Honestly, who doesn’t? I’d guess most Baby Boomers and seniors would love to boost their longevity. Of course, those extra years need to come with quality and independence–that’s why we eat well, strengthen our muscles and bones, and engage in cardio.
The Elixir for a Longer Life
We’ve known for awhile that folks who exercise regularly enjoy a few extra years of life. For example, in the Blue Zones, regions of the world with the greatest concentrations of centenarians, these older folks engage daily in gardening, walking, hiking and chores. And a 2012 study showed that leisure-time physical activity gave adults life expectancy gains of as much as 4.5 years.
And now studies are beginning to show scientists HOW exercise increases our life spans. One study, published in 2017, took a look at 5,823 adults from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The result was that for people who engaged in high physical activity (150 minutes per week), exercise protected the chromosomes (DNA threads that carry genetic information), which shorten and deteriorate with increasing years. In fact, this protection accounted for nine years of reduced cellular aging compared to folks with lower levels of activity.
Another study, also published in 2017, showed that exercise, especially high-intensity internal training (HIIT), caused cells to better support the mitochondria, powerhouses where energy is created, stopping aging at the cellular level.
What You Can Do
Take advantage of these benefits by engaging in physical activity on most days of the week. In addition to brisk walking, “cardio” includes:
• swimming/water aerobics
• playing with your kids/grandchildren
• carrying/moving moderate loads (think: groceries)
• walking your dog
Do these activities in “chunks” of at least 10 minutes, gradually increasing until you can do them three times per day, five days per week. Then increase the amount of time at each session, working up to 150 minutes/week.
HIIT THE ROAD
And finally, if your physical condition improves and you have a doctor’s OK, experiment with HIIT (high-intensity interval training). HIIT can take care of one of the most common reasons people have for not exercising–a lack of time. It’s a super-efficient way to get in shape–a physical activity technique that combines short bouts of nearly all-out effort with periods of recovery. A complete HIIT session takes only 15 – 20 minutes, and produces as much (or more) benefit as a 60-minute moderate-intensity walk.
In addition to the benefit listed above, health benefits of HIIT include:
• improved aerobic and anaerobic fitness
• better blood pressure control
• improved cardiovascular health
• improved insulin sensitivity (muscles more readily use glucose for energy)
• better cholesterol profiles
• less abdominal fat and fat just under the skin
• more muscle mass
Before starting a HIIT program, be sure to be medically cleared. Then try this beginning version:
• Warm up with 3 – 5 minutes of comfortable walking.
• Begin your interval: walk as quickly as possible for 15 seconds; then slow way down for a minute. (If you think of exercise intensity on a scale of 1 – 10, with 10 being the most effort you could possibly exert, the “quick” session here should be at least an 8.)
• Repeat five times.
• Cool down with 3 – 5 minutes of slow walking.
Because of the vigorous effect of HIIT, it’s important to limit these sessions to twice a week and allow at least 48 hours in between.
To discover other ways to improve your physical fitness, give me a call!
We can discuss some practical tips and discover if any of my programs or classes are a good fit for you.
If you’d like to schedule that call with me, just CLICK THIS LINK, and let me know in the message that you would like a 1-on-1 call with me right away and I will be in touch to schedule that – oh, and leave me your phone number in there too since email is not as reliable as it used to be! Thanks.