Healthy Ageing

Healthy Ageing, CrossFit and lifestyle

Meyken Houppermans
Founder and Head Coach
Healthy Ageing is not just for old people. It is about maintaining and improving the quality of life for as long as possible. It is about maintaining and increasing work capacity across broad time and modal domains throughout life, also known as CrossFit. By doing CrossFit and living a healthy lifestyle, we can slow down the process of ageing and get healthier, stronger and fitter as we age.

What is healthy ageing?

Healthy Ageing means ageing healthy, happy and staying socially active as we grow older, thanks to a lifestyle that is well adjusted to the changing necessities that come with ageing.

Every phase in life has specific needs in exercise, nutrition and  relaxation. For example, masters (in CrossFit defined as athletes from the  age of 35) need less food than youngsters as their metabolism slows down. Because  of that, the importance of high quality food becomes even more significant.  At the same time, for masters more effort is needed to maintain muscle mass  and stamina than youngsters.

In addition, in the course of the years the risk of chronic  diseases such as obesity, type II diabetes, heart disease and depression are  increasing. For women specifically, the menopause plays a major role. Our  physical, mental and emotional well-being changes as we get older, as a  result of hormonal and chemical changes in our bodies and due to our life  experiences. These changing necessities in life require adjustments in our  diet, smarter ways of exercising and relaxing to age in a physical,  mental and emotional healthy way.

Why is healthy ageing important?

Healthy Ageing is a relatively new  concept. Research institutes, business firms and civil society organizations  are increasingly working together to develop more insights on Healthy Ageing.  Yet the importance of Healthy Ageing is often underestimated. The Netherlands  has more than 7 million people aged 50 or older. That number is expected to  increase in the upcoming years. At the same time there are fewer young people to take care of these seniors  Therefore, it’s important to age healthy and  happy and to participate in employment and social activities for as long as  possible.

Not just for old people

Ageing  is inevitable. This process already starts at the age of 25. But healthy  ageing starts even earlier; before conception! With parents who pass on  their genes and with it the risks and opportunities for a healthy life course  or the occurrence of illness later in life. Also, the lifestyle habits of the  mother-to-be will affect the health of the unborn child. (Read our articles on  healthy ageing starts before birth and on how parents’blind spots complicate  their child from healthy ageing.

From birth, parents lay the foundation for their child’s  lifestyle. After all, they are generally responsible for the food supply at  home. Especially with young children they determine what and how much they  eat and exercise. Moreover, they will set an example when it comes to a  healthy lifestyle: the parents set the standard for the child. (Read our article  on how parents who want to lose weight but keep buying sweets for their  children, can actually become a perfect role model for their children).

Although peers play a greater role in puberty than parents, and  unhealthy habits can always emerge along the way, adolescents who have a  healthy lifestyle from an early age and are encouraged to do so by their  parents, are also more likely to maintain this at a later age.

Healthy lifestyle

The environment we live in and our lifestyle both influence the development of our health and the degree to which we age healthy. Living in a poor neighborhood with many fast-food restaurants, little safe options  to go outside and lots of social problems, can negatively affect our physical  and mental health and decrease our chance of ageing healthy.

For example, the food we eat not only influences our physical  condition, such as the condition of our heart and blood vessels, but also our  mental condition. Malnutrition such as a lack of vitamin D, is correlated to  mental health issues. Also, a lack of exercise negatively affects our health  and in order to stay physically and mentally fit throughout life, we need to  exercise on a daily basis.(Read our article on the relation between your  stool, your brain and healthy ageing)

A healthy lifestyle can decrease the  risk of chronic diseases that affect our lifespan, such as cardiovascular  disease, obesity and depression up to 50%. It can even cure type II diabetes.  Healthy Ageing is prevention as well as cure.

… and positive mindset

Accepting the physical, mental and  emotional changes we go through creates space to make smart choices to stay  healthy and fit. “Train smarter, not harder” is a good example.

Ignoring, denying and getting  frustrated that you cannot do at 45 what you could at the age of 25, does not  help. On the other hand, thinking you are doomed for disaster does not work  either.

Plus, it is simply not true! We are  capable of doing great thing even at a very high age. At least, if we stay  physically and mentally active, keep enjoying life and take good cate of  ourselves. But maybe the most important aspect is your mindset. Believe in  yourself and think:I can and I will! (Read and watch our articles on mental  toughness).

CrossFit rewrites the script of ageing

Ageing  is inevitable. There are age- related physiological, psychological and  neurological changes that affect everybody. Changes in the body and brain,  such as a decreased insulin sensibility, more susceptibility to illness,  decrease in muscle function and reduced oxygen uptake, less coordination and  balance, but also changes in personality and emotional wellbeing.

