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elderly | Davey Wavey Fitness

Archive for the tag - elderly

Too Old to Exercise?

Proving time has no power.

If I have heard it once, I’ve heard it a million times: “I’m too old to workout. I just can’t get into shape at this age.”

Excuses, excuses.

This morning, in my San Diego gym, I was working out alongside an elderly individual. With his intense cardio and strength training routine, he put many of the younger guys to shame.

I noticed a World War II hat on the gentleman’s head – and so I asked him if he, like my grandfathers, had served in the war. Turns out, he had. Moreover, I also learned that he’s 91 years old. Yup, 91. If he’s not too old to workout, then what’s your excuse?

As people age, they tend to lose muscle mass. This condition is known as sarcopenia. According to the US National Library of Medicine:

Advancing adult age is associated with profound changes in body composition, the principal component of which is a decrease in skeletal muscle mass. This age-related loss in skeletal muscle has been referred to as sarcopenia… Reduced muscle strength in the elderly is a major cause for their increased prevalence of disability.

The good news is that sarcopenia can be prevented – and even reversed – through physical activity and exercise. In addition, exercise keeps metabolic levels higher, prevents reductions in bone density, improves aerobic capacity and better manages insulin sensitivity. In other words, though exercise is important for all people, it’s especially important for aging populations.

Instead of saying, “I’m too old to workout” it may make more sense to say, “I’m too old not to workout.”

Fitness Advice for Older Adults.

Dear Davey,

I am a 63 year old male that started exercising about a year ago. I use a treadmill for an hour a day, five days a week. This amounts to about 3 miles a day. I have increased the elevation to 2 – 2.5 and increased the speed to 3 mph. Is this sufficient for someone my age?


Dear Doug,

While the amount of time you spend at the gym is certainly sufficient for great results (regardless of age), you’ll need to modify the exercises that you’re performing.

Right now, your routine focuses exclusively on cardio at the expense of strength training. Strength training is crucial – and this is especially true for aging populations. As we get older, we tend to lose our muscle mass. This muscular degeneration, in turn, limits the activities in which we’re able to engage and further slows metabolism.

By engaging in strength training, you can stop and reverse muscle loss. If you plan on spending an hour at the gym, ensure that you’re spending at least half of that time lifting weights or using the weight machines. Maintaining (or even building) muscle will greatly improve your quality of life and enhance your results.

Moreover, I remind clients that 45 – 60 minutes of cardio is the absolute maximum limit. Around and after that point, the body releases a stress hormone called Cortisol that retains belly fat. Too much cardio isn’t a good thing.

The ideal speed and incline of the treadmill is different for different people, and it depends on your goals. If you’re looking to reduce fat, it’s best to alternate between a medium and high intensity pace using a strategy called interval training. If you’re just looking to maintain general health, it’s fine to keep at a steady pace and incline – but both the speed and incline will be different for different people. You may be able to progress beyond 3 mph, or you may not. If you feel unsafe at faster speeds, keep adding to the treadmill’s incline to increase intensity.

And, of course, it’s always a good idea to check with your doctor before developing an exercise regime.

Davey Wavey