This is a transcription of Episode 26 of the LinnFit coaching Podcast. If you want to listen to it you can find it on Spotify by searching for LinnFit coaching Podcast, and check out the YouTube Channel for more content here: LinnFit Coaching.
Welcome to the LinnFit coaching podcast where we take some of the most important Lifestyle, Nutrition, and Exercise related topics and make them practical for you, so that you can take control of your path in your own fitness and health journey.
Hey Guys in today’s episode of the LinnFit Coaching Podcast we are talking about aging. How does your body change overtime as you get older? How does your performance change? What can you expect as you get older?
Maybe as you’re listening to this you’re still young, in your teens, twenties, or thirties, you haven’t slowed down much and you haven’t felt a ton of change to your body. Maybe you're in your late 30s or older and you're thinking, “My body just not work the way it used to” or “I have to warm up a little extra” or “Man my joints just don't feel the same as they used to” That's partially a natural thing so I want to come at this a couple different ways for us today. There are two different ways your body ages. There’s one that’s related to a genetic process of aging, you can't beat time right? The other one is more lifestyle-related changes to our body as we age.
I want to come at the Lifestyle related stuff first because a lot of people just toss up their changes in performance or recovery as related to just “I'm getting older and my body doesn't work like it used to.” But that isn't 100% of the causes a lot of it is due to our lifestyle. So take for example, from childhood I mean just look at what kids do they run, they jump, they climb everywhere. If you’ve seen anyone that has young kids, you’ve seen that they are so active. Imagine what it’d be like to be a young kid in an adult body, they’d run all over the place. Partially because they are so excited, they have so much energy that they just want to get places fast and with their short legs they have to run to get there fast, especially as fast as an adult can get there by walking.Kids are super active they are exploring the world. They haven't accepted that they shouldn’t climb over everything yet. As you get older often people are playing sports recreationally, or as part of school, or are playing competitively, or something like that and as we get older and we're getting into more like a working life, or parenting life we become more sedentary naturally. Because you have more stuff that is requiring you to sit down, you need to sit down to complete certain tasks. Or it can also be attitude wise because maybe you just don’t feel like moving, you may want to sit and watch a movie or sit to do this or that.
As we get older maybe you’ll have less and less responsibility and more of your hobbies and activities include sitting. Maybe whenever you get together with people it always includes sitting. As we get older and into old age when maybe you’re retired and you don't have a whole lot to do, especially people who live in a retirement home they don't have a whole lot to do, maybe they get out and walk sometimes, maybe they have a gym nearby on the campus area in their retirement community but other than that they may just be sitting all day. This sedentary living, puts no demand on your body to maintain any sort of bone or muscle mass. If you don't use it you lose it, that's very true of our body. If you use it, if you put some kind of demand on, it doesn't have to be extreme demand, but if you put some kind of resistance demand on your body it’s going to stimulate your body to maintain that as long as it can. That's why doctors in studies will say that a resistance training or any kind of a regular activity is going to help maintain your lean mass, which is your bone and muscle, longer. Specifically with bone mass, we’re getting into genetics a little bit here, bone mass deteriorates with age. This can be lifestyle related if you're not challenging it at all.
Another lifestyle-related topic people talk about is metabolism. You might have heard some people say before that their metabolism is not the same as it used to be. That's not only a body change. Yes, to a degree your metabolism does slow down because your lean mass is a strong determiner of how much you need to eat. If your lean mass declines with age, which it naturally does, then that will affect your metabolism. Whenever I'm 70 years old I will not have the same amount of muscle and bone mass that I have now at this age. That means that naturally my quantity of food that I need each day will naturally decrease. If I'm paying attention to how hungry I am, my hunger cues, that will naturally inform me that I don't need to eat as much as I used to. If I just eat by habit and eat because “this is what I've always eaten” then I may notice I'm getting a little bit heavier around the midsection at some point.
This doesn’t mean that your body is broken, part of this is because of your sedentary lifestyle. Maybe you’re doing fewer sports and have less activity you're becoming more sedentary in general. You might also have other lifestyle factors like stress which can increase cortisol that causes your body to retain fat a little bit more with that stressful situation. These things won’t break your metabolism but they can lead to it slowing down, because you aren’t putting as high of a demand on your body to the point that it needs that energy. Our lifestyle can be something that really slows down our metabolism not because it's broken. Not just because it's a natural thing with age, but if we choose in our lives to become more sedentary, move less, put less of an exercise or physical activity demand on our bodies then naturally our metabolism will decrease because our lean mass decreases over time.
