Age as a Factor in Physical Fitness
Soldiers who are age 40 and older represent the Army’s senior leadership. On the battlefield, they must lead other soldiers under conditions of severe stress. To meet this challenge and set a good example, these leaders must maintain and demonstrate a high level of physical fitness. Since their normal duties may be stressful but nonphysical, they must take part regularly in a physical fitness program. The need to be physically fit does not decrease with increased age.
People undergo many changes as they grow older. For example, the amount of blood the heart can pump per beat and per minute decreases during maximal exercise, as does the maximum heart rate. This lowers a person’s physical ability, and performance suffers. Also, the percent of body weight composed of fat generally increases, while total muscle mass decreases. The result is that muscular strength and endurance, CR endurance, and body composition suffer. A decrease in flexibility also occurs.
Men tend to maintain their peak levels of muscular strength and endurance and CR fitness until age 30. After 30 there is a gradual decline throughout their lives. Women tend to reach their peak in physical capability shortly after puberty and then undergo a progressive decline.
Although a decline in performance normally occurs with aging, those who stay physically active do not have the same rate of decline as those who do not. Decreases in muscular strength and endurance, CR endurance, and flexibility occur to a lesser extent in those who regularly train these fitness components.
Soldiers who are fit at age 40 and continue to exercise show a lesser decrease in many of the physiological functions related to fitness than do those who seldom exercise. A trained 60-year-old, for example, may have the same level of CR fitness as a sedentary 20-year-old. In short, regular exercise can help add life to your years and years to your life.
The assessment phase of a program is especially important for those age 40 and over. However, it is not necessary or desirable to develop special fitness programs for these soldiers. Those who have been exercising regularly may continue to exercise at the same level as they did before reaching age 40. A program based on the principles of exercise and the training concepts in this manual will result in a safe, long-term conditioning program for all soldiers. Only those age 40 and over who have not been exercising regularly may need to start their exercise program at a lower level and progress more slowly than younger soldiers. Years of inactivity and possible abuse of the body cannot be corrected in a few weeks or months.
As of 1 January 1989, soldiers reaching age 40 are no longer required to get clearance from a cardiovascular screening program before taking the APFT. Only a medical profile will exempt them from taking the biannual record APFT. They must, however, have periodic physical examinations in accordance with AR 40-501 and NGR 40-501. These include screening for cardiovascular risk factors.