If you want the mobility, strength, coordination, and stamina to meet life’s challenges as you age, now is a good time to establish a healthy lifestyle. Not only can you improve the quality of life, you can live longer. And one of the best habits to adopt is exercise. In fact, one study review found that engaging in regular exercise can add up to 6.9 years to your life. Read on to discover the specific benefits of boosting your physical activity and tips on how to start reaping the benefits today.
After 40, muscle mass and function decline at a rate of three to five percent per decade. But if you’re physically active and consistently engage in weight lifting or other forms of resistance training, you can maintain most of your muscle mass well into your 70s and 80s. Resistance training, using either gym equipment or your own body weight, is the most effective way to reverse sarcopenia—the muscle decline that can accompany aging—and dramatically improve overall health. Resistance training can:
- Increase metabolism
- Improve cognition and mood in older adults
- Boost bone density
- Heighten balance and coordination
- Enhance cardiovascular health
- Tone muscles and increase strength
Ready to get started? Consider joining a gym and hiring a personal trainer, at least for a few sessions, who can teach you proper form and how to handle the equipment properly. A trainer can also introduce you to exercises that create a balance of strength and coordination for the whole body, as well as a sensible plan to keep you going. Remember, any workout program is only successful if you are consistent with it.
Aerobic exercise lowers your risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), coronary heart disease, and heart failure. It also improves brain function and coordination. The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity. Great options include cycling, dancing, hiking, jogging, power walking, and swimming. Or sign up for a team sport like basketball, pickleball, or softball. The goal is to find an activity that’s fun while also elevating your heart rate.
Current research indicates that challenging your body by putting it in an unstable position (e.g., standing on a balance board) is the most effective way to improve balance. Called perturbation, this method is employed by physical therapists and is often included in exercise routines for older adults. Just don’t try this type of exercise without having someone nearby to prevent you from falling.
Longevity’s Latest HIIT
Put all three of these exercise disciplines together in one short and effective high-intensity interval training (HIIT) session. HIIT is defined as engaging in short bursts of intense exercise alternating with low-intensity recovery periods. Current research indicates that 12 weeks of HIIT can improve how cells synthesize proteins as they age, dramatically reducing inflammation and restoring healthy cell function. A good HIIT routine might include a 5-minute warm up followed by 10 to 20 minutes of high-intensity activity like kettlebell exercises punctuated by brief rest periods. For example, 30 seconds of activity with a 10-second rest between sets.