Let’s get into the science of that a little bit. What’s going on in the natural aging process? Why does metabolism decrease over time? Let’s talk about bone mass first, naturally our bone mass hits a peak around somewhere in our 20s. From there our body slows down significantly in how quickly the bone mass turnover happens. Our bodies stop adding any new bone and it gets slower and slower remaking bone. This is why someone who is in their childhood teens or early 20s can recover from a broken bone significantly faster than someone who is in old age. It becomes significantly slower for us to add any bone mass or more difficult to retain bone mass. This is why, especially women postmenopause, can deal with osteoporosis which is when your bones can become more porous because your bone mass is getting smaller and smaller. What that does is make your bones more brittle and makes them more susceptible to breaking, and they don’t support your body as well. If you are unable to trust your bone structure, it’s going to be difficult to put any demands on them. That’s why people are encouraged to do some type of resistance training at some point in their lives, because this can help build and retain bone mass for as long as possible.
In regards to lean mass, it does decrease with age, but you will be able to retain it for quite a while. What does decrease overtime is your fast-twitch muscle fibers. This means that you’re not going to be as fast as you get older. You can retain a lot of the strong muscle fibers, especially if you continue to do some kind of resistance training, some sprint type training, training that tries to develop power. You will be able to retain some muscle mass, but the time that you are able to do a sprint in for example, will get slower and slower as you age. Your type 1 muscle fibers, that are more endurance based and can allow you to go at one pace for an extended amount of time, will be relatively constant. Your overall muscle size will decrease over time but you won’t necessarily lose your ability to do endurance exercise if you do it regularly. It’s important to be building up that strength right now and maintaining it, because the longer you stay strong the longer you will stay functional. This has a huge connection to mortality, if you are not strong enough to get up off a chair or off the floor, or catch yourself while falling then there is a higher mortality rate among these people.
My big encouragement to you all is to do the things nutritionally, and with physical activity now to build your best self. That doesn’t mean that you have to go and completely smash yourself in the gym, think of it in the big picture. If I want to be strong and functional later on in life then I shouldn’t train so hard that I get an injury now, that doesn’t mean that I work so hard I have no energy to do anything else the rest of the day. You don’t want to bury yourself in the ground.
This also doesn’t mean that you exercise at a very high intensity everyday, for example by lifting the same heavy weights again and again and again. Something that I personally have been learning a lot more about in recent years is how well rounded a program needs to be. You need variety, but you also need progression. You need progression and repetition of skills. That doesn’t mean that you just add more weight indefinitely because at some point you are not going to want to be moving that much weight anymore. But you do want to be challenging yourself and having some discomfort in your workouts. Some workouts may be really hard, take the wind out of you and make you want to lay on the floor afterward; some workouts may be with really heavy weight. But the majority of your workouts are at a moderate intensity, whether you are trying to maintain strength so you do no more than seven reps in a set with just a few sets, or you are doing an endurance workout where you will be doing a lot more reps at a lighter weight, and that gets difficult over time; the intensity can be moderate in both situations. As you get older I would recommend that you steer away from a one rep max more and more. That becomes difficult to maintain and ask yourself the purpose of doing a one rep max as you get older, especially if you are putting yourself at risk of an injury. Building a well rounded program to give you some variety and help keep you motivated, but also can challenge your body to be doing new movements, skills, and progressions to help improve your foundational movements and strengthen your core. Programs like this will help your joints, help you feel good and over time help you look better. They can also help you keep bone and muscle mass for long time functionality and health.
Changes that happen as we age can be partially attributed to the sedentary lifestyle that we can let ourselves go toward. Circumstances will come up that may limit your activity for a time. Maybe your nutrition has become out of whack. You could be only wanting to eat the same thing over and over, and those comfort foods are exactly that, comforting. But if you’re not satisfied with how your body looks, then things have to change from what your normal is. Prioritizing well rounded nutrition and well rounded exercise can help reduce the negative changes that happen as we age. Your exercise does not have to be just inside a gym but it can be about getting active outside, carrying your kid for a hike, any obstacle you can add to your life that will keep your body moving. Recreational activities that you are able to include in your life are going to keep you moving, developing, and healthy.
I wanted to give you guys a little bit of a picture about what it’s like to age. I don’t have a complete picture of this yet, as I’m still in my younger years. I’m not in the latter part of my life yet, hopefully. But I do make a ton of observations as a nutritionist and a strength and conditioning coach that people’s bodies age because of their physical age but also due to the many sedentary and lifestyle habits that they have. There are things that you can be doing right now to be prepared for the long haul. Taking responsibility and the little things that you can do now are going to have an effect in ten, twenty, thirty, or forty years down the road. If you want to be functional and be able to live your best life and not just be stuck in a chair later on in life, then take some responsibility now to do what you can to move well, put some resistance training into your exercise to put some cardiovascular training into your exercise. If you need guidance with that there are many people, myself included, who are out there ready to help you. This is all one big community world-wide of people who want to live their best life, so who’s in your corner? Who is that emotional support that is going to help you live your best life. How can you get other people on board with you?
Thanks for listening today, I’m looking forward to the topic next week. I’ll catch you guys on the next one.