In recent years, the number of people over the age of 55 who engage in sports activities has increased. In addition, sports clubs have seen many retirees raise their ranks to stay in shape, delay the harmful effects of the passage of time and have fun.
After 55, what kind of sport can you do? What precautions should be taken to avoid accidents?
Why does aging reduce athletic performance?
The causes of aging are extremely complex and scientists are still working on trying to solve the mysteries. On the other hand, its effects on the body and the consequences on physical abilities are well known.
Aging of the nervous system
With the exception of a few specific areas, brain and spinal cord cells do not regenerate after the first years of life. The number of nerve cells, neurons, is constantly decreasing. This phenomenon also applies to the cells of the sensory organs. Sensory capacities are reduced, which are very important in the movement and feeling of the body in space. The transmission of nerve impulses to muscle cells also loses efficiency and speed.
Aging of the cardiovascular and pulmonary systems
Over the years, the walls of blood vessels thicken, lose elasticity and harden, especially due to cholesterol and calcium deposits. The number of capillaries (very fine vessels that irrigate organs) also decreases with age. For the heart, there is an overload of work to circulate blood properly. At the same time, the walls of the heart muscle lose their elasticity and ability to contract effectively.
The elasticity of the chest and lungs decreases, and even if the lung alveoli grow, their number decreases, which reduces the area dedicated to the exchange of gases (oxygen and carbon dioxide) between air and blood. Chest mobility is also reduced, which in turn reduces lung ventilation.
All these cardiovascular and pulmonary changes reduce the supply of nutrients (and thus muscles) to nutrients and oxygen. The ability to cope with effort is reduced. The maximum rate of oxygen uptake in an individual (V02 mak) ranges from 44 to 50 ml per minute and per kg of weight at 20 years, up to 33 ml per minute and per kg at 70 years.
Aging of the musculoskeletal system
With age, muscles atrophy and their strength decreases. In theory, the maximum strength of an individual is reached between 20 and 30 years. At age 50, it dropped by 10 to 20%. After this age, it decreases even faster. The young man has an average of 36 kg of muscle. He is only 23 years old at the age of 70.
Bones lose mineral salts at a rate of 2 to 3% per year in menopausal women and 0.4% per year in men: this is osteoporosis. The bone becomes more fragile, less able to withstand the effort.
Articular cartilage loses some of its ability to retain water, as well as its flexibility and ability to resist friction. Lubricating the joints is less effective. The articular ligaments become fibrous. Flexibility is significantly reduced: 30 to 50% between the ages of 20 and 60.
Is sport useful for seniors?
Starting a physical activity or sport at the age of 55 offers real health benefits.
Advantages of sports on the cardiorespiratory system of seniors
improving pulmonary ventilation; improved irrigation and heart efficiency; prevention of coronary heart disease; fights high blood pressure; fight against overweight.
Advantages of sports on the musculoskeletal system of seniors
preservation of tone and muscle mass; preserving the flexibility of tendons and joints; preservation of motor coordination and reflexes; maintaining balance and feeling of the body in space (prevention of falls); preservation of bone mass and density.
Advantages of sports on the nervous system of seniors
The benefits of sports on the sexuality of the elderly
prevention of erectile dysfunction (impotence).
The benefits of sports on the mental well-being of the elderly
sleep regulation; fight against depression and anxiety, better confidence in their abilities; fight against isolation.
Seniors: do you have to undergo a special medical examination before sports?
If after 40 years a medical examination is recommended before the start of new physical activity, this examination is all the more important after 50 years.
Therefore, the examination of non-contraindications should not be satisfied. It is best to go to a sports doctor who will perform a detailed examination of the future athlete of older age: clinical condition, breath examination, ECG at rest and exercise, possibly bone densitometry to assess the condition of the bones. This will detect any locomotor, heart or lung problems. It is desirable to undergo another examination after three to six months in order to measure the organism’s reaction to sports stimulation. An annual review is then planned.
In women, gynecological examination can reveal a lack of muscle tone in the perineum, which can lead to problems with urinary incontinence. Appropriate exercises can restore their tone.