A friend posted this meme on his Facebook page:
“I want to die young as late as possible!”
When most of us think and talk about health and fitness we equate it to the here and now:
- I want to lose weight
- I want to look and feel better
- I want to be stronger
- I want to fit into that wedding dress/tux
But as we start to get a little more mature (read: older), our thoughts start turning to more long range goals like longevity.
But, for me, just living a long time is not a very satisfying goal. What we really want is to do is live young as long as we can.
Most modern research and study is turning to Healthspan, not just life span.
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI):
Healthspan is the period of life spent in good health, free from the chronic diseases and disabilities of aging.(1)
I happen to like this concept – living healthy as long as we possibly can. Perhaps this is the ultimate goal of all good health and fitness habits.
I adapted this great article I found by Howard J. Luks, MD. (2)
I hope it gives you some food for thought:
A balanced exercise program including resistance exercise has been proven to delay the onset of serious chronic diseases like heart disease, stroke, dementia, hypertension and insulin resistance (Type 2 diabetes). If you are over 35, this article is for you, and your future self. It’s easier to prevent the onset of disease than it is to treat it. When combined with resistance exercise, balance exercises help you prevent falls, which are a common cause of frailty, loss of independence and serious injuries such as hip, wrist and shoulder fractures.
Everyone knows that exercise is important. Very few people, however, seem to understand all of the benefits that exercise provides. Many of you already know the recommended exercise guidelines prescribed by the National Institute of Health: 150 minutes of vigorous exercise a week. Many people assume their heart will be the organ system that will benefit the most. But that old number of 10,000 steps a day just ain’t gonna cut it!
Walking is a great activity, but it is not an example of resistance exercise. The evidence is clear. You will get more benefit from a resistance exercise program over an aerobic program. In an ideal world, you perform aerobic, resistance and balance exercises.
Sarcopenia: a scary word
Sarcopenia is the process of age-related muscle loss. Starting around 50 you lose about 1% of your muscle mass per year. By the time you are in your 70s and 80s the loss of muscle mass is profound. This loss of muscle mass puts you at risk for frailty. Frailty is very strongly associated with a rapid decline in health. When you lose your muscle mass you lose your ability to prevent a fall, and dramatically increase the recovery from a fall. Individuals who are already weak or frail are at risk of losing their independence if an unexpected illness or injury arises. Even a short 3-5 day period of bedrest might make it so that a frail person cannot recover. Luckily, sarcopenia can be stopped in its tracks with an appropriate resistance exercise program and some nutritional support.
Aging and why exercise is so important
Age is the number one risk factor for chronic diseases such as diabetes, dementia, atherosclerosis, stroke and so on. Aging is incurable. Evidence provided over the years shows that we can delay the onset of chronic disease for 10-20 years with lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise.
It’s never too early (or too late) to get started on a program you can do on your own or, even better, in a gym with a qualified, professional trainer.
Weakness, muscle mass loss and balance issues start far younger than you think. Now is the time to start a program to prevent it. Chronic disease can lead to weakness and frailty. Hospitalizations can worsen that frailty in a matter of days to weeks.
Too many people in their 60s and beyond are suffering from chronic diseases. Diabetes, heart disease and dementia exact a large toll on our lives and our loved ones.
These diseases start to impair our health. High LDL, hypertension, insulin resistance (pre-diabetes), fatty liver or NAFLD if present together are referred to as the metabolic syndrome. This heralds the onset of a number of issues that have a metabolic etiology or cause. Initiating and maintaining a good exercise program can help delay the onset of these diseases. They are especially effective when combined with an emphasis on proper nutrition.
Why is resistance exercise so important? It is proven to be the best defense to prevent frailty, weakness, and the risk of suffering from chronic disease at a young age.
Four Pillars of Your Exercise Program
Below are the four pillars of a complete exercise program. When considering what types of exercise to perform, it is useful to know what forms of exercise are available and the benefits that each provides.
- Resistance, eg weights or body weight exercises.
- Balance training
- High-intensity training.
Types of Exercise and Their Intended Benefits
Aerobic exercise can be brisk walking, swimming, cycling, elliptical, rowing machine, running or hiking. This form of exercise does not strengthen muscles nearly as much as resistance exercise.
Aerobic exercise is critical to decrease stress, lower your blood pressure, improve your insulin resistance, decrease your risk of cardiac disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes(insulin resistance).
Resistance exercise involves lifting weights, yoga, and body weight exercises such as squats.
Resistance exercise helps you build and maintain muscle mass. This is absolutely critical when it comes to healthy aging and decreasing the risk of frailty. Sarcopenia (age-related muscle loss) will decrease your muscle mass over time. By the time that you are in your 70’s the decrease in muscle mass can be dramatic. That puts you at risk for falling. It increases the risk of injury following a fall. Loss of muscle mass will also delay your recovery after a fall. Poor muscle mass and strength will worsen after a fall, starting a vicious cycle downward.
Resistance exercises do not always require a gym. However you may find that quality , professional guidance and support will set you up best for success and improvement. Any type of resistance training is good, but consider the squat as the gold standard. Anyone can do it and you can do this at any age.
Along with resistance training, mobility exercises are a set of movements that work to improve your balance and your agility, but also work to strengthen many parts of your body. You’re never too old to do this, assuming your doctors say it is OK to exercise.
Balance training is not something most people incorporate into their fitness program. And I understand why…
Starting to perform balance exercises in our late 30’s and early 40’s is critical. Proprioception and our ability to balance diminishes by our late 40’s.
You catch your foot on the carpet, you stumble more often. Most don’t even notice these subtle changes. It is critical to incorporate a balance exercise program as part of an overall healthy aging strategy.
A proper exercise program should always include a mix of aerobic exercise, resistance exercise, and balance exercises.
Here is a simple balance exercise EVERYONE should be doing everyday:
It’s more challenging than it looks and I bet you’ll be surprised how difficult it is at first but how fast your balance and proprioception improve!
High Intensity Training
Most of us, if left on our own, fail to exercise with enough intensity to really stimulate muscle growth and ignite cellular regeneration. We now know that all types of exercise improved people’s levels of fitness and increased their healthspan. Strength training, not surprisingly, was the best type of exercise for increasing muscle mass. HIIT and combined training improved aerobic capacity among the men and women.
HIIT seems to benefit our cells the most. Researchers found that it improved age-related decline in muscle mitochondria, cellular powerhouses that create energy molecules for cells. HIIT also appeared to increase the production of proteins in cells that are important for normal body function—a process that normally declines during aging. Yet researchers found improvements in people of both age groups.
<< Test First Name >>, I don’t know about you, but I want to live young and healthy as long and as old as I can.
Are you doing what it takes to make sure you have a long and lasting healthspan?
I hope we all die young, as late in our years as possible!
Here’s a link for little musical amuse-bouches for you.