Training for Longevity

I have this running joke in my group training sessions… I prescribe yet another set of lunges and squats. And joke,: “You’ll thank me when you’re 80 and still managing to get off the toilet by yourself.”

Anyhoo… Someone will also pipe up and say they know the feeling, having had sore muscles last week or whenever that meant they needed to grab hold of something and walk down the stairs backwards. We’ll laugh some more. And then I’ll start the timer. And we’ll squat. And we’ll lunge.

And every so often I think… “God aren’t they bored of this yet” and then I might introduce a new variation of a squat-based plyometric. Like Snowboarding Pops. Or Heel Claps. And I’ll remind myself that we do squats and lunges because this is what we need. For fat loss. For muscle strength. For bone density. And for longevity.

I wanted to specifically talk about training for longevity today. I’ve been reading a lot about ageing recently. Particularly this book by Andrew Steele. It’s a bit of a tome, so if you want something a bit more light-hearted check out this hilarious video of his.

This reading has got me thinking: what are the “fundamental” concepts of training for longevity?

So here goes!

Fundamental Concepts of Training for Longevity

It must be functional

You need to do movements that are common in life! Functional training was a buzz word that seems to have gone out of fashion. But I’m sticking with it. But the reality is that exercise needs to be related to what we do in life. So think about it: if you’re training to get off the toilet when you’re 80, weightless exercises like swimming or aqua aerobics (shudder) have limited value. Although they might be great if you want to swim faster of if you’re coming back from an injury or illness.

There are 6 fundamental movements that humans complete. Regular readers should recognise these. They are: squat, lunge, hinge, pull, press, carry! Every movement that we do can be traced back to one or more of these prime movements. So it makes sense to train these movements, right?

Good news then: we have these well and truly covered in our sessions!

It must work complete range of motions

Your workout must involve a full range of motion. I say it 100 times a week. Stop bailing on your squats! You need to get to the limits of your range of motion in order to:

  1. Preserve it. If you don’t use it, you lose it
  2. Elicit a change in your body. i.e. give your body a signal to grow stronger!

It should involve all major joints

A bit like the point above, if you don’t use it, you lose it.

Ever been asked by your parents to get something from a high shelf? Many older people lose the ability to lift their arms over their head. Which then causes problems to do things like wash or brush your hair. As well as reach high things. We want to avoid this be ensuring all joints are utilised.

It should build strength

This is extremely well established in the science literature. Study after study has shown that strength is a excellent indicator of longevity. For example, one study categorised participants into weak and strong and found that the people in the “weak” category were over 50 per cent more likely to die early compared to the stronger people.

And let’s not forget: women start to lose muscle in our 30s. And left unattended, that is without specifically working to restore it, we will have lost 25% of our strength by age 60 and half of it by age 80.

Strength matters and clearly strength training is key to developing that.

So when I’m encouraging you to pick up a heavier kettlebell. This is why!

It should include power training.

Whereas strength training is about, um, getting stronger and lifting heavy weights. Power is the ability to express that strength at speed. A study called The Ability to Lift Weights Quickly Can Mean a Longer Life followed nearly 4,000 individuals over the course of 6.5 years and found that the participants with above average maximal muscle power had the best survival rates. And those who scored in the bottom quarter were 10-13x more likely to die at an earlier age.

What does power training look like? Anything explosive, anything fast*, anything that involves a jump! And sprints, of course!

(Yup, I got you covered here too!)

*In fact, it doesn’t actually have to be fast. You just have to be trying to move at speed..

It should include an aerobic base.

Nope, I don’t mean hours of cardio. In fact, in my view, the average runner runs too fast on their slow days and too slow on their fast days!

Rather, I’m talking about Zone 2 training. This occurs when we perform a steady activity while maintaining a particular heart rate for longer periods of time. At this a low-moderate level of training, you can still talk comfortably. Sentences shouldn’t be snatched or hurried. Sure you might puff a bit more if going uphill. But generally the key here is COMFORTABLE!

I do my zone 2 training while walking (briskly) with my dog. It feels just a tad uncomfortable (it’s not a stroll) but I can talk.

Zone 2 training has been shown to be beneficial for heart health. After all the heart is a muscle and this kind of training improves its efficiency. Resulting in a lower resting heart rate and more efficient “pumps”.

It also optimises your muscles’ mitochondrial function and metabolic flexibility. That is the ability of muscles to use both fat and sugar as fuels.

We dont specifically do this in our sessions but you’re very welcome to borrow Jessie if that helps!

It should be social!

For both mental and physical well-being and longevity, studies indicate that our social connections are probably a significant feature of living a long, healthy, happy life.

Hmmm – I’ve got this covered for you too! It’s lovely to see friendships develop that extend beyond the training sessions. Even if it frequently means booze or cake! I genuinely love that.

I might even let you chat a little longer…

Nah, who am I kidding!

Squats, lunges, squat jumps, and lunge jumps.

And pick up a heavier bell please!!

PS Image is of Irene Obera competing in the W85 category of Masters athletics… She was about 82 in this pic.

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