Do you want to be fit & healthy at 80?

Age is nothing but a number, you can be fit at ANY age!

Can you be fit and healthy at 80? The answer is yes.

So how can you be fit and healthy at eighty? So what exercise should I do? What type of exercise will help me stay healthy or will help me become more healthy? You’re going to find out.   

The type of exercise will depend on what the end goals are. If you’re going to run a marathon it will be different than if you want to be a bodybuilder. This article will discuss exercising in the context of health and improving one longevity. 

Generally, speaking exercise can fall into two broad categories: Cardiorespiratory fitness and Strength/muscle mass. Both of these play the role of improving life span. The scientific literature shows that morbidity and mortality risk increase as fitness levels decline with age. Sarcopenia is associated with adverse health outcomes. 

Now for some definitions.

What are morbidity and mortality? Morbidity is the condition of suffering from a disease or medical condition. Mortality is the state of being subject to death. 

Cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) refers to the capacity of the circulatory (heart and associated blood vessels) and respiratory (Lungs) systems to supply oxygen to skeletal muscle mitochondria for energy production needed during physical activity. Mitochondria are inside most cells and they make energy.

Muscular strength can be defined as the ability to exert force to overcome resistance In other words the ability to pick up or move objects around. 

Muscle mass is the amount of muscle in your body, including skeletal muscles, smooth muscles, and cardiac muscles. 

Loss of muscle mass and strength is known as Sarcopenia.  

Let’s talk about cardiorespiratory fitness

Cardiorespiratory fitness is measured in VO2 max. VO2 max, or maximal oxygen consumption, refers to the maximum amount of oxygen that an individual can utilize during intense or maximal exercise.  

Have you ever gone up a flight of stairs ran for the bus and got out of breath? You just tested your VO2 max. The better your VO2 max the better you’re able to exchange oxygen (O2) in the body. 

Here’s a study association of cardiorespiratory fitness with long-term mortality among adults undergoing exercise treadmill testing. The study found “The adjusted mortality risk of reduced performance on exercise treadmill test was comparable to, if not greater than, traditional clinical risk factors (eg, coronary artery disease, smoking). Importantly, there was no upper limit of the benefit of increased aerobic fitness”. So having poor cardiorespiratory fitness is as dangerous as smoking for your health and life span.  That right having low cardiorespiratory fitness is as dangerous as smoking.  The study broke down the participants into low, below average, average, high, elite. Going from just being low to being below average is a 50% reduction in mortality over a decade. If you then go from low to above average it’s about 60%  above average, it’s about a 60% or 70% reduction in mortality.   

How can we improve VO2 max? 

Well, it’s cardio. Any type of cardio, walking, rowing, or riding the bike. Any exercise that gets your heart rate up. You don’t have to do a bone-crushing workout every day to improve or keep your VO2. About 20 minutes once a week would be a good amount. So if walking is your form of cardio find a big hill and do hill repeats (walk up the hill quickly) and then walk down, let your heart rate recover, and do it again. The same principle can go for riding a bike. Go hard for 1 minute and then recover and repeat. Do that once a week and that will help your V02 max and improve your oxygen exchange.

Doing this type of cardio once a week is great for your health. Some tips start slow, no need to do 20 hill repeats the first time out. 

Start with 3-5 reps and build from there. If you feel any chest pain or thing that does not feel normal a call your doctor or heart doctor (Cardiologist). If the discomfort is too bad go to the ER. 

Now the other days you train, your cardio should be different. You should be training Zone 2. Zone 2 is steady training just coming above the easy zone, It’s not moderate or anything above. The main benefit form zone 2 heart rate or zone 2 power is that it builds an aerobic base and endurance. The best formula to figure out Zone 2 heart rate is the following.

(Your age)-180= Target heart rate.

