As we get older, age starts to take a toll on our muscles. Muscle fibres, both slow-twitch and fast-twitch, start to degrade, and the mitochondria slowly deplete in number.
So what is the answer here, to maintain muscle mass and have a healthier life?
All types of exercise can stimulate muscles, but they each stimulate the muscle in a different way, and have different effects on your body.
Easy cardiovascular exercises
Cardiovascular exercises are movements that raise your heart rate and increase your endurance. Activities such as walking, running, cycling, tennis, swimming and aerobics all fit into this category. Even a brisk spring clean can raise your heart rate enough to count!
However, certain types of cardiovascular exercise were found to be particularly effective for people aged 64 and over. As we get older, the number and quality of mitochondria found in the cells decreases.
But in order to combat this, a cardio high-intensity interval training program (like the one below) was found to be particularly effective, according to science journal Cell Metabolism.
If you struggle with balance, or do not wish to overexert yourself, this is not a problem. You shouldn’t feel like your balance has to prevent you from exercising.
Instead, why not try a seated workout? This takes a lot of the strain off of your joints, but still allows you to improve your cardiovascular health.
Easy strength exercises
Strength training is all about using weights or other resistance to build muscle and bone mass. Strength training can also be useful to help improve balance and prevent falls, which becomes more important as you get older.
Again, strength exercises can be useful as we get older, especially to combat muscle atrophy. Things such as water aerobics can take the strain off the joints, while still allowing for the muscles to be trained. The water aerobics activities don’t have to be particularly complex, and can still help improve strength.
Strength exercises are typically used to build muscle, but these same exercises can also help to slow the loss of it.
However, if you are struggling with joint pain or have worries about using any sorts of weights, then you can consider an alternative to weight training, while still focusing on your strength.
For example, Tai chi is widely recognised as a good alternative to weight training that still improves your strength and endurance. The movements practiced in tai chi also improve balance, agility and coordination.
Tai chi can be as long or as short as you like, and there is no equipment required. Quick intro videos (like the one below) can be done at home, providing you have a clear, safe space to practice in.
Easy flexibility exercises
Exercises that focus on flexibility can help improve the range of motion that you can undertake, reduce pain and stiffness, as well as prevent injury when doing other types of exercise. Stretching exercises and yoga fall into this category.
Yoga can really help to slow down the effects of the aging process, helping to maintain muscle softness and flexibility. Yoga is also a good mindfulness technique, helping to relieve stress and tension in the mind.
The yoga practice should be gentle and mild, nothing that will overexert you initially. As with tai chi, you can practice yoga at home with just a mat.
However, if you feel like maximising on your workouts, you can simply incorporate a good stretching warm up or cool down into your strength or cardio workouts.
Stretching exercises, such as the ones below, can really help prevent injuries that may occur in the future, as well as treat any old injuries that are still giving you jip.
Overall, you need to do a combination of all three types of exercise in order to maximise your fitness. Simply sticking to one type will not do you any favours.
By working on your cardio, strength, and flexibility, you are setting yourself up for a long, healthy and happy life.