Life Health & Wellbeing

Friday 23 August 2019

Your body in your 60s

Cycling is beneficial
Cycling is beneficial

Peta Bee

From this age onwards, you can expect to lose 0.4 inches (1cm) from your height every year due to losses in muscle and other tissues unless you address it with a targeted exercise plan.

Your maximal oxygen uptake is down by as much as one-third compared with someone of 25, although your endurance capacity doesn't drop as dramatically as long as you maintain it with plenty of walking, cycling and swimming.

The good news is that, even if you haven't worn trainers for years, it's not too late to start afresh in your 60s. Proof of this came in a study conducted at University College London and published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine a couple of years ago.

Researchers there found that older people who exercised at least once a week were between three and seven times more likely to be classed as 'healthy agers'. And, the researchers pointed out, significant health gains were seen "even among participants who became active relatively late in life".

Working out needn't take over your life, either. So many people reach this decade and think they need to complete a marathon or cover endless miles a day on two wheels to offset the effects of ageing. It's not the case.

Cardiovascular activity is hugely important, but more distance is not always better. Mixing up intensities and duration not only keeps your training more interesting, but challenges your body's physiology in different ways.

Studies by Dr Peter Herbert, an exercise physiologist and director of the Human Performance Laboratory at the University of Wales, Trinity Saint David, have focused specifically on people in their mid-50s to mid-70s who were asked to cut their usual exercise load from an average three hard weekly sessions to one workout every five days involving 30-second sprints on an indoor bike. In between, their activity was limited to gentle aerobic exercise, such as jogging or steady cycling, for no more than 30 minutes a day. Results, published in the journal of the American Gerontology Society by Herbert and his team, were astounding.

There were significant increases in the maximal oxygen capacity (or VO2 max) of all the exercisers when they reduced their training to the five-day cycle of HIIT sprints, but their body fat also plummeted and muscle strength improved. There were significant increases in leg power, which improved by an average 15pc, a factor that has physiological importance as you get older.

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