I’m 48 years old so my target heart rate is 133. (180-47=133)

The benefits of Zone 2 training are, increased mitochondria (the power plant of the cell), increased mitochondrial efficiency, lower heart rate, lower blood pressure, and finally help with insulin resistance.

So doing both types of cardio will help you balance your cardiorespiratory fitness. A good ratio is 80% zone 2 and 20% hard. 

Strength/Muscle mass

Sarcopenia, or the decline of skeletal muscle tissue with age, is one of the most important causes of functional decline and loss of independence in older adults. An average person can lose 1-4% of their lean mass (muscle) and year. 

Figure 9. Strength loss with aging in literature (Keller and Engelhardt, 2013).

If you have low muscle strength, then you have probable sarcopenia. 

AS we age we replace our muscle fibers with fat and connective tissue. 

So the muscle loses its ability to contract (contractile function) and muscle metabolic function. Muscles need lots of energy, so they use a lot of blood glucose (sugar). If a person has less muscle then they use less sugar/blood glucose leading to insulin resistance and then type 2 diabetes

Two ways to see how well you’re doing are the sit-to-stand test and grip strength test. This study Strength, But Not Muscle Mass, Is Associated With Mortality in the Health, Aging and Body Composition Study Cohort.  The authors used sit-to-stand test and grip strength test, in their study to see how strength affects Mortality.

 Low muscle mass did not explain the strong association of strength with mortality, demonstrating that muscle strength as a marker of muscle quality is more important than quantity in estimating mortality risk. Grip strength provided risk estimates similar to those of quadriceps strength.  

The ability to get out of a chair without using your arms is very important. This movement is a squat. If you trip over a sock while going to the bathroom at night you need the strength in your leg to prevent you from falling and potentially hitting your head or breaking a bone when you fall.

30-second Chair Stand test is a great way to test how strong your legs are.  Try it out and see if you’re at risk for falling.  If you are get to work and improve your muscle strength in your legs.

Figure 13. Fall death rates in the U.S. from 2007 to 2016 for adults aged 65 and older. (CDC)

Figure 13. Fall death rates in the U.S. from 2007 to 2016 for adults aged 65 and older. (CDC)

From 2007 to 2016, 10 years, we saw the deaths per 100,000 in the United States as a result of falls go from about 46 to 60 (That’s a 30% increase). At this rate, by 2030, we’re going to see seven fall deaths every hour

The other day I slip on some clothes my kids left on the stairs. What stopped me from fall down stairs? Grip strength, the ability to grab the railing and stop my fall.

Grip strength.

Grip strength is harder to test but still important. So start working on hand strength by carrying heavy objects or get yourself a hand gripper. Carrying heavy objects for a workout is called a farmer’s carry. Farmer carry are good for your core as well as your hand/grip strength.

So as we age it’s critical to work on maintaining muscle mass and strength to improve the quality of our lives. The stronger we are the more muscle we have the lower the morbidity and mortality. It’s never too late to start. It’s better never to stop building muscle.  

Get a Grip! – YouTube

Pushing, Pulling, Squatting & More! – YouTube (Farmer’s Carry)

Figure 15. Paddon-Jones Curve.


A lot of people think that there’s a linear or gradual decline in muscle mass or muscle size as we age. The reality is that it’s a lot more staggered as you get into older age…if you’re injured or if you’re bedridden, for example, that accelerates the decline.

Much like saving money the more you have when you retire the more you have to withdraw from.  So start now and build as much muscle as possible.  Your life could depend on it.

So where to start:

  1. Get off the couch, the hardest lift is lifting yourself off the couch.
  2. Get outside and walk. It’s easy and free. 
  3. Find a big hill and walk up and down it once a week.
  4. Start lifting weights. A gallon of milk/water is a great start. If you need an idea on what to do go over to our YouTube page.
  5. Start doing Chair squats. Here’s a link to show how to do them
  6. Find something heavy and do farmers carries or static holds till you feel the burn.
  7. Anything is better than nothing.

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