"Can Aerobic Training Improve Muscle Strength and Power in Older Men?", Lovell, Cuneo, and Gass, Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, pp 14,Vol.18, No. 2, April, 2010
It is well-known that significant reductions in muscle strength and power are associated with aging. Studies have shown that after the age of 70, there may be a reduction of 3% per year in muscle strength and 5% per year in power. These reductions appear to be greatest in the legs because of the loss of muscle mass (aka sarcopenia). This study's goal was to examine the response of men 70 to 80 years of age to 16 weeks of aerobic training on a stationary cycle. The study was a departure from previous studies which used weight training, rather than aerobic training, to test the change in muscle strength and power. Would the muscle strength of subjects improve after 16 weeks? In addition, the study looked at the effect of a 4-week detraining period.
The training protocol consisted of a 5-minute warm-up and began with 30 minutes of cycling at 50% of VO2max 3 days per week for the first two weeks. Thereafter, the intensity was increased to 45 minutes at 70% of VO2max. Heart rate, blood pressure, and other vital signs were monitored throughout.
The result of the study showed that leg strength, power, and VO2max increased significantly from pre-training values, and body mass and the percent of body fat declined significantly. However, after the 4 weeks of detraining (i.e. no aerobic training) virtually all gains were lost and the subjects returned to their pre-training levels. Based on this study, it appears that for older men there are significant gains to be had from aerobic training, but these gains disappear in far less time than it took to achieve them.
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"The Reinvention of Strength and Conditioning", Brandon Bailey, Triathlon Life, pp 46, Vol. 13, Spring, 2010
This article makes several excellent points about strength training. First, being conservatively by correcting imbalances and learning to make movement more efficient (i.e. "to improve the neuromuscular adaptation of the muscles"). Second, find alternatives to weight training, such as yoga or pilates, to improve core strength. Third, take advantage of off-season activities that are compatible with building aerobic capacity, such as kayaking, snowshoeing, or paddle-boarding. Bottom Line: "Start small and try to mix activities as much as possible."
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"Sports Injuries: When to Tough It Out", Gina Kolata, The New York Times, March 30, 2010
This article, which includes advice from several doctor-athletes, cautions against running to the doctor with every bruise, ache and pain. The reasons?
(1) Diagnostic workups can show all sorts of apparent abnormalities and injuries that aren't causing any problems. For example, a recent study of 42 ice hockey players showed abnormalities in 70% of the athletes, although the hockey players had no pain or only minimal discomfort. MRIs are so sensitive that they can show small tears and fraying everywhere.
(2) Most doctors don't know a lot about running (or other sports) injuries and will simply tell you to stop exercising.
When should you see a doctor? When the pain gets progressively worse, pain at rest or at night, joint swelling or bruises that do not heal, and joints that lock or seem unstable.
One doctor says he never sees a doctor for his sports injuries. When he feels pain, he cross-trains until the pain goes away. Older athletes, having dealt with many injuries know how to listen to their bodies and how to limit themselves. "Younger people come in (to the doctor's office) immediately. Then, if they continue their sport, they learn about the limits of medicine."
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