Countering the negative effects of aging. Part #1

This article has been written by friend of AbFitt, Fabrizio Rinaldi of Italy. We send our thanks for his time and insight.

Countering the negative effects of aging through effective fitness protocols


There is nothing nice about aging, especially for people actively involved in sports.
Many of the determinants for aerobic and anaerobic capacity change negatively with age. First of all muscle mass, which is an essential component for both aerobic and anaerobic capacity, decreases with sedentary aging, and this decrease appear to occur primarily because of the loss of muscle fibers, but also due to atrophy of individual fibers, particularly fast twitch muscle fibers, an important point to bear in mind.

In addition, aerobic capacity (the functional capacity of the cardiorespiratory system) declines steadily with age. In healthy sedentary individuals, VO2 max (the main indicator of aerobic capacity), which is the maximum amount of oxygen the body can use during a specified period, usually during intense exercise, decreases about 1% per year. This abatement is related to decreased capacity in all of the factors that determine VO2 max:
- maximum heart rate
- stroke volume
- and arterio-venous (A-V) O2 difference (which is the ability of the muscle cells to extract oxygen from the blood passing through them).
Maximum heart rate declines about one beat per year with age, and not reaching the same maximum heart rate inevitably implies operating at a lower level of intensity.
Furthermore older people have less muscle glycogen to metabolize (in other words, less energy to spend) and a significantly lower capillary to fiber ratio (which means that muscle tissues are perfused less by blood).
Another age-related change that athletes experience is a significant decrease in their ability to recover from training, mainly due to lower reserves of glycogen, consequent to reduced muscle mass.
Age-related hardening of the arteries also cuts blood flow to all tissues, which means longer times for stressed muscle fibers to receive the required materials for rebuilding damaged fibers. And even levels of testosterone and growth hormone, that aid recovery, fall with age.
Connective tissues between muscles and bones become more rigid with aging, and decreased flexibility can reduce range of motion, impairing performance and increasing risk of injury.
Our body is an adaptable system which operates when the need arises, and can maintain its functionality only through physical activity. This is clearly demonstrated by the unfortunate people that are confined to bed; as a matter of fact they experiences substantial losses of muscle mass, flexibility, strength, bone density and range of motion in relatively few days. Deprivation of movement has deleterious effects on the human body, and aging is somewhat comparable to be confined to bed. Therefore the only way to substantially contain the negative effects of getting older is through physical activity, and this is true for all the physiological aspects we listed above, with the only exception of the reduction of max heart rate, which cannot be avoided.
Therefore the issue to investigate is what kind of fitness program one should be engaged in, if the purpose is to best counteract the negative effects of aging.