By Pete McCall MS, CSCS
Let’s face it, growing older is inevitable. Rather than simply sitting back and letting the aging process take its toll, exercise can reduce the effects of aging and actually be the secret to the ever elusive fountain of youth.
- 1. Prevent muscle deterioration.
If muscles aren’t used, those motor units lie dormant and the muscles become smaller and lose definition. Strength training with heavier weights and power training with explosive movements will keep your muscles active while improving their tone, definition and metabolic function – the ability to burn calories while at rest.
- 2. Retain full range of motion movement through all muscles and joints.
Anatomy books traditionally show muscles as being separate, distinct units. In reality, muscles are surrounded by tissue known as fascia, which links all muscles together into one inter-connected system. A more accurate way to think of muscles is not as independent units but as different layers connected by elastic webbing (fascia and connective tissue). If the layers of fascia don’t experience motion regularly, or do not lengthen the full capable range of motion, scar-like tissue (adhesions) can begin to form between muscles and joints. Lack of movement, repetitive motions or poor hydration can all results in this scar tissue build-up, which will inhibit range of motion.
Doing exercises that get the body moving in multiple directions, lifting different weights – from light to heavy – at varying rates of speed will help you maintain full range of motion through all muscles and joints as you age.
- 3. Maintain a youthful appearance.
The real anti-aging benefit of strength and power training stems from using heavier loads and explosive movements can elevate hormones, such as testosterone, GH and IGF – 1, that play a role in helping maintain a more youthful appearance. Many people receive HGH injections to prevent aging, or pay for a testosterone prescription. Not only can these treatments be expensive, but they come with negative side effects. You can boost your hormone levels naturally by lifting heavy weights or training explosively. The only side effects are more sweat, better sleep patterns and weight loss due to a greater level of energy expenditure from the increased exercise.
- 4. Improve agility and balance.
Agility is the ability to make rapid movements with coordination and control. Without an exercise program that features drills to work on agility and dynamic balance, your skills to do so will diminish, which greatly increases the risk of falling. There’s plenty of evidence that links falls to broken bones, which can greatly reduce quality of life. Agility drills, such as cone drills and shuffles, are fun, produce anti-aging hormones and burn calories all at the same time.
- 5. Improve brain function and reduce the risk of dementia.
Exercise can increase your brain’s ability to create new cells and improve brain function and the ability to process information even hours after exercise. In addition, exercise improves oxygen and nutrient flow throughout the entire body, including to the brain, which can improve cognitive ability and reduce the risk of developing onset dementia or similar diseases.
- 6. Increase energy levels and improve quality of sleep.
Strength training, power training and high-intensity cardio all increase the body’s ability to use oxygen and nutrients to produce muscular energy. As the body becomes more efficient at producing energy, energy levels will automatically rise and lead to greater vitality throughout the day and into the evening.
Sleep is a critical, and often overlooked, component of exercise. The purpose of sleep is to allow the brain and body to rest, let muscles rebuild, restore energy levels and cognitive function and produce hormones. Your body doesn’t get stronger, leaner or look better during the workout. That happens in the time period after exercise when the body is repairing and refueling itself. If you’re training hard, make sure you’re sleeping just as hard to allow your muscles (and brain) to recover.