Friday, February 10, 2012

Jiu-Jitsu: A Lifetime of Fitness

As obesity rates rise and serious health conditions are linked to inactivity, finding a way to stay fit and active is becoming more and more important.  Some people take up running.  Others take up lifting weights.  Unfortunately, not all exercise is created equal, especially if your goal is to stay healthy late into your life.

According to a recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Western Ontario, exercise will only preserve the specific muscles that you are exercising.  By comparing the quality of various muscle groups in runners young and old, they found that in the older runners the muscles typically associated with running were still in good health and functional, but the muscles that were not activated by running, like biceps, were not preserved.  While this sounds like common sense, it reveals that taking up a hobby like running will not by itself improve or maintain your overall health.  As Sweat Science puts it:

What this tells us is that exercise, on its own, doesn’t preserve all the muscles in your body: in the words of the researchers, there’s no “whole body neuroprotective effect,” or at least none that shows up in this relatively small study. It just preserves the muscles you’re using on a regular basis. So that’s still good news for triathletes, but maybe not as good for runners and cyclists!
This is good news for grapplers.  Jiu-jitsu is a full-body activity that activates every muscle group that incorporates both aerobic and anaerobic elements.  When training is approached intelligently and with maturity, you can train late into your life, as the late Helio Gracie demonstrated by remaining active in the sport for almost an entire century.  With the health benefits supported by reliable research, I am even more motivated to find ways to prolong my training for as long as possible.  I may not be over 40, but if I want to train well into my 60s I need to find ways to preserve the integrity of my joints so that I can continue to reap the physical and psychological benefits of jiu-jitsu.

For starters, I am going to incorporate Don Bluedorn's tips for long term training into my lifestyle.  Don is a good friend of mine and a great example of how beneficial smart training can be.

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