somewhere between their late 30s and early 40s. But after that point, we gradually start losing muscle mass and function. This is a direct consequence of an age-related condition called - sarcopenia. Even the slightest loss of muscle mass should be concerning since there’s a strong relationship between muscle mass and strength. Physically inactive people can lose as much as 3% to 5% of their muscle mass each decade after the age of 30. Alarming, right?
So, is there anything we can do to stop it? Absolutely!The primary treatment for sarcopenia is exercise.However, according to an orthopedic surgeon and mobility specialist Dr. Vonda Wright, people over 40 shouldn't just exercise more, they should exercise smarter.
Improve your flexibility and balance
The first smart move is to work on your flexibility and balance. According to Dr. David Geier, a former director of Sports Medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston and spokesperson for the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine concurs - "Flexibility is the third pillar of fitness, next to cardiovascular conditioning and strength training." Flexibility prevents injuries, improves your balance and enables you to reach the highest level of fitness.
One of the best ways to improve flexibility is foam rolling. Self-myofascial release or foam rolling is a form of self-massage which helps relieve muscle tightness or trigger points. By applying pressure to specific points on the body, you help your muscles recover and return to their normal function.
Another way in which you can work on your flexibility is to stretch. However, dynamic stretching is a much safer method than static stretching. Instead of stretching a muscle to full length by holding it from 15 to 60 seconds, opt for dynamic movements, such as walking lunges, squats or arm circles. The benefits of this type of stretching include gaining more strength, being less prone to injury, and having better coordination and balance.
Too much cardio can be too much
A lot of people think that doing hours of cardio each day is somehow good for the body. Actually, by relying solely on cardio, your body will go into a catabolic state and burn its muscles. This will lead to reduced strength and slowed down metabolism. If you're not working out to become a long-distance runner, anything over 60-70 minutes per day can be counterproductive. Too much cardiovascular exercising leads to injuries and other issues like aches and pains.
But most importantly, too much cardio can even damage your heart. According to a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, in a group consisted of extremely fit older men who are all members of the 100 Marathon club, half showed some kind of heart muscle scarring. Those were the men who trained the longest and hardest.
The reality is - if you want to look and feel good then too much cardio is not the answer.
In order to get the most benefits, include short bursts of high-intensity activities followed by adequate time for recovery.
High-Intensity Interval Training Works the Best
Since you’re no longer in your 20s and it’s not just about your looks anymore, you should focus more on building your functional strength. The goal is to target groups of muscles you normally use in everyday activities, like walking, climbing stairs, getting up and down from chairs, lifting, pushing, bending, pulling, twisting and turning. You can accomplish these types of activities with ease by taking up resistance workouts. Any exercise that causes muscles to contract against an external resistance is considered to be a resistance training. The external resistance can come in a form of dumbbells, your own body weight, bricks, bottles of water and all types of free weights.
However, the key to having the most efficient workout, is by completing these exercises through quick and intense bursts, followed by short, sometimes active, recovery periods.
You can do that by trying a High-intensity interval training or HIIT for short. This type of workout will not only improve your cardiovascular endurance, lower your insulin resistance and burn abdominal body fat but it will also cut down your workout times substantially.
But before starting with any kind of high-intensity workout, do the following first:
consult with your physician - Get medical clearance from your doctor, especially if you’ve been inactive for a long time.
Evaluate your current fitness level - Check your cardiovascular fitness, muscular strength, endurance and flexibility. Having a personal trainer assess your fitness level might be a good idea.
Choose appropriate workout clothing - When it comes to improving your performance, adequate gym wear is something you should certainly invest in. It affects confidence, helps prevent injuries and ensures freedom of movement, which is an important part of performing your exercises correctly.
Define your goals and be consistent - In order to maintain a successful over-40 fitness program, you need to figure out what you want and be persistent in it. Combining these two will guarantee success.
Never forget to enjoy yourself. You have to take pleasure in what you do if it’s going to become a regular part of your life. And don’t let your age slow you down. Find activities that are right for you and they’ll turn into one of your favorite addictions in no time.