The Benefits of Active Aging: How to Stay Strong

What IS aging? Is aging mandatory? What is considered “typical” aging? When does aging START? Can you slow down the aging process? 

More importantly, what are the best tools to help you make a plan to optimize your health and improve your quality of life at any age?

It’s not about beating age, it’s not about turning back the clock, and it’s not about settling in: it’s about learning how to optimize your fitness at every age. 

Because, similar to optimizing athletic performance, YOU CAN optimize age. 

To accomplish this, you must be informed about your body, what’s happening to it based on age, and learn how to improve through exercise and nutrition. 

To help, Gym Source is kicking off a multi-part series on active aging to help you build your personalized plan to increase your quality of life, starting with a focus on how to stay strong. 

To start, let’s define aging. 

What is aging?

Aging is defined as “a physiological or morphological change in the life of an organism or its parts, generally irreversible and typically associated with a decline in growth and reproductive vigor.”

In short, aging begins at the point when systems in the human body stop growing and would be marked by a decreasing rate of reproduction. 

Different systems in the human body, like the neurological, muscular, integumentary, skeletal etc. have mandatory periods of decline. Some systems have rapid loss periods (like and bone and muscle) and person to person, while the impact of these losses can vary greatly, the time frame is remarkably similar

Common changes with age:

  • Reduction in height
  • Weight loss due to loss of muscle (sarcopenia) and bone mass (osteoporosis)
  • Lower metabolic rate
  • Longer reaction time
  • Decline in memory function
  • Decline in exercise performance

But science suggests that by incorporating the right education and training you can absolutely maintain and even IMPROVE your level of fitness as you get older. 

It’s important to understand the two processes of aging – Mandatory and Facultative. One you can’t control, the other you CAN!

  • Mandatory aging are the parts of aging you CAN’T control. These are the processes that happens no matter what you do and most of these start at age 25 (that’s right, you’ve been aging since 25). 

  • Facultative aging are the parts of aging you CAN control, as the number one reason these aging elements happen is because of a lack of physical exercise.

In short, facultative aging, the portion of aging due to inactivity, may be modified through physical activity. Which is why it’s important to prioritize staying strong throughout your life.

As you grow, your tissues (muscles, bone, brain) go through two stages modeling (building up) and remodeling (through activity your tissue breaks down and rebuilds).  Your tissues are modeling while you are actively growing and slow down after puberty. After puberty your remodeling processes stay relatively balanced, with all tissues that are broken down being replaced.

As you age, your remodeling processes become imbalanced: Your body becomes less able to rebuild tissue at the same rate it is breaking tissue down. This is aging. 

It happens for different reasons, in different tissue, at different rates (muscle versus bone versus brain tissue for example). All tissues have different mandatory aging rates but for the most part all people begin the aging process at 25

Most tissues in the body also have slow loss and rapid loss periods that are relatively the same person to person. Exercise can help mitigate some of the impact of these mandatory aging processes and prepare you for the rapid loss periods. 

Again, facultative aging are the parts of aging you can control. They also are the primary causes of disease – heart disease, cancer, etc. So with the right training you can influence these factors, if not stop it altogether. 

Remember that because tissue breakdown is occurring more quickly than buildup as you age, it’s important to add more physical activity into your routine. 

Specifically, because with proper exercise and diet you can significantly improve your quality of life as you age. 

The SAID Principle helps you stay strong

The “SAID Principal” stands for Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand

The “SAID Principal” stands for Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand.  It means your body is always trying to anticipate your activity level by rebuilding structurally and capability-wise depending on the exercise you do.  

So you can heavily influence the tissue rebuilding (remodeling) effect even as you age. 

You may have diminishing cardiovascular capability as you get older, but that’s not true from a strength or structural standpoint. Your training technique may be different, but the outcome doesn’t have to be different. 

Prevention of disease through physical activity and fitness is the first focus to increase longevity. Regular physical activity remains one of the most important lifestyle components for preventing the age-related decline in overall physical independence and well-being, 

Yes - you can maintain 100% of your power and force capacity as you age with the right kind of training. 

So, HOW do you train to maintain your strength and agility as you get older?
What is the best plan to minimize decline?
How can you increase your performance and activities of daily living?
Is cardio or strength training more important to optimize your health? 

The answer? By training to stay fit

Part 2 of our Active Aging Series explores the best methods to train as you age.

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