Yes, I am now approaching 40 and I realize that over the last few years there has been a bit of a change. It simply pinches faster already times in musculature, joints and bones. It is what it is. I am getting older and I am not alone with my observations. But is actually simple. Poignantly the aging of the triggers of these "problems"? And if so, how can you be smart about it?. Even doing something about it?
Info: If you want to learn in advance about the basic ways in which energy is provided in the human body, feel free to check out our series of articles on this topic:
– Topic: important for sports and life: The energy supply in the human body
The aging athlete – a chicken-and-egg problem?
This question arises to me: Are people actually becoming more inactive and unfit because they are aging or are they aging because they are becoming more inactive and unfit?
I can understand if you have to read the last sentence maybe rather two or three times. But I think it is an important question and of course I am not the first person who has asked this question. Over the decades, countless scientists have conducted a huge number of studies on the topics of aging, regeneration, performance and the associated quality of life. Which parts of the decrease in performance are actually age-related?. Which tends to be tied to lifestyle factors? Say: What losses must be grudgingly accepted. Against which losses one can do very well despite aging?
I am addressing this ie now because it is affecting me more and more and I don't want to accept my "aging" body so easily. There must be something!
Structure of the article – The aging athlete:
1. Change in body composition and metabolic processes with increasing age 2. New framework conditions require new objectives 3. Effective ways and possibilities to slow down the change processes and to reduce the biological age
Changes in body composition and metabolic processes with increasing age
As we age, a myriad of things change in the human body that affect different aspects of physical performance. Of course, the constitution and genetic predisposition of the respective individual always plays a certain role – there will therefore always be exceptions.
changes in the musculature
Basically, endurance performance declines less with age than sheer muscular and rapid strength. This explains, among other things, why especially in endurance sports such as running, cycling and also triathlon, the best athletes have the 30. The ageing athlete is often already well past the age of 30.
In sports where speed and maximum strength are most important, the world looks different. In the peak range, the air becomes thin for many people as soon as they reach 30 years of age. The age of 40 is coming into view.
The reason: Type 2 muscle fibers (fast-twitch) – which contract quickly and forcefully and are thus mainly responsible for our maximum and fast strength – decline much faster with age than type 1 fibers (slow-twitch), which contract more slowly and with less force, but over a longer period of time in a recurring sequence.
This is primarily because in type 2 muscle fibers, the number of satellite cells necessary for regeneration and growth, decreases significantly, and so the body is simply less able to repair and keep type 2 fibers alive. In contrast, this age-related loss of satellite cells has not been found to this extent in type 1 muscle fibers.
– Study: Satellite cell content is specifically reduced in type II skeletal muscle fibers in the elderly
VO2max decreases by approximately 10% per decade
Let's get back to endurance performance. Because even if this is longer spared from aging, at some point comes the point where also the endurance with age decreases.
In the average person, endurance performance in the form of VO2max decreases by about 10 percent per decade. One factor is the age-related decrease in maximum heart rate, which also reduces the amount of blood moved per unit of time. But there is hope: Targeted training can significantly slow down the reduction in VO2max. More about this below.
VO2max declines at the rate of about 10% per decade beyond the age of 25 years. Masters athletes tend to have a decline in VO2max that is about half the rate of nonathletes.
– Editorial: The Aging Athlete – Article: Aging among elite distance runners: a 22-yr longitudinal study
RMR (Resting Metabolic Rate) – The basal metabolic rate decreases
This is a really dumb message. As we age, our basal metabolic rate drops. On the one hand, this may be due to the fact that, with aging, many people's lean body mass, mainly muscle mass, decreases due to lack of training. Less musculature means less energy consumption. Thus a lower basal metabolic rate.
This may explain why one or the other likes to develop a small or even larger tummy in old age.
But that is only one part of the equation, because it is now unfortunately the case that the basal metabolic rate decreases with age to an extent that cannot be explained exclusively by the loss of lean body mass. This means that no matter how "fit" we keep ourselves, the basal metabolic rate will decrease.
– Study: Effect of age on body composition and resting metabolic rate
Repair processes need more time
Probably one of the most directly felt points in one's own body. After demanding sports activities it takes longer to feel fit and regenerated again. It's not just a feeling, it's a fact. With age, the regenerative capacity of the body decreases noticeably. The exact biochemical causes have not yet been fully clarified.
It is clear, however, that with aging the number and also the function of the stem cells in the muscles decreases. Therefore in this case it is a simple equation: less and worse stem cells = less and worse regeneration. Nevertheless, all hope is not lost. More about this below.
– Study: Muscle stem cell aging: regulation and rejuvenation
New framework: Be smart and adjust goal setting
At some point, you reach the point where you have to say goodbye to the thought of new best times. I believe immediately and know it partly already from my own experience that it can be very demotivating when you get to this point. Here it should help to keep in mind why you exercise, eat well and perhaps give up one or two temptations.
Don't train for best times – and therefore more for your own ego – but train for quality of life, health, and ask yourself how you'd like to be moving through life when you're 80, 90, or even 100 years old?
THEREFORE it is worthwhile to remain active, even beyond the pursuit of best times. This thought releases a great amount of motivation, at least for me.
Effective ways and means to slow down the processes of change and reduce biological aging
Of course, I don't want to simply state here that we all inevitably become flabby over time and eventually disintegrate into our constituent parts. Because there are various ways to continue to perform or even become new as you age.
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1. Endurance sport lowers biological age
First of all, regular exercise, especially endurance sports, helps keep fitness levels high and can significantly slow down the body's declining performance. There is a difference of up to 10 years in biological age.
