All Things Bubba

Because how can you not love a baseball player named "Bubba"?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Staying fit in retirement

I saw a study once, of professional athletes who had retired. It found that most of them did not stay in shape once they hung up their spikes. They were still very interested in their old sports, but this was expressed in watching games on TV. Most had no interest in playing in community leagues, nor did they take up other forms of exercise. In short, a lot of them turned into couch potatoes.

So what happens to such people? Does the intense training they did in their youth confer any benefits once they are no longer exercising?

The answer is apparently no. Even if you were an elite athlete in your youth, you'll pay if you turn into a couch potato in middle age. Indeed, young or old, you'll lose conditioning quickly if you stop exercising entirely. turns out that staying in shape is a lot easier than getting in shape. That is, a retired pro athlete can work out a lot less, without losing much fitness.

In other words, being almost completely inactive, whether for a short or prolonged period of time, inexorably de-tones muscles and compromises health. The benefits of regular activity don’t last long.

But there is a loophole. In these same studies, as well as others, relatively small amounts of activity allowed participants to maintain much of the health and fitness they had previously gained. In the kayaking study, for instance, some of the athletes didn’t completely cease their training at the end of the season; they merely cut back, limiting themselves to one weight-training session and two endurance workouts per week (a fraction of their full-season training) and consequently lost barely half as much of their aerobic power as the kayakers who stopped exercising altogether. Five weeks “of markedly reduced training in a group of elite athletes seems effective for minimizing the large declines” in conditioning “that take place by completely stopping physical training,” the authors wrote.

Working out as little as once a week enables people who are in shape to hold onto their fitness gains. (You do have to be in shape to begin with, of course.)

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posted by BubbaFan, 8:35 PM


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