There’s a tendency to associate men’s fitness with young, big and strong guys who have classic body builders’ physiques, honed at intense sessions in the gym. As a result, men often neglect resistance training as they get older.
So says CUH physiotherapist, Colin Clarke. However, he emphasizes a number of benefits to resistance training in the older population.
“As we get older, resistance training can have a number of positive benefits. It helps to maintain strength as we age which can aid in an individual maintaining their independence. It also has positive impacts on maintaining bone density and improved cardiovascular health.
Osteoporosis is a health condition that affects bone density, leaving an individual at a greater risk of fractures with or without trauma.
As Colin points out, “there is plenty of research supporting resistance training and improved bone density. Although osteoporosis is less prevalent in males, it still remains very important to maintain strong bones, alongside the other benefits of strength training.”
Perhaps older men are intimidated by commercial gyms or just don’t see the point of lifting weights into their later years, says Colin. But there are alternatives.
“Resistance training, at its core, involves adding an external force that the body has to overcome. You don’t have to be lifting a dumbbell or a heavy barbell to get the benefits. Practicing bodyweight exercises such as a squat, a press up or a modified version of one can provide enough resistance to see the benefits.”
It can be difficult to get started if you are someone who is nervous or unsure of what to do. There is so much information out there. Some men, old and young, may feel embarrassed stepping into a gym. Colin however says that there is no reason to feel embarrassed.
“I personally know personal trainers in gyms who would be delighted to work with the older generation. They are happy to help, whether that’s putting a program together for them or just a friendly face.”
If the gym or lifting weights isn’t your thing, there are many other options out there. Cardiovascular exercise is very important for both your heart and lungs.
“Anything from running to walking can have a fantastic effect on your cardiovascular health. Also, walking, jogging or running can be very accessible and it’s easy to get started. Any form of exercise that increases your heart rate can be beneficial in this regard. Consistency is the main thing no matter what mode of fitness or exercise you’re into. It’s all about finding something you enjoy and sticking with it.”
The goal is to find something you are happy to participate in. Nowadays, a lot of people enjoy playing golf. Colin says there are benefits to this game.
“It’s great. It encourages people to get outside. In addition to this, there is a significant social element. This aspect can’t be underestimated as it encourages men to interact, build a friend base and have more people to talk to. It can be very beneficial from a mental health perspective and it’s great to see the current trend encouraging people to look after their mental wellbeing.
“Being physically active has a wide range of benefits. Setting goals is also very important. Whether that’s a walk to the shops, running a few kilometers or even a marathon. It creates a target to aim for. Putting a timeframe on achieving that goal is just as important as it keeps you honest and committed to it. In addition, once you reach that goal, the feeling is awesome.
“Mentally and physically, it feels great. In other words, it’s a no brainer. Yet older men need to be prompted to take exercise seriously and to look after their health and wellbeing.” Colin says it’s easy to be reactive, going to the doctor when you’re sick. But I think it needs to be publicized more that men need to be proactive in looking after their health. Eating well, being physically active and getting regular check-ups are important.”
It should all start in the home and at school.
“When I was at school, there wasn’t much emphasis on physical health but I know from talking to other people, there’s a bit more of a push at school in terms of looking after your physical and mental health. In secondary schools, physical education is taught as a subject whereas when I was doing it, it was very much ‘there’s the ball. Off you go lads.’” Colin currently works in CUH where he covers a few different areas.
“At the moment, I’m involved in neurosurgery, A&E, Geriatrics & Acute Stroke. It’s great variety and they’re all areas that I enjoy working in.” Aged 27, the London marathon will be Colin’s first marathon.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity. It also gives us the opportunity to raise money for the CUH charity. The funds raised will go towards the physiotherapy department which will help in the rehab and treatment of our patients. I’m gradually building up my training and it’s something I’m enjoying doing. There are 21 of us from CUH taking part, nine of us are physiotherapists.”
Colin very much walks the talk when it comes to his own fitness. He has dabbled in many different sports and is not averse to setting ambitious goals.
“When I was younger, it was all very much about GAA, with some cycling. I’ve tried a few different sports in the past few years ranging from Olympic weightlifting to BJJ (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu). Recently I’ve settled into running and cycling a bit more, having done a couple of 10km races. My current goal is a good time in the upcoming Clonakilty Half-Marathon. Then it’s onwards and upwards to London 2023 and who knows after that? Maybe even a half marathon!”
The CUH participants in the London Marathon are each aiming to raise €3,000.
“I’m less worried about the training and more worried about the fundraising!” says Colin.
To donate, click: www.cuhcharity.ie/donate/