This week and last i had some very good responses to blog posts, both on the sailing/boats side and in my fitness blog. Each of those responses really needed a much longer answer from me and i have already started a longer post on the boats side which is a summary of the little i know about small boat heaters. The project that goes with that ie fitting a heater aboard WABI”’ may or may not happen mainly due to budget constraints but i can at least summarise and post what i worked out so far.
This post follows on from ‘Special K’ in which i was talking about the experience of using ketosis and ketogenic diets deliberately to lose visceral fat. Here is the response to that post that is the starting point for this post.
Stephen Mundane wrote : “Steve, I reckon those long sessions in your beautiful garden likely do more for weight loss than all that resistance training — I applaud your determination and commitment. One thought I had, in the way of unsolicited advice, is that you might want to increase your zinc intake to try and make up for the lower testosterone levels due to being an older man. A daily zinc supplement containing no less than 11 mg is recommended for men over 50. Or you could be strong to the finish and just eat just eat more spinach like Popeye.
There’s a few things to pick apart here and i am aware of some good arguments for both sides of what Stephen is saying : before getting into the meat of that though i would like to say that i have started supplementing both zinc and magnesium again and will shortly be starting on the vitamin D again as i get prone to SAD in the winter (seasonal affective disorder).
To start the post proper i would like to pose a few questions that are i believe the ones that Stephens response suggests :
1.What exercise should older men do ? should it for example be different that exercise for young guys. Lets take this a little further : what if any is the evidence or research for exercise in an older (over 50) population.
2.What are the benefits (one one side) and unwanted side effects of say free weights training in the same population.
3.Similarly what are the benefits and/or problems with training solo at home rather than being in a gym environment.
4.Is ‘work’ fit better or more effective than ‘gym’ fit ie would it be better to do something that included moderately hard physical work rather than short but deliberate free weights sessions.
My own story with this is that about 10 years or so ago just after i had the gastroc tear that ultimately took me down the unintended route of training in a gym and working with free weights i spent a lot of time not just training but researching everything i could about the theory and practice of physical training.
For the 2 years following that injury my main focus in life was all about getting to a very high level of fitness (for that age group) and learning as much as i could about the whole subject. Just for reference i was at that time still able to cope with running fairly well and a lovely personal trainer (Emily) got me into that side : i did eventually realise that i didn’t want to run ‘distance’ but did all-but crack the 10 minutes for a timed mile and a half which i was pretty happy with and at the same time peaked with a close-to 300 pound deadlift.
The problem with all of that is the amount of time it consumed, it was a very difficult routine to maintain especially given that the amount of stress i was experiencing at work allied to the long clinical shifts i was doing made recovery problematical….in fact the combination of work, stress, poor recovery and sleep broke the whole project. What it did achieve though was a huge ‘recovery’ of fitness for me and i did directly benefit from that when we came here and i started the huge physical task of transforming the outside spaces here. That was never my intention though because what i had actually planned was 2-3 years of intense physical training followed by taking early retirement from my NHS job and then disappearing off on a series of boat related adventures. That didn’t happen because instead we bought this place and i took on the ‘natural’ challenge that the gardens represented. The actual garden rebuild that i did consumed some couple of thousand hours of sometimes brutal physical work over 2 years that i was probably only able to do because i had significantly improved my strength and fitness during the long routines at the gym : chickens…..eggs ?
For those 2 years i did work physically very hard and put long hours in on the job, just one small example when i took the old deck apart is that in one week i shifted 11.000 kilograms of debris by hand up and into a trailer and heaved it all out again at the tip !
However i did also start to get overweight despite the hard physical work that i was doing and notably that i did very little other exercise than also going for walks and exploring the area. I can’t say that my diet was ‘good’ although i was eating well and i was certainly recovering the ability to get some normal sleep at night : that took about 2 years. My impression now is that i was almost certainly a lot fitter than most men of my age but hey ! that’s not a high bar to achieve. I was if you like ‘work-fit’ in that i could crank out a steady work output for hour after hour but as soon as i stopped the major work i then started to get very overweight mainly because i wasn’t paying any attention : then when my interest came back to boats my life became a lot more sedentary again…..bit of gardening, bit of walking and a lot of sitting around at home and on the boat.
I think now that if say i gardened full-time and within that i did ‘heavy’ gardening such as i have been doing recently then i would probably maintain a decent level of fitness but of course the problem is that the work i do is mainly sedentary (although demanding) and my main hobby/activity isn’t physically demanding either.
Anyway : over to you guys…..
I was going to leave the post there and hope for some feedback however as its me cranking out the reps and the words i thought i would finish with at least a short section about my own rationale for what i am doing so :
My main area of knowledge is human physiology and primarily soft-organ physiology, thus heart, lungs, liver, brain etc. I never really did take much of an interest in bones and muscles until i seriously started reading up on physical training. What i found then is that it is a physiological axiom that muscle development and therefore muscle mass peaks in men at around 18 at the concurrent peak phase of androgenic drive. Muscle mass then starts to be lost at about 1% a year after about age 35. It is muscle mass that principally determines basal metabolic rate and that is then a major factor (alongside diet and extrinsic workload) that determines body composition and percentage fat. As BMR drops with age there is a natural tendency to increase weight via fat storage and a concomitant loss of strength. The theory behind weight or resistance training is that such training produces the stimulus to preserve and even build muscle mass. Maintaining muscle mass does seem to be one of the crucial elements in maintaining health in later life, for example that the rate of falls are much higher in elderly men with advanced muscle loss. The principle i am working to then, actually 2, is that i am trying to diet in such a way as to not be continually spiking the insulin response which is primarily fat storing and secondly providing enough stimulus through training with free weights to make my body retain and even build muscle.
Stephen Mundane wrote : “Steve, glad you found my contribution worthwhile. I don’t pretend to have your depth of knowledge but come at the question of what’s good exercise for older men (for I am one too) from personal experience, both my own and my father’s. My dad did a hard, physical, job for most of his life, ate like a horse that’s fond of sweets and made a fit-looking corpse when he dropped down dead at 80 building a porch for the next-door-neighbour. I’d say that his life was a form of resistance training, in more ways than one, and I’d agree with you that maintaining muscle mass goes a long way to staving off the massacre of old-age. As for me, I’ve always exercised with free weights and, lately, with resistance bands and also tried to maintain a good level of aerobic fitness through walking and cycling. I too hope to be a fit-looking corpse, though I’ve learned from my father and try to steer clear of the sweets! I saw your endeavours in the garden as a good proxy to doing a hard, physical, job involving lots of resistance work and that’s what prompted my response.