The only constant in life is change.
As we age, our bodies change. As we age, the demands put upon our bodies change along with how our bodies react to those demands.
It used to be that researchers looked at adulthood as one long, continuous stretch. Now we are realizing that our bodies change throughout adulthood. Therefore our body’s needs change as well, throughout adulthood.
I believe that the biggest difference as we age is that we don’t recover from injuries and insults to our bodies as quickly as we did when we were younger.
The best example I have of this is a hangover. When I was younger I could go out all night and wake up the next morning feeling fine.
Now, if I go out at night and have a few drinks, I feel bad the next day. I can’t wake up as easily. If I had more than a few drinks then I have a bad headache and nauseous stomach. I am not recovering from the toxin that is alcohol as well as I did when I was younger.
The same goes for injuries and insults to our bodies, whether minor or major. We all sustain minor injuries every day that we don’t recover from unless we are actively exercising and stretching. Those minor injuries slowly accumulate to become a big injury.
Not to mention the fact that as we age, wear and tear on our bodies and joints build up as well, making us again more likely to become injured.
I see this concept expanding into other areas of our lives and our health. A few weeks ago I wrote about a study that looked at how our need for protein changes as we age. When we are young and haven’t reached middle age, we need more protein, and animal based protein. While our bodies are developing it is important for us to have adequate amounts of protein available to build muscle, bone, etc.
As we reach middle age and beyond, our bodies are fully developed. We don’t need as much protein during this time period. Most of the protein we eat during this age period should be plant based.
As we reach our senior years and beyond, it becomes important for us to eat more animal based proteins. This will help us to maintain our muscle mass and prevent wasting.
With this concept in mind, it makes sense that our body’s need for exercise changes as well.
In our 20’s, we are primed to get into possibly the best shape of our lives, because physically we are in the prime of our lives. At this stage we recover quickly from injuries. Wear and tear hasn’t had a chance to accumulate in our bodies. We haven’t had as much time to accumulate injuries as we do when we are older. Old injuries from high school and our past haven’t had a chance to catch up with us to become symptomatic.
This is the age to do those extreme exercise systems. This is the age when we can handle the intense and high impact exercise systems like Crossfit and P90x. This is the age where we can put on muscle mass easily. Our metabolism will be revving its’ fastest in our entire lives during this period. We will recover quickly from the minor injuries we will sustain every time that we do a high impact and high intensity workout. It will be easier to lose the extra 5 pounds that you put on during a weekend binge.
Once we reach our 30’s, those old injuries from high school and beyond have started catching up with us. Our metabolism starts slowing down and it becomes easier to gain weight. This is the age that I see people starting to complain about feeling pains that they haven’t felt since being injured while playing high impact sports in high school (such as: football, wrestling, hockey, lacrosse, cheerleading, gymnastics, etc). Or if someone was in a car accident or had some other type of trauma when they were younger, this is the age that those old injuries catch up with them. They start feeling those old injuries more frequently.
Our bodies remember injuries. When we are injured our bodies establish neurological connections between the injured area and the spinal cord. Once established, this neurological patterning will stay with us for the rest of our lives, thus making it easy for muscles to fall back into old injury patterns of spasm, inflammation and pain.
We can still exercise intensely in our 30’s, but we feel it more and won’t recover as well as we did when we were younger. We will get injured more easily. We can still put on muscle mass, but it gets harder to. We will start feeling old aches and pains from our teens and 20s.
It was during this period in my life that I stopped running. I felt the irritation in my hips building up more and more. I started feeling low back pain. I didn’t want to contribute to forming osteo-arthritis in my body. So I stopped running and now just ride my bike.
By our 40’s, I believe we need to shift over to lower impact, lower intensity exercising. We won’t recover nearly as quickly from injuries as we did when we were in our 30’s. High impact exercising will catch up with us. It will get harder and harder on your body to consistently do high impact exercise. Those minor injuries sustained from high impact exercising will accumulate to make you more likely to get injured. At this stage in life we have been working for usually a decade (or more) at our careers and have more wear and tear, and cumulative trauma, in our bodies from working, thus making us more likely to become injured. At this stage our metabolism slows even more. If you eat the same way in your 40s as you did in your 20s, you will gain weight. We don’t need as many calories to exist as we did when we were younger.
Some of us can still do high impact, high intensity exercising into our 40s and 50s. Some of us genetically have good parts. Just like some of us genetically are designed to be professional athletes. While others, no matter how hard they work at it, are never going to be a professional athlete. We can’t control our genetics.
But for most of us, continuing with high impact, high intensity exercising into our 40s and 50s will only cause injury and pain, which results in not being able to exercise and take adequate care of ourselves.
By our 50s we are not recovering quickly. We are feeling those old aches and pains more so. And we are feeling aches and pains from the repetitive motions we do all day at work, at our job, in our careers, in our daily life, in our homes. These repetitive motions build up to cause irritation which eventually builds up to create injury and pain. As we age, this cycle happens easier and quicker. This is even more of a reason to do low impact, low intensity, easy on your body exercising. This will give you the best chance of being able to stick with an exercise routine consistently enough to get real benefits from it, without injuring yourself or flaring up an old injury.
From our 60s and older, the focus with exercise should shift to maintenance. At this age you are not going to be able to build muscle mass easily. You can increase the strength of your muscles, but it is very hard to make them bigger at this point. Most people focus on trying to maintain their muscle mass and prevent wasting. At this age, chances are that low impact and low intensity exercise will be the only type of exercise that you can stick with without hurting yourself.
Remember, the only way to get any benefit out of exercising is by doing it consistently. If you push yourself too hard then you will injure yourself and not be able to exercise. This is more likely to happen the older you get.
Do exercises that are appropriate for your age. If you are in your 60s, don’t try to exercise like you did when you were 20. Your body is different, you have to treat it differently.
Exercise smarter, not harder. Before starting a new exercise routine, be realistic about what stage you are at in life, and what type of shape you are in.
The Pain Free Lifestyle program is set up to be appropriate for most age levels and activity levels. If you are in your 20s and want to get ripped, then Pain Free Lifestyle is not for you. If you are looking for a lose weight quick scheme, Pain Free Lifestyle is not for you.
If you are looking to learn how to change your lifestyle to include exercising and eating right, through small, easy to incorporate changes, then Pain Free Lifestyle is for you. If you are in pain, haven’t exercised in years, are overweight, not in shape, not doing any strength training, not doing any cardio-vascular exercising, or not stretching, then Pain Free Lifestyle is for you.
Be smart about exercising and eating right. It is hard enough to stick with exercising and eating right. Make it as easy on yourself as possible. That is the Pain Free Way.