When you’re young, you can play hard, recover little, and get away with it. But as you get older, your body changes and it starts taking longer to bounce back between workouts. In this article, we’ll take aim at three challenges facing every aging athlete and suggest some science-backed ways for you to overcome them.
1) Joint Health
Wouldn’t it be nice if your joints were like your grandma’s trusty Honda Civic and never seemed to wear out? Unfortunately, just like cars on the highway, there are just as many clunkers out there in the joint department, and arguably more so. The production of collagen – the protein found in cartilage, ligaments, tendons, and other supporting structures that provides cushioning and structure – starts to decline as early as your late 20s. And as people tend to get more sedentary as they age, joint health is facing a dual challenge. Or if you’re on the other end of the exercise scale, your joints can take a pounding from all those strides, jumps, and other impacts you subject them to, reducing their shock-absorbing qualities and contributing to both acute and chronic conditions.
The easiest way to keep your joints supple and strong is to regularly load them with a combination of resistance and endurance exercise and take them through full ranges of motion daily. Professors at Queen Mary University of London found that regular exercise also suppressed inflammation-causing molecules that exacerbate osteoarthritis and other conditions. The study co-authors suggested that this works by movement activating the anti-inflammatory protein HDAC6 and noted that increased blood flow also plays a part in healthy joint function. Further research suggests that activities that require you to absorb impact – like plyometrics, playing basketball, or Olympic lifting – stimulate the most collagen release.
To amplify the beneficial effects of physical activity on your joints, pair your workout of choice with supplemental collagen. A seminal study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded that jumping rope for as little as six minutes over the course of a session increased collagen production two-fold, while taking a supplement that combined collagen and vitamin C – like Momentous Collagen Peptides – 30 minutes beforehand doubled it again.
2) Sleep Duration and Quality
If you’re anything like us, you are facing a paradox when it comes to sleep: you need more, but it’s harder to come by. Whether it’s a demanding work schedule, dropping your children off at school, or cramming in early workouts while the going is good, your mornings might start all too early. And on the other end of the day, winding down could be more difficult than ever. This one-two punch can conspire to rob you of much-needed shuteye.
Even if you prioritize your slumber, you might wake up feeling ill-rested more often than not. As sleep expert and The Power of When author Dr. Michael Breus puts it on his website, “Bio rhythms shift, sleep architecture changes, hormone production rises and falls, all of which deeply affect how, when, and how well we rest.” He points out that social jet lag is a common issue in your 20s, the impact of increasing responsibilities kick in during your 30s, and restlessness can increase as your hormones wax and wane in your 40s. A review conducted by sleep scientists at Harvard and the University of Melbourne in Australia added that you start to lose around two percent of your deepest sleep per decade until you hit 60, and circadian variations can become greater as you age (which might be why you can get the same amount of sleep for two nights but wake feeling refreshed the first morning and ragged the next).
Though life stage-related challenges to your sleep (see: kids, career, and hormonal fluctuations) are very real, they need not prevent you from getting adequate rest and recovery.Breus recommends establishing consistent times for going to bed and getting up, blocking blue light in the evenings, and curtailing caffeine and alcohol consumption. If you try all of these things (and some sleep tips we’ve shared previously, such as sleeping in a cold, dark, tech-free room)and still struggle to fall and stay asleep, you could try taking a natural supplement like Momentous Sleep.
German researchers discovered that the melatonin it contains increases the amount of time spent in restorative REM sleep. A study published in Phytomedicine noted that wild jujube seeds are effective in treating insomnia. Another experiment concluded that Magtein, the third main ingredient in Momentous’s unique sleep formula, improves sleep by reducing nighttime anxiety.
3) Muscle Mass
Father Time is no friend when it comes to body composition, particularly with regard to lean tissue. According to researchers from the University of Southern California’s School of Medicine, muscle mass starts to decline by between three and eight percent per year after you hit 30 due to a process called sarcopenia and accelerates even faster once you reach your sixties. Researchers like Cal State Fullerton muscle physiologist Andy Galpin have found that this decline particularly impacts the fast-twitch fibers that help you run fast, jump high, and, when you get older, reduce the risk of falling (which is one of the leading causes of injury and loss of mobility amongst the elderly).
It isn’t only muscle mass that’s impacted as you get older but also the strength and function of the tissue that remains. The USC researchers noted that sarcopenia is often accompanied by reduced bone density, increased fat gains, and, as mentioned earlier, a greater incidence of joint dysfunction. However, two of the main predictors of quality of life among older people – grip and leg strength – pertain to how much muscle you have and what you can do with it, per a study published in The BMJ. “What scientists are just now understanding is just how synonymous muscle health is with all health,” Galpin said in an interview with U.S. News and World Report.
Fortunately, you don’t have to be a prisoner to your genetics and can stem or even reverse the tide of age-related muscle decline. How? By pairing regular bouts of resistance training with adequate protein intake. A team of Swedish and Norwegian scientists found that seniors who performed three 45-minute strength training sessions per week for two and a half months and drank a protein shake afterward increased their strength and lean body mass. The participants were all over the age of 70, but there’s no reason to wait until that point to build and sustain muscle.
Biologists from the University of Jyväskylä in Finland found that participants who ingested 15 grams of whey protein before and after weight training sessions got stronger and put on more muscle mass than those who just did the workouts. Another study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercisefound that when people added a third element into the resistance training plus whey protein supplementation equation – creatine monohydrate – they gained even more strength and muscle mass.
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 Gregory Shaw et al, “Vitamin C–Enriched Gelatin Supplementation Before Intermittent Activity Augments Collagen Synthesis,” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, January 2017, available online at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5183725/.
 Michael Breus, “What Sleep is Like at Every Age: 20s, 30s, and 40s,” July 30, 2019, available online at https://thesleepdoctor.com/2019/07/30/what-sleep-is-like-at-every-age-20s-30s-and-40s/.
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