-Gary Raney, USAT Level 1 Coach
A new year is upon us and with that comes new goals and aspirations. This year, I am partnering with Well-Fit to bring you periodic posts about exercise and aging and how we can maximize our performance and stay healthy into our 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s and beyond. Who knows, maybe 2018 is the year you will find yourself signing up for a big race and feeling better than you did in your 20s!
I completed my first triathlon (a super sprint) at the youthful age of 43. As I moved up in age group (I’m now 56) and distance (I’ve completed 4 Ironman triathlons), I noticed that training programs rarely considered athlete age. I’ve become interested in how to best train what I call “Masters age” athletes (we’re not “old” athletes). As my interest grew, I pursued training to become a coach, which I figured would allow me to directly ask the experts for advice. The experts who presented at my USA Triathlon Level-1 coaching program offered advice about training youth athletes, beginner athletes, Kona-level athletes, and everything in-between, but they had nothing to say about aging athletes. Since then I have been gathering information on my own that is both experience-based and research-based. So, if you happen to be getting older (and aren’t we all?), maybe you’ll find my posts interesting!
In future posts I will discuss everything from nutrition to strength training to discipline-specific exercise to recovery, as well as general information about the benefits of exercise for aging athletes. Because I am a cognitive psychologist, it seemed logical to start by discussing a psychological benefit of exercise. As you probably know, there are many benefits, such as developing social support groups (training buddies) and increasing your energy, but perhaps the most important benefit is that vigorous exercise appears to slow cognitive decline! One recent study in the journal Neurology measured the thinking skills of older adults who engaged in little-to-no exercise or moderate-to-rigorous exercise. Five years later, those who engaged in less exercise experienced a decline in thinking skills that equaled 10 more years of aging than those who exercised more! Other research shows that vigorous activity can help maintain the brain’s white matter (Neurocase, 2016). Vigorous exercise doesn’t guarantee maintenance of cognitive ability, but it’s one of the few things that has been shown to have definitive benefits. This might explain why my parents are so mentally fit. They both exercise regularly and my dad completed his first triathlon at age 73!
For those of you who want to learn more, one of the best books I have read on aging and exercise is Fast After 50, by Joel Friel.
Keep on aging, and keep on exercising!
Stay tuned for more blog posts from Gary Raney, USAT Level 1 coach and Well-Fit athlete since 2006.