Common Training Goals
There are some training goals that are relatively common when you ask around: gain muscles, lose fat, lift X weight, run this fast on that distance. All are achievable goals when you have a good starting point, decent training program and do the work. I only see a small issue… What will happen once you achieve that goal? You set another? And what once you achieve that one? There is one overlapping goal that everybody should have in mind, if you ask me. Longevity should be your overall training goal. Many of the goals above fit within that overall goal, but these short term goals should be followed by some low intensity maintenance periods. But above all, it is important to put all the other goals in perspective.
Longevity as a Training Goal
Longevity in this form refers to the ability to cope with everyday tasks while aging. Even if you do not see the importance of longevity (yet), nobody can deny that we all age. Aging comes with several specific processes and there is nothing you can do to stop those processes, but there are definitely ways to prepare for them. And on top of it, life is just a lot easier to handle when you are strong enough.
One of the processes related to aging is called sarcopenia. This is a process in which a human body loses muscle mass with age. For inactive individuals older than 30 years, the rate at which muscle mass can decrease is 3-5% per 10 years. This is the main reason why your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) decreases after the age of 30 (since your RMR depends on your muscle mass, see also You Should Not Aim for Fatloss). For this reason it is important to aim for gaining muscle mass and/or losing fat mass. Otherwise you will get in a vicious circle in which you lose muscle mass, burn less calories and gain more fat mass. Therefore it is vey beneficial to have a training routine with at least one or two sessions for resistance training.
Another aspect related to aging is osteoporosis, an issue affecting mainly females. With this process bone mineral density is degrading over time. Regular exercise is known to have a positive effect on bone mineral density. This applies to aerobic endurance exercise as well as resistance training. Though resistance training has other benefits for longevity and proves to be the most advantageous route.
The most specific aspect, without any fancy (or difficult) name, is the skill to perform every day tasks. If you ask me, it is important to be able to walk stairs, carry groceries or even get up from the toilet-seat without the aid of handles or other aids. I prefer to be in good health and be strong enough to take care of these things as long as possible.
How to Train
Well…. there is no specific way to train for longevity, but a few aspects are of some importance. Strength, mobility and intensity. This is not a complete list, since every individual will have different specifics with regard to injury and training history, strengths and so on. If you make sure you take care of these aspects mentioned below, you are likely to cover most of it.
It is important to have a major part of your training routine focused on strength. This is important for the mentioned processes of sarcopenia, osteoporosis and the ability to perform every day chores. Getting and staying strong is one of the best ways of ensuring you delay or prevent sarcopenia or osteoporosis and you will be stong enough for every day tasks.
The research of Dr Vladimir Janda (ref 1) discovered that the human body has phasic and tonic muscles. With aging the tonic muscles tend to get tighter and phasic muscles tend to get weaker. The phasic muscles can be strengthened by strength training and the tonic muscles need to be stretched. Also the lifestyle of most people involves a lof of sitting. This also has a big influence on muscles and ligaments (ref 2). Therefore it is important to be active, prevent seating for too long and include a form of stretching to your daily/weekly routine.
There is only so much stress your body can handle. It is not beneficial if you have a stressful job, stress at home and then also add stress with a high intensity exercise session. Your body gets too many stressors that way and has no way to recover from it with an adaptation. The best way is to perform low intensity sessions and only dial up intensity when you could handle the additional stress. Especially in the busy life everybody has nowadays, it is more likely that you can perform around two high intensity routines (of about 4-6 weeks) throughout a year. All the other weeks, you will be better of by doing low intensity work to get and stay strong. For a lot of people this is counter-intuitive.
What to Do Now?
So how can you implement longevity as your overall training goal? Well, first of all you should make sure you include strength training and mobility work to your routine. These aspects have far reaching benefits. But it is also important to make sure that the intensity level of your training sessions is in line with the stress level of your day to day life. Adding stress of a hard training routine on a already stressful life is not going to help you at all. With one of my training programs you will tick all those boxes and we make sure you will both reach your goals, as well as work on your longevity aspects.
If you have any questions or want to know more about training through Continuous Improvement Fitness, feel free to get in touch through email, or the Contact Page.
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