The  impact of these changes varies from person to person. According to the  CrossFit philosophy, lifestyle is the most important factor that determines  whether these changes result in functional decline. This means we can  minimize the degree to which age-based changes limit our lives by living a  healthy lifestyle. We can rewrite the traditional script of ageing.

Healthy Ageing is about maintaining and improving the quality  of life for as long as possible. It is about maintaining and increasing work  capacity across broad time and modal domains throughout life. That is CrossFit.


CrossFit busts the myths of ageing

Myths around ageing can result in self-fulfilling  prophecies and obstacles that hold us back from an active lifestyle. We  discuss and bust some of these myths:

Myth 1. Older athletes cannot get stronger or improve their physical capacity

According to the CrossFit view of ageing, strength and  muscle mass do not decline with age but rather with inactivity. You can get  stronger and significantly improve your capacity if you do resistance  training frequently, properly, and consistently (read our article about CrossFit when you are over 30).

Myth 2. Older athletes should not train at intensity

Intensity is most commonly  associated with maximizing rate of return in favorable adaptation. This  means: intensity is the pathway to results, independent of age. The  misconception is that an older person is at higher risk if he/she trains at  high intensity, and that moderate training would be better. According to the CrossFit  view of ageing, it is not about  training at moderate intensity (taking it easy), but about training at  relative intensity. Relative intensity means working to the boundary of  physical and psychological tolerance and not beyond. The risk of training at  high intensity is much more related to the condition of person, than to his/  her age. A deconditioned youngster might be at higher risk than a fit master.  And a person who trains irregularly is at higher risk than someone who trains  regularly.

Nevertheless, it is important  to take into account medical conditions and physical and mental impairments  and modify the training program accordingly. But that goes for older as well  as for younger people.

Myth  3. Older athletes need a simpler training program and avoid high skill  training, gymnastics and weightlifting

One  of the age- related changes that affect everybody are the neurological ones,  such as coordination and balance. Therefore, learning neurological skills is  extremely important to slow down the process of ageing. With gymnastics and  weightlifting these skills are challenges and with the appropriate  modifications, any person can learn it.

Myth  4. Older athletes cannot train hard because they have diminished time to recover

According to the CrossFit view of ageing, lifestyle  factors are a much more important factor is the time it takes to recover from  a workout, than age is. Think of: Lack of sleep, insufficient nutrition, too  much stress and lack of active recovery techniques. Yet, older athletes need  to keep in mind that they need to invest more in those lifestyle factors and  in recovery, compared to younger athletes for whom a less optimal lifestyle has less impact on their performance. Older athletes should focus more on  high quality work and less on volume: train smarter, not harder or more.

CrossFit as fountain of youth

According to the CrossFit model of ageing, older athletes  who train constantly varied functional movements at high intensity,regularly,  properly and consistently, have on average better health markers than their  inactive peers. They have lower blood pressure, better cardiorespiratory  functioning, more strength and muscle mass, better bone density, more  mobility and better brain function. They live longer and have a higher  quality of life. They are slowing down the process of ageing by doing CrossFit. Under the condition that they stay active, no matter what, despite  illness or injury!


CrossFit Eudokia: Lifestyle coaching in Healthy Ageing

CrossFit Eudokia is one of the few specialists in lifestyle  coaching and Healthy Ageing in The Netherlands. It is The concept of healthy  ageing is relatively new and part of lifestyle medicine: early prevention  rather than cure. It is aligned with the latest scientific vision on health, called Positive Health. Health is considered a  dynamic concept in which taking control  over your life and developing the strength and power to do so, are key  points. It is about resilience and  adaptability to all the challenges life throws at you. Health is considered  to be much more than solely the  presence or absence of physical or mental problems or illnesses. Positive Health has six dimensions: physical and mental wellbeing, daily functioning  and social and societal participation, and the quality and meaning of life.  This aligns with CrossFit’s vision on health: maintaining and increasing work capacity across  broad time and modal domains throughout life.





Lifestyle  coaching in Healthy Ageing is about taking control of your life and about  developing power to improve the quality of your life. At CrossFit Eudokia, we  teach you about the specific necessities in nutrition, exercise and  relaxation that fit your life phase and about the changing necessities to  come during your life. Our coaching is aimed at how you can take control over  your life and ageing process and create your own health. Starting point is  that you are the expert on your life.

Create your ownhealth!©

This  article is based on the CrossFit Specialty Course: Masters Training Guide  (2017) and information from a broad variety of scientific sources among  which; the Institute for Positive Health (2020); the curriculum Health  Psychology Open University Netherlands (2020); Leyden Academy of Vitality and  Ageing (2018) and the World Health Organization on healthy ageing.