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Training knows no age

Submitted by Julian Mikhail on Wed, 03/29/2023 - 20:36

The saying "a rolling stone gathers no moss" comes to bear more and more as we get older. For those who move little find it increasingly difficult to do everyday things. Even getting up from a chair or cleaning windows can become a real effort. By leading an "active" life, you can counteract this and at the same time lay the foundation for more vitality, independence and satisfaction. This not only increases the quality of life, but also brings numerous health benefits.

However, it is not enough to simply say: take care of exercise, a predominantly vegetarian diet with caloric restriction, daily relaxation, the feeling of meaningfulness, the feeling of belonging and inclusion in the family and live your dream. That sounds good, but how does it work in a busy daily life with a job, a family and a household?

The advice to eat a lot of vegetables or to exercise a lot every day and to strengthen the muscles or even to be happy is not sufficient in everyday life as a strategic concept for one's own longevity. Concrete measures are needed. But since it is not that easy to implement several things at once, in this column I will show you tips for more movement and training in old age.

Fit muscles

Regular exercise plays an extremely important role if we want to grow old in a healthy way. Numerous scientific studies unanimously show that physical activity is the key to combating the most common cause of death in our civilised world - cardiovascular disease. But cancer specialists are also pointing out more and more often that exercise prevents cancer on the one hand, but is also good for treating the disease on the other. The same applies to diabetes type 2, high blood pressure and other diseases.

Myokines, the healing substances of movement

It was not until 2007 that the Danish cell biologist Prof. Bente Pedersen discovered hormone-like substances in the muscles, which she called myokines. She derived the name from the Greek words "mys" for muscle and "kinos" for movement, because Pedersen also found out that muscles only produce these messenger substances during activity. At the same time, she also discovered the explanation for why exercise has such a positive effect on many diseases and especially on the numerous chronic diseases: Only when we move do the muscles release these healing messenger substances. Via the bloodstream, they reach where our body needs them - and that is almost everywhere.

Muscles know no age

It used to be assumed that muscle loss was inevitably associated with ageing, but this is not true: it has now been scientifically proven that you can train your muscles up to an extremely old age. And you don't have to take it easy on them, you should even put your muscles to full use - just like young people! For example, after a few months of regular strength training, over-90s were able to lead their lives again without daily supervision: They left their homes again, went shopping themselves and took part in social life. After all, that's what we want even in old age!

Muscle cells are constantly repaired and renewed by our organism. Therefore, even the oldest cells we have in our muscles are only about 15 years old, so they are still "youthful". That is why they can and even must be challenged daily. This is the only and best care you can give your muscles. Then they will remain efficient and metabolically active for a lifetime.

The performance of our muscles depends on how many motor units we can activate. And this, in turn, can be influenced by training, willpower and motivation. Untrained people use around 45 to 60 percent of their motor units, whereas top athletes use up to 90 percent. The last 10 percent are only available to us in absolutely exceptional situations and are activated in an emergency by abundantly released stress hormones. If we want to age healthily, the key is to use at least 50 percent of our muscles' capacity every day. This is the only way we can remain mobile in old age and still manage our daily lives well and without outside help. Then the thought: "I'm too old for that now, I can't do that any more" doesn't even arise. This is also the best precaution against falls and the resulting bone fractures: if you keep your muscles fit, you can usually regain your balance if you stumble, because the nerve impulses from the brain to the muscles continue to travel quickly. However, if you do not use your muscles, as it is unfortunately the case with many people today, you lose them and with them the good ability to react.

Use it or lose it – Muscle atrophy

In nature, nothing superfluous exists, everything is interrelated. Accordingly, from the organism's point of view, there is no reason at all to keep muscles well supplied and alive that are not used. Quite consistently, the proteins actin and myosin are then broken down in the sarcomeres and thus the muscles themselves.

Studies on bedridden patients showed that after 14 days of lying down, the muscles had degraded by up to 50 percent! This not only means that movements are much more difficult and strenuous, but also that there are fewer muscles that can release myokines and keep the metabolism going. Too little muscle therefore has a detrimental effect on the entire organism.

Varied training

So far I have only talked about muscle building to reverse muscle atrophy, but balanced muscle training not only targets muscle growth, but also coordination, strength endurance and strength quality. All these aspects together enable us to grow old vital and independent:

Coordination means the good interaction of the different muscles. Only when this works well, seemingly simple processes such as grasping or jumping can function without problems for the rest of our lives. This is trained with holding, stabilising exercises.

Strength endurance means being able to perform a strenuous activity not just once or briefly, but several times and over a longer period of time, for example climbing not just one but many stairs. For this, the muscles must be well supplied with blood and the metabolism in the muscle cells must function properly. It is important to remember that strength endurance is not achieved by jogging or other endurance sports, but by doing exercises with many repetitions (at least 20).

In addition to these training aspects, you also need to maintain or improve your flexibility by stretching. This is something you should never do without, because good mobility in everyday life is important. If we no longer have this in old age, it is difficult to bend down to the grandchildren and play with them or even pick something up.

My conclusion: It is never too late for exercise and training, because our muscles are always going through puberty.

However, one thing is important above all: that you regularly integrate exercise units into your everyday life and that you enjoy the activity or sport - because that's the only way you'll stick with it! The best way to do this is to consciously plan the exercise sessions into your schedule or make an appointment with a like-minded person. This creates a certain commitment and makes it easier to stick with it. It doesn't matter what you do, as long as you do it.


Everyday life in particular offers numerous opportunities for exercise: Climbing stairs, going for a walk and cycling help to experience vitality even at an older age.


Prof. Dr. Ingo Froböse

Born in 1957 in Unna, Ingo Froböse studied at the German Sport University in Cologne. This was followed by his doctorate in 1986 and his habilitation seven years later. During his studies he was German vice-champion several times in the 100 and 200 metre sprints. In 1982 he came fourth in the 200 metres at the European Athletics Indoor Championships in Milan. He was also active in bobsleighing.

Prof. Dr. Ingo Froböse has been a university professor for prevention and rehabilitation in sport at the German Sport University Cologne since 1995, where he also leads the Institute for Exercise Therapy. He is an expert for the Bundestag on prevention issues and works for several health insurance companies as a scientific advisor in the field of preventive health care. In addition, he is the scientific director of the Research Institute for Training in Prevention (FIT-Prävention) under the umbrella of the expert Allianz für Gesundheit e. V. The best-selling author has written numerous books on health, nutrition and fitness and is a permanent member of expert teams in renowned magazines, including Stern, Fit for Fun, GQ and Men's Health.

On stage, Ingo Froböse combines scientific expertise with personal experience and bundles them into a practical philosophy of life and targeted recommendations for action. Based on more than 30 years of research, he explains in his lectures what effects the digital revolution has on our health and what we can learn from top-class sport. Ingo Froböse also reveals how we can use the right balance of exercise, nutrition and regeneration to change our everyday life and work in order to be sustainably efficient, healthy and successful.