The BEST anti-aging serum: Exercise
By: Meg Sharp, Fitness & Wellbeing Consultant, Cambridge Group of Clubs
I’m in my 50s. And no, that’s not old. But it’s older than 35. And I’m significantly stronger and more mobile than I was in my 30s. How much fun is that?!!
Why is that? I attribute all of it, yes ALL of it, to the fact that I exercise most days of the week. And my workouts incorporate a healthy mix of heavy lifting, mobility, moderate paced aerobic stuff (outside whenever possible!), and high intensity interval training on a bike.
Scientifically we know that movement, physical activity, sport, exercise not only staves off the aging process, it – in many ways – reverses it.
High intensity exercise – like running to cycling close to your ventilatory threshold or doing interval training – increases Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) – which, in turn, grows new brain cells, rejuvenates the central nervous system, and improves brain plasticity. These adaptations significantly improve mood, cognitive function, and delay the cerebral degeneration associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s. Mind Body exercise including Tai Chi and Yoga are also incredibly powerful in this realm, as are activities that challenge the brain, including trail walking and learning a new sport or exercise.
Aerobic exercise of all different types will help maintain the circulation throughout your heart and lungs. Throw in a few high intensity intervals, as this – because it’s uncomfortable – will stimulate the body to adapt in wonderful ways including increasing capillarization around the heart and lungs (more blood flow to and from the heart?! Such a great thing), improving strength of the cardiac muscle, as well as the structures that support your breathing. And because your muscles have to pump harder in order to get your heart rate up – the intervals create amazing changes within the muscles as well. (After a 10-minute warm-up, push out of your comfort zone for 30-60 seconds and recover at a comfortable pace for at least as long. The harder the push, the longer you will need to recover. Work up to being able to do 5-10 such intervals within a workout once a week.) After a few weeks, you are able to climb the stairs, carry the groceries, play soccer with your kids – without feeling breathless.
Mobility decreases when we stop asking our bodies to access and be strong at the end of our ranges. So, if I only ever lean forward over my laptop and don’t take time to retract and depress my shoulders – though mobility or strength work – I lose the ability to stand tall through my chest. If I sit for long periods of time and don’t work on keeping my hip flexors mobile and my glutes activated – I lose the ability to stand tall through my hips. The same goes for my neck, elbows, knees, and ankles. If I want to stay mobile in my joints, and fight against the gravity that loves to pull my spine, shoulders, and head forward, then I need to continue to use and stimulate the end ranges of all my joints. Mobility and stability go hand-in-hand.
We can all benefit so much from an expert set of eyes and advice to assess and prescribe the optimal next steps we need to take in order to safely, effectively progress and change our workouts to support optimal adaptations. Book your complimentary session with your Personal Training Director.
Adelaide Club – Lauren Neal
Cambridge Club – Sean O’Neil
Toronto Athletic Club – Rob Coates
Strength training, weight lifting, resistance training… anything that challenges your muscles creates both neural and musculoskeletal adaptations that reverse the atrophy, decreased neural drive, and consequent decrease in strength that “naturally” occurs as the years pass. Is it really “natural” to become weaker? It doesn’t have to be. Pay special attention to your backside: Glutes and the muscles in your back. Take your shoes off periodically so you can work more effectively on balance, strengthen your feet, and optimize mobility and stability through the ankle joint. These are all things that tend to deteriorate over the years.
We have evolved so much. Yet parts of our brains are still quite basic. Entrenched in automated fight or flight responses, hardwired for survival of the fittest. There are only so many resources available to nourish, shelter, and protect the tribe. Natural selection favours the hunters, the gatherers, the builders, the warriors, and the wise. When you become again strong enough to forage heavy roots from the ground, powerful enough to slay lions, and strong and savvy enough to carry small children to safety, you become VITAL.
Exercise is powerful because it is a stress. Let it be rewarding and fun for certain – and know that it IS a stressor. Pushing your body, a little or – when you’re robust enough – a lot out of your comfort zone forces the body to adapt. To change and grow. This is what young bodies are hardwired to do in spades. Adapt, change, and grow. Exercise tricks the body into thinking – and behaving – as if it’s much, much younger…
I have a hope there might be a few grandchildren around when I’m in my 70s or 80s. I would so love to be able to pick them up off the floor and raise them over my head. I’d better start practicing with a 30-pound kettlebell…