7 top tips to maximise health and longevity for older trainers

1. Balanced lifestyle
The first step is to keep everything within a balance. From your healthy nutrition to a good work life balance down to making sure you have a hobby that you love. Then in between all this spending enough time with your friends and family. Easy enough in theory, but in practice it is one of the finest skills one can have available.

2. Strength training
As we get older we lost muscle mass and strength which is mostly due to inactivity. This loss of strength and muscle mass is the No. 1 predictor of mortality. What does this mean – It means we MUST do strength training!

3. High intensity interval training
As we get older most trainers look to do easier exercises for aerobic training (long walks, walking on the treadmill in the gym, easy long distance cycling, etc.). As a result true aerobic fitness, measured as VO2 Max, declines markedly with age – another key predictor of health and longevity.

  • HIIT can maintain and improve VO2 Max in older trainers, plus it provides many other physiological benefits including improved hormone function and increased fat burning.
  • HIIT training involves repeated short sharp efforts anywhere from about 15 seconds in length up to about 3 minutes.
  • Examples of HIIT include: cycle sprints, hill sprints, rower sprints.

4. Don't injure yourself
As we get our joints, connective tissues and muscle fibre progressively lose some of their resilience and flexibility.
We also recover less quickly due to a number physiological changes. The older you get the slower you recover from exercise and especially injury
When you are training – don't go all out like you did when you were 20 years old.
Think 80 – 90% effort. Sure, your progress may be a bit slower but if you injure yourself, you can lose weeks and perhaps months of progress waiting for injuries to heal.
Also look for techniques where you can train intensely yet safely.
A few examples include:

  • Slow training – use lighter weights and count to 8 during the lift (contraction), and 8 during the lowering phase of each exercise.
  • Pre-exhaustion – do a lighter isolation exercise first to tire your muscle, then do your main set with about 70 - 80% of your normal working weight. Examples are:
  • Triceps pushdowns followed by close hand space push ups
  • Shoulder lateral side raises followed by dumbbell shoulder presses
  • Flat bench flyes for chest followed by bench press
  • In each case the first exercise is done to tire the muscle to about 60 - 70% fatigue.
  • Blood flow restriction training – this technique involves reducing the blood flow to a working muscle by using bans or cuffs around the limb being trained. This ideally works for arm and leg training. The great thing for older athletes is you can use much less weight yet get a fantastic training response which dramatically reduces injury risk.

For more on blood flow restriction training CLICK HERE

5. Eat low carb
As the population get older statistics show the risk of developing chronic disease increases dramatically. The big ones to worry about are diabetes, heart disease and various form of cancers. An emerging field of science and research is revealing that controlling the levels of insulin in your body can have many short and long term benefits. Many trainers and athletes believe they are immune from these sorts of health issues, and that exercise will protect them. And it's true that exercise can help improve your metabolism to some degree. But you are much more likely to live a longer, healthier and higher performing life if you reduce carbohydrate and sugar intake which in turn helps keep your insulin levels stable and lower. This simply means reducing foods like bread, pasta, rice and potatoes, and eliminating sugary foods like cakes, biscuits, white flour products, soft drinks, fruit juices, really anything that contains added sugar or refined carbs. If you do eat carbs, aim to get them from vegetables like sweet potato, pumpkin or beans, and fresh fruit.

6. Reduce stress
This is easy to say, but in our modern world, not that easy to do. Intermittent low levels or even medium levels of stress are actually good for, we evolved to handle this type of stimulus. However chronic low, medium or high stress has a very different effect. Chronic stress leads to chronic elevated cortisol levels. Cortisol is a hormone that affect much of your body's physiology. And chronically elevated levels can lead to weight and fat gains, osteoporosis, poor digestion, hormone imbalances, cardiac disease and diabetes. If you feel you suffer from chronic stress, there are a number of things you should consider:

  • Try to identify what is causing your stress, and if you can, remove or modify the cause.
  • Daily exercise is a great stress reliever that helps anyone cope with stress better
  • Consider a daily meditation practise – check: https://www.headspace.com/
  • Avoid junk food and focus on good nutrition to help your body cope optimally
  • Read the next section about Sleep!

7. Get more sleep
We've saved the best until last. Getting enough quality sleep is the number one this you can do to improve your health, happiness, recovery and longevity. Sure, you need to get the other things in your life in balance, but if they are, but your sleep is inadequate, you will always be running below your potential. Proper sleep has a long list of benefits for the older trainer and athlete.
Here are just a few:

  • Most of your recovery, both physically and mentally, occurs when you sleep
  • Much of your hormone excretion and hormone balancing occurs when you sleep
  • Sleep reduces inflammation
  • Sleep improves mental clarity and performance
  • Sleep helps the body balance lean muscle and fat levels
  • Sleep reduces cortisol (stress hormone)
  • Sleep improves mood
  • Studies show adequate sleep increases longevity

So now we've convinced you of sleep's benefits – how much should you get? Well the gold standard is 8 hours per night however some need more and some need less. If you do a lot of exercise chances are you need more sleep to help you fully recover. And if you need an alarm to wake up every morning and you are sound asleep when it goes off, you may not be getting enough sleep. Try going to be a half hour earlier, or even an hour earlier.
To improve your sleep quality follow these tips:

  • Avoid caffeinated beverages later in the day
  • Make sure your bedroom is dark and a comfortable cool temperature
  • Try to avoid looking at computer screens, phone screens, or TV for about 1 – 2 hours before bed as the blue light stimulates the chemicals in your body that keep you awake.
  • Use a blue light blocker on your phone or computer in the evenings.
  • Don't have a big meal too close to bedtime
  • Avoid alcohol close to bed time as it reduces sleep quality