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Exercise During Middle Age

We're not kids anymore but that's not a good reason to stop exercising

by Bob Hoffman - 1979

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Many men in their 30s and 40sw become painfully aware that they are "not a kid anymore" when they can no longer duplicate the physical activities tat they performed so effortlessly only 10 years before.  They find that they now tire easily and "get out of wind" quickly.

The real tragedy of this all too common occurrence, however, is that the average man views this physical decline as being normal.  He justifies this situation in his mind by saying, "I guess I'm not the man I used to be, but after all I'm 40 years old."

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If you are approaching middle age and find yourself in this category, it's time to reevaluate your thinking.  The advancing years are not responsible for your physical deterioration; a lack of regular exercise couple with improper living habits are the true culprits.

Only a few years ago, the general consensus was that exercise of any type for a man past 40 was viewed with skepticism.  Naturally, then, weight training for this age group was unthinkable in the minds of most people.  In those days, it was felt that this activity should be restricted solely to those youngsters who desire exceptional physical development and / or great strength.

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Every potbellied, middle-aged man in poor health defended his taboo image of exercise by citing the case of some "trained athlete" who suddenly dropped dead in his 50s.  "Died of a heart attack," they would tell you, "just after playing 18 holes of golf and taking a few drinks at the clubhouse."

Whenever I met an individual who spouted this line of "reasoning," I countered with this observation: Most "trained athletes" trained for only a short period of time during their youth, usually at some sport like baseball, football or track and field.  Unfortunately, after most athletes graduate from high school or college they no longer take part in these games and 20 years of physical neglect or even downright abuse follows.

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Statistics show that former athletes generally live longer than those who never engaged in any form of exercise.  Even more interesting is the fact that men who participate in the heavier forms of athletics--football, wrestling and weight training--live longer on the whole than those who engage in lighter athletics.

Thankfully, this anti-exercise attitude among middle-aged men seems to be changing.  Nowadays, more fellows of this stage of life are practicing tennis, swimming, racquetball, jogging and also weight training.

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Despite this new awareness regarding exercise, we still receive numerous calls and letters from men--and women,  too--in their mid 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and older who want to take up barbell  exercise but are somewhat hesitant to start.

These inquirers realize that weight training will relieved their constant feeling of fatigue and give them renewed strength and health.  However, most of their fears center around the fact they have done very little in a physical way throughout their life and therefore, are a bit reluctant to start.

Yes, one must be somewhat judicious in determining the sort of exercise he will make a part of his life after years of inactivity.  It is not wise for middle-aged men to strive for athletic supremacy or to attempt to reach the heights of younger competitors in bodybuilding or lifting.

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Granted, older men have displayed proficiency at the heavier types of athletics--particularly Olympic weightlifting.  When I first became interested in this sport several decades ago most of the record holders of that era were past 40. Woelpert, a German featherweight, established a world press record at the age of 46.  At a similar age, Strassberger, a German heavyweight, also created a world record in the press.  Of course, no discussion of this sort would be complete without the inclusion of the great Norbert Schemansky, who competed until has was in his mid-40s.

While it "can be done" I do not recommend that the average middle-aged man entertain thoughts of competition.  My advice is to exercise for the improvement of body efficiency and above all, train don't strain.  Begin slowly--particularly if one is lacking prior experience--and progress gradually.

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The next obstacle that the middle-aged man has to overcome in his quest for a stronger, more fit body is the time factor.  Many people would like to begin lifting two or three weekly workouts in their schedule, I can certainly identify with this problem because I have been on the "go" for most of my life.  In my early years, my vocation as a traveling salesman meant that I had to carry a 105-pound barbell with me if I wanted to keep up with my exercise.

To accommodate these people with limited training time, I devised the York Simplified System of Barbell Training.  The beauty of this course lies in the fact that it can be performed completely in as little as 10 minutes or up to one-half hour, depending on one's application.

If one is extremely pressed for time, he can select a weight that allows him to practice the flip snatch, side-bend and barbell curl--the first three exercises of the simplified course--in succession.  Then he can increase the poundage by 50 percent and practice the dead-lift, military press, shrug and bent-over row with that weight.  To finish off this abbreviated training session, up the weight on the bar by approximately another 50 percent and perform the raise on toes, straddle lift and squat.

However, if one has a few more minutes to spare, he can work at each exercise individually.  Either way, though superb health, better muscle tone and above-average strength will result.

The important thing for the middle-aged man to keep in mind regarding exercise is common sense.  And the fact that the body requires physical activity to flex, stretch and strengthen the muscle.

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