Want to age well? Exercise!

After teaching a fitness class just recently, I found myself in conversation with some of the participants about aging… and the lotions and potions some believe work wonders at helping them look younger. Though I haven’t yet pointed them in the direction of this recent CBC feature: Cosmetics marketing focuses on ‘fairy dust’ ingredients that change nothing, I did make a point of encouraging the one thing we know does slow the aging process: exercise.

The aging process usually begins around the age of 30 and leads to a gradual loss of function. The good news is that the process itself can be slowed through exercise, particularly high-intensity exercise and strength training.

This news is no reason to stop enjoying activities or sports you enjoy. In fact, enjoyment is the factor that makes most of us stick with an activity over time. It’s critical! If slowing the aging process is important to you however, you might consider the intensity at which you exercise. Measuring intensity can be done by monitoring your heart rate, and by attempting (at least during some of your workouts) to increase your heart rate to the maximum safest for you – do see your physician if you’re new to physical activity and/or are planning to ramp up to a more intense program. You can use this tool to calculate your target heart rate.

Since a 25-30-minute high intensity workout is more effective at fighting aging than a one-hour moderate intensity one, you can also consider reducing your total workout time, or adding more strength training to your workout. In fact, many experts believe strength training is the real fountain of youth and that we should be paying more attention to the intensity of our strength training workouts, striving for near muscle failure at the end of every set. Finally, let’s remember that flexibility training with activities like yoga can keep us limber, help us maintain better balance, improve our posture, and prevent injury. Even a single session each week offers benefits.

Don’t lose sight of the fact that we age from the inside out and that no cosmetic or surgical procedure exists to slow the process down. Invest in what research has proven: exercise works. You might also enjoy this feature: Older adults have a strikingly young fitness age.

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