Peter Hubbard, an 85-year-old resident of Candia, is a strong advocate of exercise, especially as people age.
“There’s a lot of research and data showing that as you age, you start to lose muscle density and mass, but you’re better off preserving it with exercise,” Hubbard said. “Exercise has been proven to improve your life expectancy. It gives you the ability to do things as you get older that you couldn’t do. You don’t have to lift all those heavy weights, and I don’t expect everyone to go out and trying to become a powerlifter, but if you continue to train and lift weights, you can live to be 60, 70, and 80 and have a better quality of life.
This Sunday, Hubbard will compete in the Powerlifting America New Hampshire State Championship at The Lift Free or Die Gym in Dover starting at 9 a.m.
While there are three events – the squat, the bench press, and the deadlift, Hubbard only competes in the bench press. Hubbard’s goal is to bench more than 200 pounds. Hubbard’s wife, Nona, 61, will compete in all three events.
Although preparation for such a competition takes at least three months, Hubbard is in the gym and keeps track of physical activity throughout the year.
Hubbard is a role model for how to keep your body strong and fit as you enter your golden years.
It’s never too late to get physically fit
Realistically, the aging process starts in your late 20s and doesn’t become noticeable for most people until they’re 40 or 50, said Dr. Caroline A. Schepker, a physiologist specializing in physical medicine and rehabilitation and sports medicine at Wentworth-Douglass. Hospital in Dover.
“Usually around age, people start to notice that they feel a little stiffer, maybe hurt a little more easily, and look like they’ve lost a little bit of muscle,” she said. “The best time to start preventively is between the ages of 20 and 30 and maximize your muscle mass and your mobility.”
Plus, Schepker said it’s never too late to start doing things like mobility training and strength training.
“And what that might look like is working with a physical therapist or athletic trainer or personal trainer to develop a full-body strength and conditioning program that also works on mobility, which is just flexibility and range of motion,” added Creator to it.
“The general prescription of physical activity, whether it’s playing sports or just going to the gym or doing your own independent exercise, there are three categories,” said Schepker. “One is aerobic exercise, also known as cardiovascular exercise, the second is resistance training or strength training, and the third is flexibility and balance; they brought those three together.”
From a fitness standpoint, an ideal week includes two to three days, or a total of 150 minutes of aerobic exercise, at least two days a week with strength training, and at least two days a week with range-of-motion exercises.
The most common problem Schepker sees is pain, and it usually comes from the spine and lower back, and secondly the hips, knees and shoulders.
“What that usually comes down to is a relative lack of core strength conditioning,” she said. “Even very fit active people can lose touch with their core muscles and how to activate them optimally to stabilize their spine. It can really irritate the small joints and discs in the back. So that’s probably what I see in the older, more active athletic population.”
To stretch or not to stretch?
Schepker said stretching is actually one of the topics that can be controversial.
“If you really look at the research on stretching, some people say stretch and some people say no,” she said. “I think the reason it’s complicated is because it’s not just stretching, but mobility and range-of-motion exercises; they all have their place.”
Schepker said the research and studies show that the recommendation is that as people age, connective tissues, such as tendons and ligaments, naturally begin to stiffen.
“Our joints generally get a little stiffer and we lose range of motion, so it becomes important to do some stretching or range of motion,” she said.
While daily is preferred, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends that adults age 65 and older stretch at least three times a week.
“And what they recommend for that is really doing stretches of all major muscle groups, that is, the muscle groups around the hips, trunk, shoulders, and stretches for at least 10 to 30 seconds,” said Schepker. “Larger muscles, like the hamstrings, can take up to 60 seconds. But holding a stretch is called static stretching, and it’s generally done after physical activity or some sort of isolation. While before physical activity, it’s more important to stretch more kind of doing active range of motion instead of static stretches.”
Schepker said active range of motion includes things like gently moving joints through their range of motion.
“Things like arm circles, arm swings, hip circles, just putting all the joints through their reach,” Schekper said.
How should people over 65 approach physical activity
Below is a chart that outlines what the American Heart Association and ACSM recommend for frequency, intensity, and types of exercise for those age 65 and older.
“Some older adults with athletic or fitness backgrounds may feel comfortable looking at those guidelines and being independent of them,” Schepker said. “For those who have questions or concerns about how to incorporate some of it, whether it’s the aerobic aspect, or the strength training, or the flexibility or balance, usually the best place to start is to talk to your doctor. and/or working with a physical therapist or athletic trainer.”
Schepker said working with a physical therapist or athletic trainer is a good way to develop a program for themselves and familiarize themselves with some of the concepts they can go to to do it on their own.
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