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.
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.