The biological age indicates the state of health in comparison to the average.
To put it simply, a 40 year old can achieve the physical condition of an average 30 year old. In my case I would say: Check!
The mechanisms behind this are certainly manifold. However, various studies have shown that regular, intensive endurance training halves the rate of VO2max reduction compared to non-athletes. At the same time, endurance training lowers the rate of reduction of the maximum heart rate. In short, endurance sports keep you fitter. Thus biologically younger. But this is also somehow obvious. Is not surprising now.
– Study: Decline in VO2max with aging in master athletes and sedentary men – Study: A Comparison of Longitudinal Changes in Aerobic Fitness in Older Endurance Athletes and Sedentary Men – Study: Energy Expenditure and Requirements in Aging Humans
2. Strength training – The ultimate weapon against ageing
We have already covered the obvious – now comes the most important point from my point of view: strength training. Of course not only important in old age, but especially then! Because it sets various positive processes in motion, especially for aging athletes! In addition, studies have shown that even if you start strength training at an advanced age of well over 60 years, positive effects can be observed in a very short time.
Proper strength training maintains and strengthens the important type-2 (fast-twitch) muscle fibers, while also protecting and strengthening ligaments and tendons along the way. Strength training also increases bone density and prevents osteoporosis. In addition, strength training, through the maintenance or growth of muscle fibers, slows the decline in basal metabolic rate.
Strength training also promotes the production of important hormones, such as testosterone, which is needed for countless build-up, repair and regeneration processes in the body.
On top, especially training in the maximum strength range improves the neuronal control of the musculature, as well as the intramuscular coordination. This means that the muscles can be controlled more efficiently and precisely by the brain.
For aging athletes, strength training is, in my opinion, the most important and best weapon to stay competitive in the long run
– Article: Study On Aging Athletes: It's Never Too Late To Begin Strength Training – Study: Comparable Rates of Integrated Myofibrillar Protein Synthesis Between Endurance-Trained Master Athletes and Untrained Older Individuals
But what is real strength training anyway? The inclined endurance athlete may now come around the corner with "I do regular stability training". Stability training is not strength training. Strength training starts when you pick up weights. The most effective way is to work with free weights and complex exercises, which are characterized by the fact that they require the interaction of different muscle groups. Well-known exercises from this category are, for example, deadlifts and squats with a barbell.
I am also a big fan of kettlebell training. BUT: Now don't run straight to the nearest and largest possible dumbbell and just go for it. There is a lot you can do wrong when training with free weights. So if the subject is new to you, find an experienced trainer who will teach you the enormously important basics in terms of movement execution and introduce you step by step to the proper use of free weights.
More articles on the topic of strength training:
– Video: Strength training for cycling and running – Makes you healthier, faster and more beautiful – Video: Athletics and strength training for swimming with Nils Goerke
3. Supporting regeneration: the right timing and nutrition
Finally, I want to talk about possibilities to support regeneration. First, the obvious: If the body regenerates slower, then you should simply give it the time it needs. If one does not do this, one will eventually be forced to deal with overuse injuries. So: allow the body the time it needs to complete its regenerative processes accordingly.
BUT: There is, of course, the possibility, even with age, to shorten the time needed for regeneration and reduce the rate of decline in regenerative capacity.
To this topic alone a whole article series expects you soon. At this point I will limit it to a list of possibilities to deal with:
1. Give the body more time to regenerate 2. Enormously important: Sufficient and good sleep 3. 4. Proper nutrition supports regeneration. Helps to eliminate inflammatory processes more quickly. Proper nutrition supports recovery. Helps in faster elimination of inflammatory processes. A few of my favorites: turmeric, sour cherry, ginger, omega-3 containing foods like z.B. Salmon. 5. Regular work with the fascia roller 6. Exercise in everyday life (low intensity)
More articles on the topic of regeneration:
– Podcast: Fabian Foelsch: About sleep, regeneration, CBD and gadgets – Test report: Oofos in the test: Sandals for a better regeneration? – Article: CBD oil for athletes – effects of cannabidiol on recovery and performance – Article: Details matter: My top 5 regeneration routines – Article: Regeneration self-experiment – Under prere: Cupping at home
For all aging athletes, train smarter, not harder!
Very nice article. Thank you! That use of the muscles also in the upper load range (strength) can be part of an active measure against biological aging makes sense to me. Why it absolutely must be training with weights, does not fit me at all🙂 Clearly, the control of the muscles and strength coordination. But are there not also enough exercises without weights? I have never felt like working out in the gym. Can training without weights at home. On the road does not also have the desired effect? And then there is the question: My muscles still respond to proper strength training at 59 through growth. Actually nice – satisfies my vanity – but disturbs the high weight during triathlon. Are there any tips?
Thank you very much and I am looking forward to the series Stefan
Hi Stefan! Of course, some muscles can be properly loaded without additional weights, especially of course the upper body and parts of the back. But especially when it comes to bone density gain and especially the lower body in general, you have to add a few kilos to get a real effect. squats without weight, for example, are good for strength endurance, but beyond that they have little effect in the "important" areas. The same goes for deadlifts, my absolute favorite exercise… but without proper additional weight rather witless.
If you want to train at home, then I can only recommend to just buy some kettlebells. The first workout is when you have to pick it up at the post office. Gain muscle kilos. It does not happen soooo quickly. On top, I wouldn't really care, because fitness and health are more important to me than competition results.