After about 30 years of age, life gives each of us an important choice: use it or lose it.
Those of us who choose to “use it” can maintain or even increase our fitness levels for decades. The rest of us fail to provide our bodies with enough activity to stave off the debilitating influence of Father Time.
• Our fitness potential peaks in our mid-30s, then gradually declines until we have no need for it, at the point when you get a free wooden overcoat :0)
• The average person gains about 1 kilo per decade starting at age 20 if no exercise is taken.
As we live with our body’s every minute of every day you don’t really see how significantly your body changes, until one day we wake up and suddenly realize that the ‘pot belly’ has grown to a state that you find it difficult to pull up your socks!
Does this mean that diving becomes automatically riskier as we age? No.
Scuba diving is usually described as a moderate level activity. Scuba diving by itself does not lend itself to the maintenance of physical fitness.
In most cases scuba diving is a seasonal sport and as such our ‘scuba fitness’ follows suit. Every year I hear people saying after their first dive of the season “I really need to get scuba fit”.
For those divers who already pursue a program of physical fitness, well done!
To keep a year long fitness regime is not easy. In the summer you want to enjoy the sun and getting fit is not that attractive. In the winter the weather is miserable and does not provide you much incentive the ‘get out’ and ‘get fit’.
In both cases the draw of easy food in the form of fast food, comfort food, pub grub and drinks with friends can just be too much of a temptation. Especially with the high stress lifestyles that people lead these days.
Life also often throws a spanner in the works here and there. I certainly feel the aches and pains more these days now that I am over 40!
Over the last decade since I stepped over the 30 years of age mark I have been keeping fit on and off. I have seasons where for whatever reason I train like a madman to the tune of ‘Eye of The Tiger’ blaring in the background.
I have tried all sorts of keeping fit. From boot camps, joining a gym, running, yoga, squash, Zumba and many more.
They all have one thing in common for me, they get boring, repetitive and I loose interest at some point. That was until I found Crossfit!
Since joining the brand new Crossfit gym in Maidenhead (http://www.crossfitmaidenhead.com/index.php) I found a new lease of life and a place that provides the same atmosphere as diving, a group of friendly people that get together, have a great time and get fit as a result.
The crossfit instructors are there at each session to make sure you are ‘working at your best’ and the other crossfitters help to keep each other going.
I believe it is important for divers to have a ‘good’ level of fitness. Becoming physically fit, will in turn can help to prevent illness, injury and just improve general well being.
For me, being physically fit provides me with benefits such as:
- Improved transportation of oxygen to muscles
- Helps reduces the amount of air used
- This in turn would help extends dive time
- Increased physical endurance helps reduce fatigue
- Reduces the risk of decompression sickness (DCS)
- Improves agility
- Improves comfort and movement on the surface and underwater
- Improves muscle efficiency and diving performance
- Helps you to maintain a healthy weight range
VO2max is the most relied upon benchmark of both cardiovascular fitness and effective decompression. While the average person experiences a 10% decline in VO2max per decade, recent studies suggest that maintaining high activity levels can halt this decline entirely.
Heart stroke volume decreases with age, along with a decrease in the capillary-to-muscle fibre ratio and arterial cross-sectional area. This means that less blood is flowing to the peripheral tissues (fewer capillaries), and the speed with which gasses cross into the bloodstream is reduced (which is a function of vessel cross-sectional area). Thus, tissue off-gassing is slowed, and oxygen is less effective at accelerating the decompression process.
That said, an active 65 year old has a higher level of cardiovascular function than a sedentary 30 year old. This difference can come from pursuing 30 minutes of focused exercise every day- hardly the schedule of an elite athlete.
Muscle and Bone
Absolute muscle remodelling rates slow down with age. However, even 90 year olds experience the same relative increases in strength and endurance as younger adults. One study showed that men in their 70s who strength trained starting in their 50s had muscle size and strength equivalent to the 28 year-old researchers.
Training to achieve maximum peak bone mass when younger may reduce the effects of age and inactivity later. This is known as the “bone battery” concept. In other words, the higher the maximum bone density you achieve, the longer it will take for aging to lower that density below a safe threshold. This is regardless of genetic predisposition to degenerative diseases like osteoporosis.
Flexibility often decreases with age but can be improved with stretching. Again, the percentage gains achieved from a consistent stretching program remain the same across age groups.
Well I hear you say, that is great had I know all of this at the time!
It’s Never Too Late To Consider Your Fitness, You Only Get One Chance As Life Is Not A Rehearsal!
There is no age at which exercise is bad for you, whether you’re just getting started or have been doing it your whole life. There are no exercises that are unsafe based purely on age, either. A 70 year old can follow the same program as a 30 year old with adjusted baseline parameters, correct coaching and advice.
Everyone should discuss with a suitably trained individual about their exercise programs, though even with significant health issues like diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, etc., almost anyone can safely increase their activity with proper guidance.
If you do have a known condition then please don’t just jump in at the deep end and go and seek the advice of a physician.