There is an abundance of research that shows that fitness helps reverse aging and turn back the clock both physically and mentally.
Fitness after 40 is about much more than the vanity metrics we were concerned with when we were younger, like looking good in jeans. Fitness promotes health from the inside out. As your fitness improves, so does your ability to enjoy life.
Fitness means you’re able to participate in life and do what fulfills you with the people you love.
For me it means being able to hike, bike, run, and travel with friends and family.
What is fitness?
- Physical fitness is defined as the body’s ability to function efficiently and effectively in work and leisure activities, to be healthy, to resist disease, and react to emergency situations.
- A well-rounded fitness program will include mobility exercises, resistance training, cardiovascular training, stretching, and recovery. The latter two components become much more important with age. For example, I’ve noticed that I now need to be very deliberate in stretching on a daily basis in order to avoid straining my lower back.
Research has shown that no matter how old you are, you can improve many fitness markers (read: reverse aging) when you start to exercise consistently. For example, adults over 80 years old can improve their strength with two sessions a week. You can read more here.
Never think that you’re too old to start. The perfect time to start is NOW!
Often people are discouraged from high-intensity activities like strength training and HIIT (high-intensity interval training) because they think that they have to devote a significant amount of time in order to reap benefits, but research has dispelled this myth. (Journal of Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism)
- A study found that stair climbing for three 20-second intervals, three times a week, improved the aerobic fitness of sedentary college students in just six weeks.
That means you may be able to help reverse aging and its the physiological effects in just 3 minutes a week if you are currently sedentary.
Can you find 3 minutes a week in your schedule?
No matter how busy or out of shape you are, you can find 3 minutes in your week to climb stairs, or walk up a hill.
Why are aerobic activity and strength training important for you?
There are so many benefits. Simply google the benefits of exercise and you will find a lot of information. Some benefits include:
- Muscle growth and prevention of muscle loss
- Minimize effects of the aging process, even reverse aging
- Help metabolize carbohydrates and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes
- Reduce the likelihood of breaking a bone in a fall
- Improve energy level
Continue reading for more information on the above benefits. Or, jump to the next section on how to incorporate aerobic activity in your life.
- After the age of 35, people start to lose muscle mass at 1% to 2% a year. Once in our 60s, that increases to about 3% a year.
- Even if you are exercising beyond 60, you will lose muscle mass, but not as much as the sedentary person.
- High-intensity exercise can stimulate the production of anabolic hormones that promote muscle growth and help counteract the loss of muscle we experience after 40. Yet another way exercise can reverse aging!
- Research by Wyckelsma and colleagues 2017 found that HIIT exercise helped mitochondrial density in 65 to 75 year old subjects. Improving mitochondria density may be able to improve your cellular function and minimize the effects of the aging process. (Wyckelsma et al. 2017)
- Lean muscle mass is also important as we age because it helps us metabolize carbohydrates.
- As you improve your ability to metabolize carbohydrates, you may reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Given that almost 30% of Americans 65 and older have diabetes, the research suggests that exercising consistently, especially over 40 is important to help reduce your risk of this disease.
- Exercise creates stress for the body which makes it stronger. The stronger the body, the occurrence of breaking a bone from a fall is lessened.
There is growing research that demonstrates that HIIT training helps reverse aging effects and it can allow you to maintain the energy level of adults who are many years younger.
HIIT sessions do not need to be long. The focus is on intensity and not duration. The shorter HIIT sessions are more intense, however, they may reduce the risk of repetitive or overuse injuries that come from longer workout sessions.
NO MATTER HOW OLD YOU ARE, THE RESEARCH SUGGESTS THAT YOU WILL BENEFIT FROM INCLUDING HIIT EXERCISES IN YOUR LIFE.
You want to include high-intensity activity 2 to 3 times in your week, but you don’t want these sessions to be long in duration as they are stressful on the body. The older we get, the harder it is to recover from high-intensity workouts.
In his book ‘Ageless Intensity’, Pete McCall recommends no more than 3 HIIT sessions a week.
How do you know if you are working at the right intensity to reap the benefits of HIIT training?
The talk test and using will help you gauge if you are working hard enough to get the anti-aging benefits. When you are working hard enough, you are then using glycogen as fuel; this is the energy pathway you want to develop for longevity benefits. The aerobic pathway is used for less intense activity.
- The TALK TEST or the RATE OF PERCEIVED EXERTION (RPE) scale is helpful in guiding you with intensity.
The harder you work, the more out of breath you will be and the harder it will be to talk. By monitoring talk, you can determine if you are working at a lower intensity (below 5) or at a higher intensity. An all-out effort is closer to a 10 and a very easy effort is closer to a 1.
10 = all-out effort sustainable for just 20 to 30 seconds- very hard – can’t talk
9 = very hard intensity – breathing hard- good for 1 minute intervals
8 = hard intensity – hard to say more than 2 or 3 words
7 = vigorous activity – can speak in short sentences with difficulty
6 = hard but doable for 30 to 60 minutes
5 = able to have a conversation – some effort
4 = you can speak a few sentences without struggling
3 = able to maintain a conversation and not get out of breath
2 = very easy to maintain a conversation and could move for hours
1 = bare minimum effort, like a slow stroll
Rowing machines, jump ropes, body weight exercises, resistance training, and bikes are great for performing HIIT intervals. You can also find a hill outside or stairs as was mentioned in the study above.
Here are some HIIT protocol examples:
Be sure to get approval from your physician before starting an exercise program and incorporating high-intensity exercise.
If you are new to exercise, it’s best to start with strength training and gradually increase intensity over 3 to 6 months.
Once you establish a foundation, carefully incorporate HIIT training. Start with only 2 high-intensity bouts and slowly add another, maybe every 2 weeks.
Always start with a warm-up: approximately 3 to 4 on the RPE scale
Slowly increase the intensity so that you break a sweat and stay at this level for about 3 to 5 minutes and 5 or 6 on the RPE scale
20 seconds at a level 9 or 10 on the RPE scale, followed by 10 seconds at a level 4 or 5 on the RPE scale
Repeat for 8 cycles – total of 4 minutes
Warm up (follow same warm up rules as in option 1)
30 seconds at 9 or 10 on the RPE scale
30 seconds at 4 or 5 on the RPE scale
Repeat for a total of 5 to 10 minutes
Cool down: 5 minutes or however long it takes to lower your heart rate to within normal range. This is done at a level 3 on the RPE scale.
Change the intensity and duration of your workouts on a consistent basis.
A weekly rotation could look like this: (recommended in the book ‘Ageless Intensity’ by Pete McCall.)
Day 1 = strength or power training
Day 2 = bodyweight exercises
Day 3 = metabolic conditioning HITT
Day 4 = strength
Day 5 = bodyweight
Day 6 = metabolic steady state
Day 7 = rest
Contact me for help in creating a personalized HIIT workout.
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