Can You Improve Performance and Fitness with Age?
Can you get faster, stronger and in better shape as you get older?
Is age really the limiting factor to what you can achieve physically? I say it isn’t, and I’ve got plenty of reasons and experience to back it up.
In fact, you can achieve things you may not have believed possible well into your 30’s and 40’s, and probably beyond. I know this because I’m still doing it in my late 30’s, and because studies show it’s achievable.
The Age Myth You Sell Yourself
It’s common knowledge, right? We hit our prime in our 20’s and then it’s all downhill physically. Everyone has stories of how fit they were back in the day. How much they used to lift, how fast they used to run.
If you’re one of these people, then I have to ask you.. Why can you no longer do those things? Is it because you got older? Or is it something else?
Regardless of what you may tell yourself, the real answer is that it isn’t a priority for you to do them anymore. Other things have taken precedence. Work, family, hobbies.. Netflix (ok, guilty on that one).
These are all important things, of course. But I’m writing this article to tell you that if you desire to work out harder and push yourself past previous limits, you can. I repeat.. You CAN!
First, I want to highlight 2 critical aspects of continuing to train as you age.
Training and Exercise Reverse Aging and Decrease Risk of Dying.
#1 Exercising as You Age Reverses Aging
A study from the University of Birmingham and King’s College, London, revealed that those who continuously exercise throughout life literally defy the aging process in several ways. The study found that those who continue to train into their 40’s and 50’s and beyond:
- Did not lose muscle mass or strength
- Had the immune function of a person in their 20’s
- Did not increase body fat or cholesterol levels
- Maintained testosterone production of a younger person
- Maintained or surpassed the aerobic capacity of a younger person
If you’ve been out of the game for a while, Getting yourself back into training could literally help to rewind the biological clock. It’s never too late.
#2 Aerobic Fitness Decreases Risk of Mortality From ALL Causes
A Study looking at over 122,000 patients found that:
“cardiorespiratory fitness was inversely associated with all-cause mortality without an observed upper limit of benefit.”Kyle Mandsager, MD1; Serge Harb, MD1; Paul Cremer, MD1; et al
The Importance of this cannot be overstated. This study found that increasing aerobic fitness lowers a person’s risk of dying from all causes. The study found that there was no upper limit of benefit, meaning that the more you increase your aerobic fitness, the less chance you have of dying, period.
Another study examined declining exercise capacity due to aging and found that:
“By participating in a training program, you can raise your aerobic capacity 15% to 25%, which in our study would be equivalent to being 10-20 years younger.“Jennifer Warner. WebMD
What Happens as We Get Older
What Studies and Common Beliefs Say
There are some real physiological changes that take place as we get older. I am certainly not denying this. Studies have shown that aging is associated with:
- Decreased Muscle Mass
- Increased Body Fat
- Decreased strength and muscle elasticity
- Decreased Aerobic capacity
- Decreased Immune Function
- Decreased Testosterone
Studies show this to be true.. but studies also frequently look at people who are not vigorously exercising on a consistent basis. Don’t just accept your fate because it’s being sold to you. You can do something about it, and you are capable of much more than you may think.
What Really Happens
What actually happens to most of us as we get older is that our lives become increasingly more stressful. Our careers take over. Kids take over. The demands coming in at us from all angles takes an extraordinary amount of energy, and there is only so much to go around.
The key point to take away is that Stress from any source, be it physical or otherwise, causes a sympathetic response in the body (fight or flight). Stress hormones like Adrenaline and cortisol are released. Our sleep suffers, we become less resilient, and we don’t even realize it happening over time.
This chronic level of stress is what causes a majority of the symptoms we associate with aging. It is imperative that we counterattack this problem somehow, and fitness is a huge part of the answer. You can read the studies for yourself. Learn to manage stress, work out, and recover.. and you will have a powerful new weapon to take with you.
