Midlife Athletes on Aging - Remarkable health of midlife athletes

Written by T. G. Rand

How do midlife athletes achieve their remarkable health? Wiswell believes that it's vigorous exercise thatMidlife exercise routinesconfers the special benefits that improve longevity and boost quality of life.

"Many of the recommendations we see are aimed at light or moderate forms of exercise," he says, noting that a 1970s study determined that one of the major motivations to exercise for older people is fear of incapacitation.

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Vigorous exercise is defined as burning 410 calories per hour or 3,000 to 3,500 calories per week for a person who weighs 150 pounds.
Vigorous exercise has a "training effect" that leads to improvements in muscle mass and strength.

"Most people want to maintain their cardiovascular health and you can do that at a fairly low level of intensity. You won't necessarily be improving your VO2 Max," he says, referring to the level of oxygen absorption that is considered to be the fitness gold standard. "But you'll be substantially reducing your risks for cardiovascular disease."

But for improvements of the sort he sees in the men and women he has studied, Wiswell believes that competition is what makes the difference.

"If you're a recreational runner, or sprinter, or ball player, and you compete even once or twice a year, your level of training is probably going to be more vigorous," he says.

Several studies, Wiswell says, reveal the benefits of such a training regimen: Gains in muscle strength and size, better bone mass, and a lower decline in aerobic capacity (the body's ability to use oxygen for energy). In fact, the decline is half of what it is among healthy people who do not exercise vigorously.

Vigorous exercise according to a report in the Journal of the American Medical Associationmeans burning a total of 3,000 to 3,500 calories per week, at a rate of at least 410 calories per hour.

But more specifically, vigorous refers to a "training effect": It is that level of exercise stress that leads to improvements in muscle mass and strength and better cardiovascular function.

What's key, of course, is not to injure yourself in the process of pursuing vigorous exercise. "With the rewards," Wiswell notes, "come risks." At the very least, any man or woman above the age of 40 should consult a physician before undertaking strenuous activity.


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