What are some things that you wish for yourself as you get older; Bikini body, 6-pack abs? Errr, maybe not. As we mature it seems as if the focus moves away from what we see in the mirror, and closer to aligning with a good quality of life. Minimizing aches and pains. Good blood work. Little to no prescription medications to take. Maintain (or even improve) quality of life and independence.
Participating in consistent exercise has been compared as a fountain of youth for us. It may not make us look like we are twenty years younger than we are, but boy does it sure make us feel like it! How’s that for motivation to get off the couch.
For so long, it's been accepted that as we age, things start to not work as well. We become physically weaker, we are more out of breath with exertion, and it becomes challenging to think through things.
Some have called this old timers syndrome.
If you’ve gotten this far in the post, I bet you realize that this fate is not set in stone.
Many studies throughout the years have found, confirmed and re-confirmed the benefits of consistent exercise and the impact it has on the aging process.
It’s time to accept that your fate isn’t out of your control.
To give you an example, a study that was completed at the King’s College London and the University of Birmingham showcased how physically active older adults had very similar metabolic and mental states to their much younger counterparts. In fact, they had more in common with their younger peers than sedentary older adults.
Some people have been active their entire life, so they are now enjoying the benefits of that lifelong commitment. But what about that someone who may not have been as active as they should have been for all these years? Is it too late?
It’s never too late to enjoy the benefits of a happy and independent second half of your life. If you haven’t been physically active for years (or ever), today is a great day to end that streak.
And for those of you who are reading this thinking that you still have some time until you hit your golden years, go ahead and get moving too, no need to procrastinate, especially now that many conditions that we think of as an ‘older’ condition are affecting so many younger people also.
What activities will gain the most benefit?
The answer is not which specific activity is superior to all other exercises, but what combination of consistent exercise and other lifestyle modifications are you willing to incorporate into your daily routine to help you gain the most benefits.
Aerobic exercise is the use of oxygen to move your body. Your body uses oxygen as part of the energy production process.
Think of activities where you are in constant motion:
Think of activities that end in -ing, it’s likely aerobic.
Another word to help illustrate these kinds of exercises is endurance activities. Participating in regular aerobic exercise will strengthen your body’s metabolism and slow the physiological progression of age. It is also terrific at maintaining a healthy body fat percentage. Exercise helps keep essential things functioning , such as insulin absorption (to control blood sugar levels), improve your good cholesterol and lowering your bad cholesterol (which means no cholesterol-lowering meds for you to keep up with).
Also, there are some benefits of aerobic exercise that is immeasurable, but priceless. It boosts your ‘feel good’ hormones, so you are in a good mood, manage anxiety and depression, improves your quality of sleep, and it helps circulate the hormone that is fantastic for memory (as in keeping it sharp). [inset link for irisin blog].
Read about the memory hormone Irisin here.
You should take part in some aerobic exercise as much as possible. Later on in this post, I’ll outline how to start and progress with your exercise plan.
Something that is noticed as we get older are that we may not be as strong as we used to be. Routine, everyday tasks that you used to not think about much is now a struggle. (Carrying grocery bags in from the car, lifting yourself out of your chair.)
Something that many of us fear as we get older is that we become frailer, and in that sense, become less independent.
Regular strength training can build muscle and build bone mass, minimizing the progression of what is thought of as inevitable side effects of getting older.
Take a look at these conditions that are associated with getting older:
You know where I’m going with this. Incorporating a healthy and consistent exercise program, which includes strength training can help prevent (or at least minimize the onset) and sometimes even reverse these conditions.
Strength training should be done a few times per week. I’ll highlight some strength training concepts to consider shortly.
To get the most benefit of your exercise program, it’s best to have a combination of aerobic and strength components.
Other Healthy Habits
These habits aren’t exercise-related, but they will help you improve your quality of life and help make participating in an exercise program easier.