10 Ways to Recover Faster From Your Workouts
You Can Surpass Previous Limits, Even in Your 30’s and 40’s
As I’ve aged, I have consciously refused to accept that aging alone will reduce what I’m capable of. And, I have yet to disappoint myself. At 38, I’m still pushing past physical limits, and am in far better condition than I was in my 20’s. However, there is a caveat to this:
- You have to learn to train smarter. There is some truth to the fact that you were able to recover faster when you were younger. And a huge part of that is that you had far less stress and responsibility when you were younger. You have to accept this, adapt, and overcome.
- You have to make your training a high priority. It cannot come last, or only when you have time. There is always time. If I had to get up at 3am to train, I would (and have). You CAN do it! You just need some new habits.
Age is not the limiting factor in what you can achieve physically. The inability to adapt to changes, along with not prioritizing your fitness, is the limiting factor.Tweet
Training smarter doesn’t have to be complicated. But it does mean being purposeful in how you go about your workouts and training. Learning to train more intelligently can be the difference that allows you to reach higher levels than you ever have before.
This is really important. In the past, chances are your workouts weren’t optimal. As you get older, you can learn to fine tune things and push even further than you ever have before by being purposeful vs. spinning your wheels.
Ensuring that you prioritize recovery is the real game changer. You can still train hard and with high intensity, but follow those days with a day of low intensity training. This is called the “high-low” method of training, and it can allow you to experience continuous progress without burning out or getting injured.
Training smarter means being aware of the fact that you’re getting older, and implementing proactive strategies to keep injuries away and to keep progress moving forward.
It also means being conscious of all of the stress in your life, and implementing strategies to ensure you are recovering, instead of pushing yourself into the ground.
A Few Things to Focus on
- Keep recovery as a primary focus. See this article for details on how to do this.
- Focus on improving mobility. In particular, hip and shoulder mobility. Youtube has plenty of great videos on this, and it doesn’t take much time.
- Always warm up before every workout. Your warm up should include mobility work and light cardiovascular training.
- Always cool down and get some good stretching in after you train.
- spend time improving your aerobic fitness. This can be accomplished with low intensity cardiovascular training a few days per week.
Have Specific Goals, and Don’t be Afraid to Aim High
Whatever your fitness goals might be, don’t sell yourself short. You can do just about anything in your 30’s and even into your 40’s. Want to run a marathon? Fight in an MMA bout? Compete in Crossfit? These things are all doable if you really make it a priority and train intelligently. Insert whatever goal you want here ____________. I don’t like limits. They are meant to be CRUSHED! 🙂
Outline what it is you want to achieve, then break it down into smaller goals. Do some research. Become an expert in the details of what you’re trying to accomplish.
Don’t let Anyone Else’s Negativity Influence Your Goals.
I always say, keep your goals to yourself. Other people have a way of passing their beliefs onto us, and you never want to let someone else influence your own personal goals. The seeds of negativity can grow deep roots in our mind. Stay away from negative people, and do the things you know deep down you want to achieve.
Most people sell themselves short. They buy into the collective beliefs that aging is some sort of death sentence. It isn’t. It’s an opportunity. People sell themselves short and are threatened by anyone who might crush the illusion they hold onto. They might try to hold you down by discouraging you. Decide now to make a shield against that negative energy.
If you want something bad enough, you can have it. If you’re out of shape and want to run a 6 minute mile, you can. If you’ve always wanted to achieve something but never dedicated yourself to it before, being a little bit older doesn’t mean you can’t get there. You can get there, and beyond.
Here are a couple other articles that you might enjoy:
I hope this article was helpful, and maybe even inspiring. As always, my aim is to help find that perfect version of ourselves we’re always striving for.
Thanks for Reading!
Mandsager K, Harb S, Cremer P, Phelan D, Nissen SE, Jaber W. Association of Cardiorespiratory Fitness With Long-term Mortality Among Adults Undergoing Exercise Treadmill Testing. JAMA Netw Open. 2018;1(6):e183605. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.3605