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The Gray Iron Fitness Newsletter, Issue #300. Senior fitness explained.
June 01, 2021

June 1, 2021

In this newsletter . . .

What is
senior fitness?

It was years ago that I decided to write about fitness for mature adults. And the first order of business was to decide at what age to refer to people as “seniors.”


So I took a tip from AARP and AMAC (seniors’ advocacy companies), as they seem to know when anyone anywhere turns 50, and they try to sign you up.

Does 50 seem too young to be called a senior? Maybe. But actually, a gradual decline in physical ability begins even before age 50, at somewhere around age 35, on average. The good news is that most people who take care of themselves are able to perform at near peak into their 40s. Think of pro-football player Tom Brady, for example.

At about age 50, however, consideration should be given to more age-appropriate training. Certain kinds of workouts or competitions may do seniors more harm than good. Particularly, excessive stress on tendons, ligaments, and joints may result in chronic aches and pains that take the fun out of life later on.

As I got older I first noticed a change when I didn't recover as quickly after hard workouts. I also experienced shoulder pain I never had before. Through trial and error, I found that bench pressing made my shoulders sore. I replaced the movement with a variety of push-ups and the pain went away. For me, push-ups were more age-appropriate.

(The bench press, by the way, is notorious. I have known guys — it’s usually men — who stubbornly try to push through chronic rotator cuff pain. Some eventually are unable to do any exercise involving their shoulders. Sometimes surgery corrects this, but not always.)

Years ago, I did some long-distance running. It was for fun and I was a middle-of-the-pack plodder, though I did complete some long, tough events. Today, I sometimes watch young family members run long-distance races. At the finish lines I invariably see a few very senior runners. While I admire such determination, to tell you the truth, some of the older folks look unhealthy. I think to myself they’d be better off running shorter distances and putting more effort into muscle building and strength training.

Dedicated martial artists provide other examples. Many who love the discipline but continue to practice hard styles into middle-age and beyond are often rewarded with chronic back and joint problems. Changing to softer or so-called "internal" styles might be better choices as they get older.

The late, great Steve Reeves‘ pre-competition full-body workouts lasted from two to three hours of intense lifting. Still today, many seniors write and ask about how he trained. I refer them to a workout site but remind them these were pre-competition workouts and he was in his 20s. By the time he reached his 70s, he was doing mostly two sets per exercise and working with cables and a Universal machine, not heavy free weights or with the intensity of his youth. He never stopped training but was wise enough to adjust and scale down.

Bob Hoffman, who owned the York Barbell Company and years ago published Strength & Health magazine, would tell readers: “Train. Don’t strain.” It was good advice then and it’s good advice today.

Test yourself personally. If in the morning following training days you are not fully recovered and it is a real effort getting out of bed, your body is warning you. You’re probably doing too much or pushing too hard. Take a good look at what and how much you are doing. Never stop training, but do adjust, and make it age-appropriate.

Remember your mission is to stay as fit as possible for as long as possible. Beating yourself up isn't the way to do it.

Stay healthy. Stay fit.


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Newsletter Policy

The Gray Iron Fitness Newsletter is a free publication sent twice monthly to subscribers. The purpose is to provide honest and realistic fitness information for people age 50 and above.

I have never been paid or received compensation of any kind to write a positive review or endorse a product. If I say that I personally use a product or service, it is because I find value in it and have paid for it with my own money.

Like newspapers, magazines and television, this newsletter and my web site contain advertising and marketing links. Naturally, I am compensated for these.

The newsletter and web site provide information to help users establish and maintain a fitness lifestyle. But fitness information is not the same as fitness advice, which is the application of exercise and dietary practices to an individual's specific circumstances. Therefore, always consult with your physician for assurance that fitness information, and your interpretation of it, is appropriate for you.

Your comments and questions are always appreciated. Simply click on the "Reply" bottom.


Logan Franklin
The Gray Iron Fitness Newsletter

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