How to Slow the Aging Process
Throughout my entire life I have participated in all kinds of sports. It helps when you have a father (John Nunn) that was an Olympic bronze medalist and Olympic coach, however it was not everything.
Fitness is Not a Luxury
Just like anyone else I had to make the decision to participate and learn to grow naturally in each sport as it took tremendous time and patience to learn the skills and techniques required for each activity. Children and young adults between the ages of five and 20 often participate in sports or physical activity without incorporating training regimens into their routine.
Clearly, the body is naturally capable of performing strength- and power-based activities, so why is it so unusual to see a 60- or 70-year-old surfing, water skiing, or mountain climbing? Why don’t we see more older adults playing kickball, basketball, soccer or other activities commonly associated with the youth?
Unfortunately, we tend to experience declines in strength and power, but this can be slowed with the introduction of resistance training for older individuals. Activities that promote muscular strength and power can help maintain these important components of fitness and performance, while engaging in frequent physical activity allows older people to maintain their cardiovascular fitness.
While they may not appreciate it now, optimizing cardiovascular fitness during the early stages of maturation will also benefit the young as they age. This is why it’s so important to start a fitness regimen not only a young age, but right now. Remember that fitness is not a luxury but a necessary part of everyday life.
Starting early is the easiest way to gain and maintain cardiovascular health and fitness. Sedentary individuals reach a natural maximal cardiovascular health between the ages of 17-20 before beginning a decline of approximately 1% a year (10% per decade).
To put this into perspective, a sedentary 20-year-old male who reaches a VO2Max of 45 ml/kg/min-1 but does not incorporate physical activity into his daily routine will see his VO2Max drop to 30 ml/kg/min-1 by age 50, a decline of approximately 30% with no physical activity.
At 45 ml/kg/min-1, the average male can participate and tolerate most activities, but at 30 ml/kg/min-1, the workout intensity equals the warm-up of a fit person therefore most activities are off limits to these individuals and are in a sense limited on what they can do in life. The notion that bodies in motion stay in motion and bodies at rest stay at rest is prevalent in this statement.
On the other hand, an active individual who makes a concerted effort to achieve higher levels of cardiovascular health while young may actually continue to improve into their late twenties and thirties, attaining levels of 60-70 ml/kg/min-1.
Even if they reduce or stop exercising at age thirty and experience the same 10% per decade decline, it will take them until their mid-sixties to decline to the same VO2Max their sedentary counterpart experienced by the age of 50.
What’s more, if they opt to continue training at higher intensities throughout their adult life, they may have a VO2Max of 45 ml/kg/min in their fifties, more than twice the age of the sedentary person who peaked at that level of cardiovascular health in their twenties. This underscores the importance of reaching high levels of physical condition while young, then switching to an emphasis on strength and power later in life.
Too Weak to Enjoy Life
Without adequate strength and power, people become too weak to enjoy life; they lose muscle, which affects their ability to perform everyday tasks, and ultimately takes away their independence. Youth is associated with, among other things, a reduced risk for death and a responsive physiological system. A person with a healthy physiological system has captured the key components of youth: staying muscularly strong and maintaining a fit cardiovascular system for a longer amount of time.
While rowing on the U.S. National Team, I tested my VO2Max at 69 ml/kg/min and took his training to the next level where he has now been able to travel the world and complete nine full Ironman competitions. The sky’s the limit if you put in the time for a good exercise regime and it can take you places that you have only dreamed of going.
Ever notice how people who work out and train in fitness have a higher daily energy sense about them? The reason is in the workout and the body’s natural release of endorphins into the body that you can only naturally get from working out on a daily basis. Fitness is not a luxury … it is a daily need so make the time for good workouts during the week.
While most individuals will choose to use standard aerobic training to improve cardiovascular health, there are other avenues that support overall improvements. Steady-state training is always a good starting point before adding in the intervals that provide the higher return, but a half hour on the treadmill is not the only option.
Training in a Group
Studies show that we are motivated to work harder, show up more often, and push further past our perceived limits when training in a group. The results of one study suggest that endorphin release is significantly greater in group training than in individual training; this seems to be the case even when the individual’s power output, or physical exertion, is the same.
Not only is it more fun to exercise with others, but it is safer and more efficient to exercise under the leadership of a good coach. Roworx has excellent coaches. Also with indoor rowing, a cross-training effect can be attained with one day of aerobic intervals, one day of sprinting, and one day of metabolic circuits per week.
This distribution will help prevent the muscles from adapting too heavily to the aerobic system, preventing catabolism and force decline, while still providing increased oxygen delivery in muscle and improved stroke volume with the heart and deter an individual from the risk of disease.
For non-diseased, aging, and older adults between the ages of 50-75 years, the emphasis should shift to maintaining existing levels of cardiorespiratory fitness while increasing the time spent in the weight room. Sarcopenia, or age-related atrophy of fast-twitch muscle, directly affects the loss of performance function.
Individuals beyond middle age need to add in more power-based and compound exercises to their weekly regimens. While the idea of power is intimidating for some, the reality is that adequate preparatory work and appropriate training intensities will assure safe participation in every Roworx fitness class.
Rowing is a total-body sport which builds both cardiovascular endurance and strength through repetitive resistance training. Few other sports can provide the total body benefit that rowing does. Certainly, everyone needs some aspect of each fitness-related component throughout life, but incorporating a total body low impact exercise such as rowing will go a long way toward maintaining quality of life into the later years.