How to lower your body age
I train to lower my body age because at 72 I don't have much more time left to age! At the gym, I observe many over 50s who should be doing the same, but instead, they are doing things that will make them older.
One reason is that they don't know what else to do. Another is that they believe the myths perpetuated by the bro culture - and the young trainers.
I've been successful in lowering my body age substantially.
One reputable test by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology rated me 20 years younger than my birth certificate. NUST manages the most extensive and longest-running study of body age in the world, so they know what they are measuring.
Here are some common myths aka "lies" about training that you should rethink - especially if you are training to live longer better, i.e. you are 50+.
#1 Time spend training Vs quality of training
It's fantastic to see people at the gym doing something about keeping active. That's better than 99% of the over 50 population.
In that case, why not aim for the best Return On Exercise (ROE)?
The best ROE requires that you have a goal which is more than just "activity". Activity will get you benefits, for sure, e.g. less risk of CVD and potentially living longer. But it won't get you living longer better.
Living longer better is enabled by lowering your body age.
Lowering your body age requires that you have muscular strength and endurance, cardiovascular fitness, functional fitness, good balance, flexibility and attention to your cognitive fitness.
You can't achieve this combination of outcomes if you allow yourself to wander from swinging barbells aimlessly to flicking handles on gym machines --with 4-minute breaks--to rowing with less intensity than doing the washing up.
You deserve to get the most from your commitment to activity by turning it into an effective Return On Exercise.
Your muscles work in teams
#2 You are best to split train - training body parts
I see so many over-50s chasing the bro myth of split training, e.g. training different body parts on different days of the week.
If you are a competitive powerlifter or bodybuilder, this method can maximise your gains. We're talking about 0.0000001% of the people at the gym.
Here's news: your muscles work as teams.
Most people guess my age at 52 to 55. I'm 72 this year.
What works when you are over 50 is different. I am presuming that you want to be as fit as possible and have the best return on your exercise.
You don't rotate body parts each session; you rotate the training intensity applied to:
You work a more extended session, harder, and give yourself more time for rest and recovery. Do three sessions a week, and do active recovery in between by walking, jogging, swimming, etc.
Functional training is also for living longer better
#3 Functional training is only for athletes
An argument from the "experts" is that functional training is "Pop Sugar" myth, a bit like HIIT has become debased.
Technically, functional training is training targeted at technical requirements to perform a defined activity, e.g. soccer, or basketball.
Therefore, there is no such thing--they argue--as functional training "in the wild", without a target sport.
However, an exercise doesn’t have to be identical to an activity for the strength it builds to improve outcomes.
For over 50s, the required outcome is to be able to live longer better and be more active in daily life with more competence and a lower risk of injury. For example:
These things require that you do exercise which supports these functions. These include weighted exercises and full range-of-motion exercises that also require you to balance and connect your brain to your body.
Kettlebells are the best. But most people hate kettlebells. So do things which support your ability to balance and build strength, and add endurance. This also means that you should avoid sitting on gym machines.
Gym machines atrophy your body and brain faster
#4 Gym machines will get you fit and strong
The majority of over-50s I see at the gym - the VAST majority - simply flitter along the rows of gym machines.
Typically, they thrash the handles or bars 10 to 15 times and then sit there for 3 minutes for "recovery" as their trainer has instructed. They do a few sets and then stumble to the next machine.
Gym machines were built for gym owners - not to keep you fit. If you are not in rehabilitation, then sitting on gym machines is constantly degrading your potential to live better longer.
Compared to being completely inactive, doing something on a gym machine is better.
Compared to active walking sitting on a gym machine is inferior.
Compared to doing weighted or bodyweight exercises on your own two feet, sitting on gym machines is a crime against your longevity.
Just for a moment, imagine someone doing a kettlebell swing. You can see that their body has to resist the motion of the kettlebell in some phases. In other phases, it has to provide explosive momentum, and it mostly has not to fall over.
Their brain has to remain intimately connected with their feet, all the way through every joint, muscle, and ligament. If their brain turns off, they will lose balance and fall.
When you sit on a machine, your brain goes to sleep, and your feet disengage. Your brain turns off because it has nothing to do. You don't fall over because your body has also switched off and flopped on the seat - except for the isolated muscles you are exercising.
Which do you think will help you most in not falling over when you get out of the car?
Leave the gym machines to the bros who just want to look good in a t-shirt and the true professionals who know exactly how, why, and what they are targeting to get the last 1% of performance.
Ditch the gym machines that you sit on, and get yourself a routine of exercises that require you to balance, and build strength and put torque on your entire frame at the same time. Cable machine exercises offer this potential if you don't like kettlebells.
Those are my most significant myths for you to rethink if your training goal is to lower your body age to enable you to live longer better.
Take action to move your routines away from the gym machines, pick up on weighted free-standing movements, train your whole body and mind every session, and tune into intensity to get a far higher Return On Exercise.
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Since I was diagnosed at 50 with Type 2 diabetes I've been learning how to do bone-building body-shaping training for people our age. You can too. It's your choice. Walter