There is no doubt that training of any form can be hard on the body. That is in essence, the reason humans do physical training. Controlled regular exertion can strengthen the function of the heart/lungs where as micro trauma to muscles encourages strength and growth. Keeping those facts in mind – is there a stage in your life when you would be considered too old for training?
The answer there (much like most things in life) depends on a number of circumstances. Let us dive further into the variables.
What is the purpose of your training?
Are you perhaps reaching a mile stone in your life that marks a half way point of sorts and decide to try a hard sparring type martial art to prove a point?
If so this type of training may be too rigorous and plain dangerous. Take boxing for example, it is an art form that requires high endurance, stamina and the ability to quickly recover from damage taken in a match. These are things that slow down as we grow older which make it more difficult to compete successfully.
However if you decided to pick up boxing for the sake of building your cardiac strength and stamina without any thoughts of competition – it could be very beneficial to your health.
Undertaking a more traditional martial art at any age should be less damaging on the body though it will take some time to build up flexibility and ease of movement. Though some of these styles still incorporate sparring, it is not generally a central focus so the strain will not be as demanding on the body.
Joining a school that has a primary focus on self-defence is always a good idea. Self defence is basically a second language – you may never need to use it but very useful if you do.
The types of training mentioned above are to do with hard style schools. All of them have aspects contained within each other (most styles have some form of self-defence, sparring and forms) however each school will deviate to a specific type of focus. Keep in mind that regardless of what hard style training you undertake, most schools will expect you to undertake your own stamina and cardio training outside of the dojo/gym. Realistically, it is impossible to get into optimal health unless you are undertaking training for at least an hour a day and as most students train perhaps two to three times a week – that leaves several other days of required self-training.
If trying a hard style seems a little intimidating to you then you can consider soft style martial arts. These generally refer to styles such as Tai Chi and despite falling into the category of “soft”, they are highly effect in boosting your internal health perhaps more so than hard styles. Though the movements in soft styles tend to be slow, they are formulated in such a way that doing them correctly will stretch out your muscles and ligaments to boost blood flow and flexibility while also improving balance and mental health via breathing.
There is an old Chinese proverb that states “The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is now.” Wanting to improve your health is always an admirable goal regardless of age and martial arts can be an excellent gate way towards that goal. The best thing to do is to speak with a doctor before commencing any new physical activity and keep any prior health issues in mind.
Finally remember that martial arts should not only be a great work out, it should be fun too. If you are not having fun then it is unlikely you will continue far enough to see much improvement; always seek out the style that is right for you.