Considerations for the Older Exerciser

Thanks to Shane Mclean, The Balance Guy, for another great guest blog post!

5 considerations for the older exerciser……

Ever heard of the saying ‘you’re as only as old as you feel’ or ‘you’re only as old as the person you feel?’ Going by this, I classify as an old dude. Now if my wife reads this, I’m in trouble so, please don’t tell her.

I’m so old I remember when the internet came down the phone line. It made the horrible screeching noise to connect and to make matters worse, you couldn’t use the phone and internet at the same time.  They were dark dark days indeed.

Yeah, yeah cue all your old people jokes. I’m ready.

However, when I was young, dumb and full of rum, I could put my body through the wringer and still come out the other side smelling like a daisy. For example,

  • a few too many the night before. No problem wake up the next day raring to go
  • bench press with terrible form while my spotter yells at me “it’s all you bro.” Wake up the next morning, flexing in the mirror without pain
  • eat a whole bag of chips washed down with soda and don’t gain a pound
  • I had a full head of hair

Now, being older, my life is the complete opposite of the above.

Every misstep you take when you’re older in the nutritional and gym department comes back to bite you harder than ever before because of your slower metabolism and all the miles on your odometer.

If you’re older like me, please take these considerations under advisement when you’re under the bar or over the fry pan so you can put those young people with better internet to shame.

  • Do more cardio

Peak aerobic capacity is recognized to decline with age because who wants to run/cycle/walk all the time? As you (and I) get older is only natural to slow down a little.

But how much is too much?

Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging performed a longitudinal study of 375 women and 435 men ages 21 to 87 years over a period of 7.9 years. They measured the rate of change in aerobic capacity (VO 2 max) and the influence of age, gender, and physical activity on these changes.

They found a decline in peak VO2 in the 6 age decades in both sexes; however, the rate of decline accelerated from 3% to 6% per 10 years in the 20s and 30s to more than 20% per 10 years in the 70s. The rate of decline for each decade was larger in men than women from the 40s onward. (1)

What does this mean for you?  Don’t slow down too much and include various forms of cardiovascular activity into your everyday life. The trick is to find something you enjoy and stick to it.

  • Eat more protein

 The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for adults for protein is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (0.4 grams per pound). Protein tissue accounts for 30% of whole-body protein turnover but that rate declines to 20% by the time you get to 70.

Protein turnover is the balance between protein synthesis and protein degradation. More synthesis than breakdown indicates an anabolic state that builds muscles, more breakdown than synthesis indicates a catabolic state, which means you’re losing muscle.

The result of this is older adults need more protein/kilogram body weight than do younger people. It’s now clearer that the need for protein is at least 1.0 gram/kilogram body weight (around 0.5grams per pound). (2)

I understand it’s difficult to meet daily protein needs. This is why you should supplement with a protein powder along with other lean sources of protein because keeping your muscle is not only looks but your quality of life also.

  • Never skip the warm up

Have you noticed how a new car or lawnmower starts first time every time? However, once it starts to get older it takes longer to get going. The same could be said for us too.

When you’re younger, you can throw yourself into exercise without having to worry about those pesky warm ups. Just strap on the shoes and get going or grab a barbell and start pumping out some reps.

However, this is harder as you get older.  Like a car, your body takes a little longer to start-up and that’s why no matter what kind of exercise you do, starting off slow and including a warm up is recommended.

  • Stretch these muscles

As you get older, the ligaments and tendons that supports your muscle and bones, get thicker, dehydrated and less resistant to stretching. Ever felt stiff in the morning? Harder to get going? Now you know the reason.

Furthermore, you have muscles that are used nonstop to hold you upright. These are tonic muscles. Tonic muscles are anti-gravity muscles, involved in repetitive activities which also get tighter as you get older.

These muscles include:

Pectoral Muscle(chest)

Rectus Femoris(quad)

Hip Flexors



Hip adductors (inner thighs)

For these reasons, it’s important to find the time to stretch these muscles to support good posture, balance and be more resilient to injury.

Note- Hold these stretches for a 1 minute because ligaments/tendons are less resistant to stretching.


  • Don’t forget about your bones

You often don’t think about your bones until it’s too late. Out of sight, out if mind.

Bones are living tissues that remodel throughout your life. During childhood and teenage years, your body adds new bone faster than it removes old bone. However, after about age 20, you can lose bone faster than you make bone.

And if you don’t do anything about it, particularly once you get older, the bigger the chance when you fall that something might break.

Let these facts from the CDC show you why healthy bones are essential:

  • Twenty percent of all falls among people over 65 cause a serious injury, such as broken bones or a head injury.
  • Three million older people are treated in emergency departments for fall injuries every year.

The best thing you can do for your bones is to resistance train. Because when muscles contracts against resistance, the muscle tendons pulls on the bones to kick-start the remodeling process. This is known as Wolff’s law.

Strong muscles mean strong bones and no matter your starting point or how old you are, resistance training will help. (3)

Wrapping up

 The older (and wiser) you get, increases the need to take better care of yourself.  Because when you do, it improves your quality and quantity of life.  Sure, you can’t crush it like when you were younger but when called upon, occasionally you can put those younger whippersnappers to shame.