What impact does age have on fitness? How should I vary my training to suit my age? How can I measure my level of fitness?
Statistics show that 45 to 65 is the largest age group in bushwalking clubs. No doubt many have recently joined a club to get fit, others have been bushwalkers for many years, but all will be aware that as they get older they need to exercise regularly to maintain a high level of fitness and counteract the ageing process. Not only do you need to continue to exercise regularly as you get older but you probably will need to modify your diet to compensate for a decrease in BMR (basal metabolic rate), which means you will need to eat less.
My personal experience has shown that not only has growing older reduced my aerobic capacity but that it now takes much longer, after a break from training, to recover former levels of fitness.
Research has shown that aerobic fitness decreases from 35 years and accelerates as you get older, losing 10-15% each year once you reach 50. As you get older you lose muscle mass, increase fat and your ability to pump blood around your body decreases. However there is hope; keep exercising at a high level and you can slow down the process of ageing.
Generally accepted wisdom is that you should train at between 65 – 85% of maximum heart rate and this is calculated by subtracting your age from 220 (beats per minute). This means that as you get older, you are advised by most to exercise at a lower intensity. The research above however indicates that those over 50 might be better exercising at a higher intensity, using interval training, and reducing the volume of their training.
Cross-training (walking, riding, climbing, skiing) is one way to keep training volume high and maintain high levels of motivation while at the same time reducing muscle-tissue damage, which sometimes results from repetitive running. As muscle mass decreases with age, strength training becomes important and should not be ignored, especially if heavy pack carrying is part of your normal bushwalking.
I find that my motivation is helped by regularly measuring my fitness/health and observing positive progress. There are four main fitness monitoring devices, three of which do a similar job and the fourth measures body characteristics:
- Smart Phones eg Nokia, iPhone (with or without heart Rate Monitor): upload to a dedicated website
- Nike shoe sensors (iPod, iPhone): senses movement and upload to you upload to iPod, iPhone from where it can be uploaded to a dedicated website for analysis
- POLAR wristwatches with heart rate monitor strap: upload to you computer or watch
- Body Composition Monitors : such as the Tanita InnerScan which measure Weight, Body Fat %, Body Water %, Daily Caloric Intake, Metabolic Age, Bone Mass, Muscle Mass, Physique Rating, and Visceral Fat Rating, adjusted according to your gender, age, height and weight, and rated against population statistics. All you have to do is stand on the device, which looks like normal body mass scale. This device is surprising accurate showing trends such as improving metabolic age as fitness improves, and correlates with the fitness level shown by my Polar wristwatch. I would highly recommend the purchase of this body composition monitor, which has been a great source of motivation for me.
From an earlier post:Using your Smartphone to Monitor Fitness Levels for Bushwalkers and Hikers
FAQ – Age and Exercise (Roger Caffin)
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