Alive and Kicking #34 – Exercise and its Impact on Long-Term Health, and How to Treat Pain

by on May 21, 2012

in Alive and Kicking


Alive and Kicking – Martial Arts Over 40


Monday 21 May 2012: Issue #34

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Published by Brett Kraiger. Your comments are always welcome.


Hi there!

Welcome to this week’s Alive and Kicking, the newsletter for martial artists over 40.

I saw a comment on my site today from Jack. Jack’s 60 years old and was commenting on the video of 68 year-old Jerry striking the pads blindfolded. What I loved about Jack’s comment is that his son and son’s friends are all looking at him and can’t believe how old he is. It really shows the benefits of training in martial arts as we get older.

I know I’ve posted on the site about the benefits of martial arts for older people, but Jack inspired me to do some more reading up on the topic. More on that below, plus the fourth installment in the Pain series from Craig Hart.


As a result of the comment from Jack I was inspired to search around for more information relating to the benefits of martial arts in middle-age and beyond.

Tai Chi is a popular form of exercise for older people
by alpha7allan under CC BY
Tai Chi is a popular form of exercise for older people


It’s actually quite hard to find studies or information about martial arts specifically, unless you happen to be looking for information about the effects of Tai Chi on people over 70. Every man and his dog seems to have done that study!

So I broadened my search a little and started looking for more general information about exercise in middle age. I was particularly interested in the long-term effects of exercise.

I found a lot of really quite interesting articles on the subject, and the news is all good.

Well nearly all good … the part about the slightly increased risk of heart attack when starting an exercise program is probably not good news! Let that be a word of warning not to overdo it when you are first getting started.

A study reported on in has this to say…

A new study gives people in their 50s and 60s another reason to get off the couch and be physically active — especially if they have conditions or habits that endanger their hearts, like diabetes, high blood pressure or smoking.

A study of 9,611 adults showed that those who were regularly active in their 50s and early 60s were about 35 percent less likely to die in the next eight years than those who were sedentary. For those who had a high heart risk because of several underlying conditions, the reduction was 45 percent.

The death-reducing benefit was seen among those who walked, gardened, or went dancing a few times a week, as well as those who pursued more vigorous activities.

Ahhhh…. more vigorous activities. That sounds like us  🙂

This research did look closely at the increased risk of heart attack. The risk is very real, especially if you are just getting back into exercise after a long layoff. But more importantly, the risk is woth it…

In fact, she says, the benefit of physical activity for most high cardiovascular disease-risk individuals probably outweighs the risks.
“For these people, the risk of having an acute problem brought on by exercise is small compared with the much higher risk of remaining sedentary,” says Richardson.

Does it matter when you get started? I’ve heard some people ask whether it’s too late to start exercising. Perhaps they consider that a life of sitting on the couch for the last 20-30 years means it’s too late anyway to get up and do something about it. This article from says that this couldn’t be more wrong..

In terms of your life span, it really does matter that you start exercising, quit the couch-potato habit, and give up smoking.

But even if you don’t get started until middle age or later, you can prolong your life, a new study shows. Of course, it’s better to quit bad habits and start good ones early, but middle age is not too late, say researchers at Uppsala University in Sweden.

The researchers say that after adjusting for other risk factors, men who reported high levels of physical activity from age 50 on were expected to live 2.3 years longer than the sedentary individuals, and 1.1 years longer than the men who’d originally reported medium physical activity.

Increased physical activity prolongs life in middle-aged men after “an induction period” of up to 10 years, the study says.

Note the part about an “induction period”. What this means is that the real benefits will come much later down the track, and maybe not quite so much immediately. All the more reason to find an activity that you enjoy and keeps your mind occupied as well as your body.

I don’t know about you but one of the things that keeps me doing martial arts is that there is a bigger picture than just doing exercise. By having such a broad range of things to learn in martial arts you can keep learning new things and expanding your horizons, and the exercise aspect is almost secondary.

As you age you might start to shift your focus as well according to what your body can or cannot do, but there is always something new to learn.

Of course it’s not just your physical health that benefits, your brain improves as well. Here’s just one aspect.

A 2009 study led by Kirk Erickson, Ph.D. of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign observed that elderly people with greater aerobic fitness had a larger hippocampus, a spatial-memory brain region. Greater aerobic fitness also correlated with higher spatial-memory proficiency.

(From )

Much of the above looks at the effects on your fitness, and your longevity. But I thought this snippet I found on to perhaps be one of the most important reasons to pick up your exercise and keep at it.

It’s a little bit technical, but essentially what it is saying is that if you reach age 80, then a stronger aerobic system might not actually help you live any longer, but what it will do is ensure that the time that you are alive is much more likely to be spent in good health!

Aerobic training eliminates premature disability, but has little influence on survival beyond the age of 80 years.  Rather, it induces a “squaring” of morbidity and mortality curves, so that good health is preserved until shortly before death.  Activity patterns in late middle age are quite strong predictors of the likelihood of dependency as a senior.

A long, healthy active life. Sounds good to me.


They say the universe will provide you with what you most think about. Well for the last several weeks, Craig Hart has been thinking about and writing about Pain. And so… the universe provided in the form of a fractured rib!

But that hasn’t stopped him from finishing this week’s article. Today he explores some of the different types of treatment that you might come across, and explains why he sought out alternatives to traditional western medicine.

If you’ve missed the earlier articles you can find them here, here and here.


That’s all for this week. Remember, if you have anything you want to say, ask or contribute, you can drop me an email or leave your comments on Facebook. You can also comment directly on the website.

And I am always looking out for Readers Stories to add to the page. You’ve got a story to share, whether you think you do or not. There might be someone out there just like you wondering if they are too old for martial arts. They might see your story and that triggers them to jump in with both feet! So please, if you would like to share your story then get in touch!

All the best!


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Quote of the Day


A healthy old fellow, who is not a fool, is the happiest creature living.
– Gerald Brenan

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Candy Moore Antkies May 21, 2012 at 1:28 pm

I agree. I started working out at a gym in January and I feel better than ever. I no longer feel slughish, I have more energy and my mental state is better! Taking Taekwondo classes just adds to it!


Brett Kraiger May 29, 2012 at 10:41 pm

Awesome Candy… great to hear that!


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