Hiking. Sprinting. Bicycling. Lifting Weights. Crossfit. Swimming. Yoga. Think you’re too old? You’re wrong.
Many of us seem to accept that with old age, in all its glories, comes reduced athletic ability. Getting out of shape is an inevitability of human existence, right? Wrong. If you put in the time and tactical effort, hitting your fifties or sixties doesn’t have to spell d-o-o-m for your fitness levels.
Let’s get one thing straight—fitness isn’t easy. Okay, maybe it was when you were 14, but staying fit becomes more and more challenging as you age—sorry, but that’s the truth. Your aerobic capacity, muscle volume and overall mobility all decrease. Meanwhile, body fat tends to increase, which further slows you down and taxes your cardiovascular system. You may be tempted to accept these things as fate—the unavoidable consequences of living a long life. But the effect doesn’t have to be so stark. You don’t have to lose so much of your athletic grace. It just takes work.
According to Joe Friel, author of Fast After Fifty, after the age of 50 you are still in control of up to 70 percent of your athletic power. Yes, that’s a lot. So, while 30 percent of your fitness may diminish due to age and genetics, over two thirds of the balls are still in your court. The takeaway: you can’t blame your fitness (or lack thereof) on old age. You, not the ticking hands of time, are in charge of your fitness.
So how can you retain your athletic prowess later in life? High-intensity interval training. Yes, not only does this kind of training boost your metabolism with less time commitment than a traditional cardio slog, but the regular bouts of high intensity—short though they may be—keeps fitness levels significantly higher.
The small amount of physiological stress you experience during HIIT prompts your body to adapt so that it may better handle the stress in the future. Hence, you get and stayfitter. The issue is, most of us turn to longer, gentler workouts as we age because they seem kinder on our aging bodies. But that kind of thinking is what is working against your fitness.
If you’re constantly slogging through the same, slow 3 mile/6 mile/10 mile jog, your body stops adapting and will eventually start to slow down. The key to fit aging is to continue challenging yourself, no matter what your age. Stop coddling yourself and treating your body as though it is frail and weak. If you think you are old and frail, you will inevitably become old and frail. Your body and habits tend to mimic your thinking.
Continue to push your limits, whether you are in your thirties, forties, sixties or beyond. A small amount of intense exercise on a regular basis can help you to recover faster while retaining nearly the full extent of your fitness prowess well into late life. Don’t let a number dictate your fitness destiny.