Setting Up Your Active Lifestyle
Alright, you’re sold. You are going to begin exercising, but how? What kind of exercise should you do? Which ones are going to give you the most benefits?
I need to mention this before we go any further: Be sure to talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program, especially if it’s been a long time since you did any exercise, and especially if this is the first time you have motivated yourself to do it. Don’t worry, the doctor won’t stop you (they’re going to be excited that you’ve decided to do this) but depending on your history and current health, it’s good to let your healthcare provider know in case they need to talk to you about some things to consider that is specific to your needs.
When thinking about where to start with exercise, think of this: what do you enjoy doing (or what did you enjoy doing before)?
I talked about this a little bit in Get Out Of Your Own Way: 5 Misconceptions About Exercise.
There is no specific exercise that’s perfect. The perfect exercise is the one that you know you are going to consistently take part in AND one where you aren’t dreading to do it.
I want you to feel like you WANT to exercise, not HAVE to.
Aerobic Exercise - The main thing you need to remember is to try to incorporate at least 150 minutes of moderate-intense activity into your life every week.
Ideally, you will be participating in more than 150 minutes, but if you are just getting started, 150 is a good number to strive for.
Let's break this down. 150 minutes of moderate-intense exercise (like brisk walking) per week can look like:
7 days per week: about 21-22 minutes per day
6 days per week: 25 minutes per day
5 days per week: 30 minutes per day
4 days per week: 37-38 minutes per day
3 days per week: 50 minutes per day
Try to aim for starting out with at least three days per week of exercise.
Your body is losing the benefits of the exercise within a day or two of you stopping.
Strength Training - Although you will gain a lot of benefits from participating in both aerobic and strength training, the amount of time you spend to strength train is not included as part of your aerobic exercise.
For Example: Lifting weights for 35 minutes does not mean you can cut your aerobic activity back by 35 minutes. Strength training is an ‘in addition to’ activity, not ‘instead of.’
If it’s been awhile (or never) since you’ve challenged your muscles, it’s good to start nice a slow. 1-2 times per week.
Non-Consecutive - There is an infinite number of ways to incorporate strength training into your life, but something that you should never do, is targeting the same muscle group two days in a row. You can strength train on back-to-back days, but target different groups.
Monday: Bicep Curls ≠ Tuesday: Bicep Curls
Monday: Bicep Curls ✔︎ Tuesday: Calf Raises
Incorporating a solid strength training program into your life does not mean that you need to join a gym or buy a bunch of expensive weights. If you already belong to a gym, then great, you have several strength training tools at your disposal. Yet, for many of us whose primary mode of lifting is the groceries in and out of our car, there are some simple ways to strengthen your muscles.
Bodyweight - You’ve heard of push-ups, sit-ups and squats right? These are all excellent strength training exercises that you can do without any weight to add.
Resistance Bands - These are great at adding some outside resistance and challenging your muscles without breaking the bank. A set of resistance bands with three different resistances will cost you less than $20 on average.
Bonus - resistance bands are light and very easy to stick into your bag or suitcase to bring with you as you travel.
Any Weight - I mentioned earlier how for many of us, the only weight lifting we do is lifting our groceries in and out of the car. I joke, but seriously - you are doing strength training when you do that. Your bag of food is a weight. No, it doesn’t look like a dumbbell, but your muscles don’t know that. All it feels is a weight that they need to overcome and lift.
What are some non-traditional ‘weights’ you can think of?
I’ve used water jugs filled with sand, water jugs filled with water, soup cans. Use your imagination with this.
So, there you have it. I’ve told you the secret of reclaiming your youth. It’s not something new, revolutionary or expensive. It's a solid exercise program, with both aerobic and strength training incorporated as well as some other lifestyle modifications such as eating healthy, sleeping right and quitting tobacco. This is the key to staying young.
What is something you are going to do to start turning back the hands of time? Post it in the comments section below. Your ideas can help your peers with success too.