I remember being a couple years into adulthood (18+), a few years into the fitness world and working in a gym at an elderly community. I worked at the front desk, scheduling training appointments, taking blood pressure and just simply sitting back and observing the crowd of men and women, 65+, who seemed to fall into one of two categories. Those who have exercised most of their lives and those who hadn’t. Let me tell you the difference was as clear as day. I never even had to open a textbook or read a magazine article to tell me that being active at an earlier age has major benefits in the long run. I was sold.
I relate it a lot to my thoughts as a 20 year old buying anti-aging face cream and under eye serum. You generally were not hearing a ton about younger women using these products, the target was for the older crowd. Ya know, the ones that were trying to fix the aging skin. I always figured if I started young, I’d have a better shot at delaying that aging process. This same thought process can and should be applied to exercise and how you’re taking care of your body.
Day after day I’d watch men and women ranging from ages 55 to 95 come in and out of the gym. Some would be waiting at the doors to open at 5am, to sit on a recumbent bike, peddling slowly while sipping their decaf coffee. Others would come in to socialize and then there were the straight up gym rats trying to get a lift in. There is one older man that stands out in my mind. He must have been in his 70’s, and would lift weights and run miles on the treadmill at a steady pace. After multiple conversations with him, he was not new to the fitness scene (clearly) and had been active nearly his entire life. Put him next to another gentleman in his 60’s that was a newbie to exercise and the older man smoked him. Not only in the gym, but in presentation. The veteran gym-goer seemed younger than the other man and held himself in a totally different way. This was a recurring observation with many of the members. It was remarkable to me. Barely being 20 years old, I could look at these people and see the ones who were in the gym because of “doctors orders” versus simply having a love for being fit.
In a recent study published in Preventative Medicine*, they found that there is a direct correlation between regular/vigorous physical activity and long term health. There are these things called telomeres, which basically cap off chromosomes and protect them from damage. As cells divide and shorten the telomeres, chromosomes become vulnerable and result in a faster aging process. This study showed the more active an individual was/had been, the longer the telomeres were. Thus, slowing down aging. This showed to prevent many diseases, keep the person biologically “younger” and increase lifespan.
For women especially (we are on Mommy’s Corner after all), this is something that should be applied as early as possible. We carry children in our bodies and generally are the main caretakers (although its 2018 so lots is changing in that respect). Nonetheless, we are putting our body’s through a tremendous amount of stress and should be priming it to handle these stressors. This means beginning a workout program as early as possible and sticking with it as a necessity to life. Not to mention as women, we tend to lose more bone calcium in the aging process and weight training has been shown to improve/prevent calcium loss. Like brushing your teeth. You care for your teeth daily, why wouldn’t you do the same for your body?
Why wait until you’re being threatened with a physical illness, you’re overwhelmed with weight gain or the frustration of weakness sets in when trying to keep up with your little ones? Begin with something simple to get going, an activity you would enjoy rather than something you feel is being forced. Don’t love weight training, but love dancing? Join a Zumba class a few nights a week. Don’t love dancing but love being pushed and motivated? Do a spin class. Need to find some peace in life? Sign up for weekly hot yoga classes. Find something to commit to and pick a goal to focus on. Build up to be exercising at least 3-5 times a week. Eventually these activities will become habit in your life and you will realize the importance of incorporating these into your daily or weekly regimen.
Having said that, there’s really no better exercise of choice than High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) or Resistance Training. HIIT is an exercise performed in short bursts of aerobic activity. This simply means elevating your heart rate for anywhere from 15-40 seconds and “recovering” by lowering your heart rate for another minute or two. An example would be a sprint. In another study done through the Mayo Clinic**, it is proven that performing these two types of exercises 4-5 days a week, has major benefits on a cellular level. We’re not talking about how lean we’re looking, we’re talking about how our bodies replenish energy and adapt to stressors over time as we age. This, will in turn create major benefits for us in the golden years. Staying healthier, stronger and living like were 40 again!