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Aging & Movement

A good training program consists of an exercise bout (workout) (metabolic or muscular stimulation) followed by rest and recovery. For fitness gains to occur, the training stimulus must be difficult enough that it challenges the system greater than your normal activities of daily living but should not lead to complete breakdown and exhaustion.


The systemic (whole body) recovery between exercise bouts (workouts) is just as important as the work bout itself. If you’re not allowing for complete recovery, injury is inevitable! Thus, there should be one or two non-exercise days per week, allowing complete recovery to occur. Plan the days of rest, just as you plan the exercise days. When it becomes a habit, it becomes what we do. Daily and weekly planning also increases the likelihood of long-term adherence to an exercise program.


It is critical to consider current age and fitness level. With age, our “physiological headroom” is reduced. Our maximum heart rate is lower, our muscular power is reduced and recovery from any exercise bout takes longer. Failure to acknowledge those facts can lead to injury or worse. This does not mean that we can’t improve our level of fitness, but the fact remains, we’re not as young as we once were.


The variables that are manipulated in any training program are: INTENSITY, VOLUME, MODE, DURATION and DENSITY.


INTENSITY: The intensity can be aerobic, anaerobic, anaerobic threshold (see DEFINITIONS OF ENERGY SYSTEMS) or resistance training, or a combination of the above. In general, it is most effective to target one energy system per workout.


VOLUME: The volume of work in any workout will be dictated by the level of intensity. Training to exhaustion is not an appropriate training goal and will eventually lead to overtraining, injury, or just plain fatigue. Be truthful when you ask yourself: how long will I continue the program if I ignore that principle?


TRAINING IS A PROCESS NOT AN EVENT. Your ability to complete any workout is dependent upon the foundation you have built by recent past exercise.


Thus, continuity is important, but remember exhaustion is detrimental to long-term continuity!


MODE: Exercise that uses large muscle mass (all body exercise such as rowing, running, swimming or elliptical) is more taxing metabolically and can lead to depletion of glycogen stores (leading to serious fatigue) if the exercise intensity, or duration is excessive. By contrast, isolating one or two muscle groups at a time (usually resistance training) is less taxing systemically, but can lead to local muscle breakdown and injury if recovery is not complete. For many of us with joint issues “low impact” exercise is also a good choice


DURATION: Of course, the duration of any training session is closely related to intensity and volume. IF EXERCISE IS TO BECOME A DAILY HABIT HOW MUCH TIME DO YOU WANT TO DEVOTE TO IT EACH DAY? When doing a combination of aerobic training (often called CARDIO) and resistance work, the time spent in the gym can become problematic and eventually lead to burnout and disinterest. A training program needs to fit your time constraints. It is my opinion that most of us should be able to get maximum benefits in under an hour.


DENSITY: Density of training refers to the number of training sessions per day or per week, month etc. While elite athletes, by necessity, often train two or three times per day during the “intense prep” phase of training most of us training for health, fitness and general well-being will do great by training five or six training sessions per week.




Following are two types of training that fall under the catch-all phrase of “CARDIO” training. Regardless of the MODE of exercise, unless it is true resistance training, any exercise will fall under the heading of INTERVAL TRAINING or LOWER INTENSITY MOVEMENT (aerobic)


INTERVAL TRAINING entails a period (interval) of intense exercise followed by a period of relative recovery (rest). The length of the interval of high intensity work as well- as the length of the recovery may vary but introducing that recovery period into the training allows for a greater volume of higher intensity work for each workout session.


NOTE: With high intensity interval training, the total volume of work should still be lower than with lower intensity movement training.


In LOWER INTENSITY MOVEMENT (aerobic training) the stimulus is not the intensity but the duration of the activity. You may choose to take a rest period but likely the intensity of exercise doesn’t demand it. Long, slow aerobic training, such as walking, or slow biking has been shown to stimulate capillary and mitochondria density in the muscles that are being used. This allows for greater oxygen transport and utilization in the event of higher intensity exercise. HARDER IS NOT BETTER, though. Find an intensity level that allows continuous movement.



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