Getting older? You’re certainly not alone. Like most developed nations, Australia’s population is growing older. At the same time, ageing doesn’t mean what it used to. Scientists are unlocking the mysteries of longevity and hoping to radically increase the human life span.
But while the world’s top scientists scramble to uncover the fountain of youth, don’t despair. Staying younger longer and living a healthy, quality life is possible through exercise. Here are some of the best exercises to reverse ageing and to help you make significant gains in the longevity game.
Walk your way to a longer life
Walking is a great exercise that can be added to your daily routine without a lot of effort, expense or training. It’s low impact, kind to the joints, and energising.
Walking is great warm-up at the gym, and if you use the ramp on the treadmill you can really tone the entire leg, targeting each muscle group.
But don’t overlook all of the opportunities to walk it out in the city, at the mall, or even crossing the parking lot. A short walk after a meal also aides digestion and lowers blood sugar.
Walking as little as 75 minutes a week after 40 can add nearly two years to your life, while adding 450 minutes a week — about an hour a day — brings gains of up to five years.
Resistance train your genes
Starting at around 40, the body, left to its own devices, starts to shed about 5 pounds of lean muscle each decade. Stay ahead of the game by adding lean muscle through training and proper nutrition. Strength training uses resistance to build stronger muscles, which contribute to greater balance, stability, and overall physiological health.
The positive gains go deeper than your muscles. Strength training actually impacts gene expression on a cellular level. You don’t have to limit yourself to the free weight room, either. Body-weight exercises such as squats and push-ups, resistance band work and yoga all yield amazing results while helping you keep bones and joints strong.
Keep your heart healthy
The heart is your body’s engine, sending oxygenated blood to your lungs, tissues and muscles as well as regulating stress and supporting the nervous system. Keeping it healthy is key to living longer and stronger. Try to aim for at least 150 minutes of cardio per week, at your target heart zone, which is about 60 percent of its resting rate.
Interval training is a good another option for heart health, especially if you’re short on time, but be sure to use a heart monitor and train safely. Personalised training is the key to effective interval work.
Train your brain
Memory loss, slower reactions and general sluggishness are all signs of an ageing brain. Luckily, exercise can help restore the brain and even reverse these conditions.
Ballroom dance and step classes are great exercises that utilize the brain. Learning new moves, memorising sequences, and moving the arms and legs in cooperation are great ways to challenge the body and mind and keep them both young.
Any new activity is great for the brain, and since we tend to fall into ruts as we get older, challenge yourself with a new class or discipline every few months.
Flexibility is a huge indicator of health and longevity, but new research indicates that simple stretching might not be effective and can even put you at increased risk of injury. So what should you do?
The best way to increase flexibility is to work on it while adding muscle strength. Simply stretching the muscle can destabilise it, so incorporate flexibility training into a practice that builds strength, such as yoga or Pilates. Always warm up first and don’t perform deep tissue stretches before strength training. Massage and foam rolling can help work into the supporting network of fascia that braces your muscles and joints.
We might not be able to live forever, but living longer and feeling better are realistic goals for all of us. Exercise is a longevity strategy that can extend life while delivering greater vitality, joy, and freedom.