They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Here’s what gray power looks like.
This CBF exerciser performing high-speed palm thrusts in the Younger Games. She is smashing a heavy bag, right along with stereotypes of older adults and the types and intensity of exercises they can and should do.
She’s not training to fight (although she’ll be better prepared should the need arise). More important, she’s training to stay healthy and function at a high level in her everyday life, right now and for years to come.
When somebody asks you why should an older person strike a heavy bag like a boxer, here’s your answer:
Power - The ability to generate force is necessary to do everything from opening a stuck screen door to warding off an over energetic grandkid or drunk in a bar. Exercise routines that don’t include speed and force, noticeably absent from “senior” exercise programs are incomplete to develop physical skills for real life.
Growth hormones - To generate the speed (look at the blur of her right hand), she’s using a type of muscle fiber and energy system that is totally idle in the standard globo gym aerobic dance routines and yoga boutique. This energy system can only be tapped for about a minute (she hit the bag for 40 seconds) because it leaves you breathless, but releases natural anabolic hormones that have numerous health benefits.
Cardio-respiratory fitness – The biggest discovery in exercise science in recent years is that short bouts of higher intensity exercise improve heart-lung function better than jogging on treadmills or other non-demanding classic cardio exercises typically recommended for older exercisers. Short, varied and intense is better for heart health than long, repetitious and un-challenging..
Joint stability and mobility – Muscles, tendons and ligaments in the feet, knees, shoulders and wrists are suddenly stressed, making them stronger, more resilient and elastic. As power is transferred upwards, the hips and torso provide a stable platform for the shoulder and arm to deliver force into the bag. Without that torso stability, you are like a rag doll and prone to injury because you cannot maintain balance when you have to push or pull.
Neuromotor coordination - Look at the toes of the left foot. The force originated there and is transmitted up the left leg and transferred into rotating hips then across to the right side of the body. This sequenced, contralateral movement from left to right and right to left is the root of crawling, walking and running, abilities you need all your life.
Loaded range of motion – Much more crucial than simply being flexible to be useful in the real world is to be able move multiple-directions – upwards, downwards, sideways – against resistance. In this case, she’s rotating against the heavy bag. Outside the gym, you might be hefting a bag of dog food or shoveling snow or lifting your body out of bed.
Now you know. Do it.