Eighteen years in the fitness industry and continual fitness training there after has brought me to my own conclusion of what I beleive to be the secret to achieving the fountain of youth with regards to maintaining a functional body.
1. Keep Your Muscles Strong (Strength Train)
Maintaining strong muscles has to be number one priority. Ask any physiotherapist what would happen to our skeletal systems if our muscles were not strong. We would be told that our skeletal systems would collapse, unable to stand upright.
If not for strong enough muscles we would not be able to move unassisted.
As we age we experience atrophy (shrinking) of the muscles.
The muscle becomes smaller and therefore weaker.
The weaker the muscles the less able they are to support bones and joints and maintain the ability to move them as they should.
Eventually the support becomes so weak that bones and joints no longer operate without assistance from some sort of exterior support.
Keep your muscles strong and you will maintain good functional movement.
It is never too late to start. I have worked with seniors who have improved their strength and functionality at age 70+.
An important fact to remember is that strength training is the best way to impove bone mass.
Strong bones means less bone breakages.
This is not only important for seniors but even us middle aged kids who enjoy activities which put us at risk of falling - such as cycling or horse riding (that would be me :-))
I recommend consulting with a qualified gym instructor / personal traininer for recommended exercises ensuring a balance of push, pull and leg strengthening exercises.
As I age I realise more and more that flexibility needs to be a priority within my own training. Sure, during my youth it wasn't so important, but now, if I want to remain as injury free as possible I know I must stretch or else.
Stretches minimalises stiffness and allows the body to move more freely at various angles.
How often do you hear of people who injure themselves doing daily tasks that involved a bit of a torso twist? Appropriate stretching prevents these injuries.
3. Maintain the Ability to Balance
Humans lose the ability to balance as they age.
Most seniors experience falls.
Becaue they have lost the ability to maintain their balance.
However, if practiced, you can maintain or even improve your balance.
I incorperate strength training exercises that involve balancing such as single leg squats and single leg dead lifts.
Stretches such as a standing quadracep stretch or standing glute stretch are a great way to practice balancing as well.
Yoga incorperates many poses that require balance.
Why not practice balancing on one leg as you do chores around the house like dish washing, hanging clothes on the line or pruning plants in the garden.
Yes, it is still important as we age as it keeps our blood vessels flexible therefore helping to prevent blockages. Flexible vessels allows particles to move freely through if need be.
Cardio works the heart and the heart is a muscle so needs to be kept strong. It too can atrophy if not strengthened.
No need to do as much as we age - perhaps 3 x 20 minute sessions a week incorperating some harder sections amongst some easier sections.
5. Good Nutrision
Goes without saying really. I do not want to get into the nutrision debate too intensely here, but my philosophy is eat as naturally as possible, avoiding as much processed food as possible; and keep things balanced.
Eating or drinking excess of anything will result in weight issues.
Remeber eat to live not live to eat.
Food is our medicine.
Interesting fact: Through out the 5-6 years of training Doctors need to become Doctors, approximately 2 months of that is dedicated to nutrision. I beleive if the body is not given optimum nutrients, healing is greatly impaired. If blood pumping through the parts of the body that need healing can not supply good nutrients, how can we expect things to heal??
Anything done consistantly will have an impacting effect!!
Need I say more??
So there you have it - the basics on what I feel is important to maintain physical functionality for life.
Myself, I choose to never conform to mainstream society's belief of purposely slowing down as I age. Infact, I choose to do more.
Yours in Keeping Functional and Natural,