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Have A Spring in Your Step

I have been training people over 55 for more than a decade now. I am continually impressed by what my clients can do and the progress they make. It validates my assumption that “wherever you start, you can make progress.”

I have found that many of the recommendations for training people of a certain age are very conservative. My attitude is that you should not restrict yourself based on general guidelines. If you can walk into a fitness class, you can do that class standing. You should not be doing a seated exercise class unless you have significant stability problems. The only way to improve your balance and stability is to challenge yourself—safely of course.

Two components of training that are often missing from programs for older people are power and speed. But I believe they are important for a number of reasons.

You may know that with age can come a loss of muscle mass, and that you need to work with resistance to overcome that. But you may not have thought about the fact that as we age we also tend to lose our ability to use our muscles in an explosive way, that is, powerfully. Focusing training on muscle strength and endurance is necessary but not sufficient because we need power when tasked with simple acts like getting out of a chair or walking up stairs. Loss of explosive power is also associated with an increased fall risk.

Relatedly, our reaction time decreases with age. The ability to react quickly to some unforeseen event, such as the cat getting underfoot or a tree root sticking up out of the trail, is important. So speed is another useful training element, even for every day function. How quickly you can react and correct your body position may help you avoid a fall.

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