When it Comes to Fitness, Age Doesn’t Matter as Much as You Think

What’s the worst thing about getting older? It might be slowing down. No one really wants to feel like they are physically deteriorating, right? Well, here’s some good news.

According to recent research, age-related physical decline doesn’t even begin until around age 40 (a lot later than previously thought). Even better news: if you’re maintaining a healthy lifestyle, the decline in fitness as you age shouldn’t be drastic at all. A 90-year-old runner can expect to perform at about 50 percent of what they could do in their prime—which is not too shabby at all!

How Fast Will You Be Running in 10 Years?

We know this thanks to Yale’s recent study, which compiled the mathematical rate of physical decline among people ages 40 and up. And lo and behold, our athletic performance slows down by mere decimals with each year—it’s not as devastating as we are led to believe.

You can check out the Yale chart for yourself here and predict how fast you’ll be running in 10, 20, 40 years with some simple multiplication. If you’re younger than 40, just use 40 as your age, since that is when these researchers suggest that physical deterioration begins.

The Moral of the Story?

Don’t give up on your fitness, just because you’re getting older. Whether you are 30, 50, or 70, you still have what it takes to perform and use your body.

Take world-class bike rider Gary Hoffman for example. At 66 years old, he is biking nearly as fast as he was when he was at age 20. Obviously, keeping his fitness up took work—he’s definitely not sitting on the couch eating potato chips. But he is living proof that, if you keep your act together, age alone isn’t responsible for slowing us down as much as we tend to believe.

Age really is just a number. It doesn’t define us. And the science agrees.

Senior woman running in race

You Can Regain Fitness as You Age, It Just Takes Work

In a study published in Cell Metabolism, 60 subjects (mostly between ages 65 and 80) were guided through a 12-week high intensity interval training (HIIT) program—cycling intervals, treadmill work, and resistance training. As a result, all subjects improved their lean body mass, insulin sensitivity and aerobic capacity, as expected. But they also improved their mitochondrial function, which, if you remember from 6th grade science class, is the powerhouse of the cell.

Since mitochondria are responsible for making cellular energy and proteins, improving mitochondrial function makes a massive difference in improving overall health and supporting aging musculature.

According to the authors of the study, “Our data suggest that exercise training in older humans can induce a strong upregulation of mitochondrial proteins. HIIT appears to be an effective recommendation to improve cardio metabolic health…in aging adults.”

Great, so aging doesn’t necessarily mean we have to slow down all that much. However, if you fall out of shape as you get older, it does become significantly harder to regain fitness. We lose muscle mass at a slow and steady rate every year after age 40, and the older you get, the easier it becomes to gain fat—so that’s where you need to be cautious. There is less room for leniency, and once you lose that muscle mass and replace it with fat, it becomes harder and harder to get it back. That’s why it is so crucial to incorporate resistance and strength training as we age.

If you keep yourself in good shape as you get older, there is no reason to feel as though your body is going to slow you down much. It’s mindset and lifestyle that matter when it comes to your fitness and performance—not your age.

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75 comments

Jack Y
Jack Y13 days ago

Thanks.

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Jack Y
Jack Y13 days ago

Thanks.

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John J
John J13 days ago

thanks for sharing

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John J
John J13 days ago

thanks for sharing

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lynda leigh
lynda leigh26 days ago

I swim.....If you keep your act together, age alone isn’t responsible for slowing us down as much as we tend to believe.

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Mely Lu
Mely Lu28 days ago

Thanks for sharing!

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Courtney Wood
Courtney Wood29 days ago

From the moment we're born, exercise is an important part of life. Fitness shouldn't ever stop, but rather adapt to your stage of development.

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JoAnn P
JoAnn Paris29 days ago

Thank you for this very interesting article.

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Leo C
Leo Custer29 days ago

Thank you for posting!

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Donna T
Donna T29 days ago

thank you

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