A new age-group best!
I woke up this morning with my muscles sore and my joints telling me that I may be getting a bit older for this type of impact sport that of distance walking and running. However, I woke up this morning, read the above, and felt mentally refreshed and motivated to start the day. It is reassuring I can still enjoy the running movement despite over 45 years of non-stop pitter patter on my feet and legs. Aging and the physiological results to our bodies can be complex, confusing, and in many cases discouraging. A better understanding and appreciation of running or walking can be had if we focus on the main aspects of what happens to our cardiovascular health and muscular development. With that mind, we can implement strategies to help “stay on the move” as we get chronologically older in age. This article will include untrained men, women, distance walkers, joggers, and competitive runners.
Scientifically, there is a decline in VO2, between the ages of 25 and 75 as studied by Sid Robinson in the late 1930s. By definition V02 is the maximal oxygen uptake or maximum volume of oxygen that can be utilized in one minute during maximal or exhaustive exercise. The ability to take in oxygen quickly and efficiently is almost cut in half from those 25 years old to those75 years of age. However, does this chronological decrease in uptake have to occur at that rate of speed for everyone? Not really. Since I was in my early 30s I ran about as fast till fifty years of age. My decrease came mostly due to less running, injury, and other outside factors; all of which would suggest less training at prior intensity. However, now that I have replicated most of my early training routine, I am slowly getting faster again. That result is still unfolding. Most competitive and endurance runners who remain in the game year after year lose little if they maintain their distance, intensity of training, and basically stay with their same training plan; albeit taking more recovery days. I personally see this with many runners whom I known for twenty or more years.
What about if we add more distance to our training so we can increase our cardio output and heart volume? Can we in fact make ourselves more trainable as the years pass? It is true the younger we are we can still obtain improvements in maximal cardio output especially during long distance training seasons. The good news seems to be that even older men and women experience little change in maximal cardio output with long distance training, probably by removing more oxygen from the blood more efficiently. Us older folks can add to our stroke volume by going long; making our resting heart rate lower thus giving plenty of leeway before getting near our maximum heart rate. This may be one reason why older runners; such as myself actually take part in longer distance running and do quite well despite aging up. In fact one of the quickest growing sports to be taken up by older runners is found in what is called ultra-running – distance events of 50 miles or more. These individuals sustain a high level of cardio development, and many enter ultra-distance events – another great opportunity to compete in their age group again.
The next reality is that we do lose muscle as we age; including our fast twitch muscles-recruitment of the quick up and down foot movement slows down. There is evidence that some muscle fibers may be lost as the individual ages beyond 60 years. (Aniasson, A) Famous runners such as Frank Shorter and Bill Rogers have written much about the importance of muscular training as they grew older. They would also mention that less frequency or the actual days of running is recommended to decrease injury and increase recovery. This would support the importance of beginning cross-training by weight training as we hit the forty year old mark. Also, active impact participants should practice specificity training for the running muscles to keep a biomechanical advantage and yes, to keep the leg turnover from slowing down. An example of specific muscular training is hill repeats which build leg power, increase turnover, and is cardiovascular challenging. . In sum, as one ages up, both intensity and distance needs also to increase making us more “trainable” for various distance walk and run distance events.
One might argue that those who at the very beginning are faster runners and have had prior training would have an advantage over untrained runners; be it men or women. This consideration would be applicable to great runners such as Joan Samuelson and Bill Rogers. According to Bengt Saltin and Gunnar Grimby studied “former athletes” who have kept up their training routine for more than 10 years still have a 20 percent advantage in V02 max compared to untrained non athletes and those of us who are average distance runners. Those of us who are “untrained” are advised to begin an aerobic routine of a steady, brisk walking movement, or a combination of walking and running; both of which will develop lung capacity.
Oh, my achy knees. Is joint pain caused by impact sports as we age? If so perhaps we should give up this walking, jogging, and running. Not so. Walking or running can reduce the pain of arthritic knees by about 30 percent. In fact, increasing your speed be it walking or running when you’re older increases mobility. (Stephen Messler) My personal experience has been increased joint pain and tight muscles as I have aged up. I then began to change some of my training habits. I lessened running frequency to four days, implemented yoga and swimming, and began more running on soft ground. Controlling one’s training venue can alter the negative effects of increased arthritis from impact based on my experiences and other older adults whom I train. Further, adult runners aged 45 or older, had a lower incidence of knee osteoarthritis and hip replacement than age-matched walkers. Long distance running might have a protective effect against joint degeneration. (Gretchen Reynolds, NYTimes, 2014)
Most importantly, many aging women have signs of osteopenia or have osteoporosis. Study after study reveals that running and similar high impact activities can prevent and hold off the progression of these bone density challenges.
The bottom line. We have evidence that walking and running are favorable as we age up. But how much is enough before these benefits kick in? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity aerobic walking or running will improve your health. Or; if you are having time related issues, go for the intensity. 75 minutes a week of intense aerobic activity will help you gain even more health benefits. Note that aerobic activity can also include swimming, biking, and yes, dancing!
The good news is now unfolding as us baby boomers are demanding movement such as found in the walk to run movement. We want to continue playing the game; and some of us play to win. So with our healthy heart, great lungs, and strong bones, you and I can very well increase our steps to a healthy life year after year.
Lynn Gray, M.S., RRCA certified Coach, owner of Take…The First Step, www.FirstStepPrograms
15100 Hutchison Road, Suite 109 – Tampa, FL 33625
Lgray88@ yahoo.com – 813-453-7885
Core and More for Forty and More…Core Yoga…My First 5K…Running College
Author of: Conquering the Marathon, Fit and Faster, Cardio Walking for Weight Loss
Legal disclaimer: This article is based on years of personal and professional experience with coaching both men and women of all ages, health conditions, and environmental settings which include: schools, corporate workplaces, Moffitt Cancer Center, and a diverse amount of individuals with “pre-existing” conditions.
Lynn Gray/Take…The First Step does not provide medical advice, professional diagnosis, nor has medical license to do so. The information provided is based on years of experience and reading and provides general information for educational purposes only. The information provided is not a substitute for medical or professional care, and you should not use the information in place of a visit, call consultation or the advice of your physician or other healthcare provider. Lynn Gray/Take…The First Step is not liable for any advice, course of treatment, diagnosis or any other information, services or product you obtain through this site or associated with this site.