2020 in a nutshell
Memes are one of the best things about the internet, they are like a high-tech version of the editorial cartoon they can provide visual content for everything from politics to the benefits of exercise for aging.
Honestly, it is amazing how much an image and brief caption can capture the zeitgeist of a particular moment in time. My favorite meme of the year is the one with Doc Brown and Marty McFly, characters from the Back to the Future trilogy of movies about a mad scientist, played by the brilliant Christopher Lloyd, a slacker teenager, played by Michael J. Fox (who was 23 at the time of filming), and a time traveling sports car.
The meme is Doc Brown showing McFly the time machine with the caption, “whatever you do, Marty, DO NOT go to 2020!”
This is not to make light of the horrendous loss of life that has occurred due to COVID, however when life happens its our attitude and actions that allow us to make the best of an ugly situation. Admittedly I would not call myself an optimist, but focusing on the negative can be a waste of energy, and in my experience emphasizing the positive can be an easier way to get through life which is how I’m choosing to approach 2020. One way to do that is appreciating the humor of memes that make light of the tragedy we’ve endured this year.
From Buck Rogers to Dr. Who, time travel is one of the popular themes of science fiction. Taking it a step further, a few creative
internet searches can take you down a rabbit hole of people who claim that time travel is real. (Seriously, if you want to waste some time at work, search: Andrew Basagio)
Time travel may or may not exist, but did you know that you DO have the ability to slow down or reverse how time affects your body?
That is 1000% true.
Exercise can slow the effects of time on YOUR body!
One of the main theories of why we age is that as the cells that make up all of our tissues and organs get older they become less efficient at performing their functions which could result in developing a debilitating disease. One of the most important benefits of exercise on the aging body is that exercise stimulates the production of new cells. Mechanotransduction is a fancy word that describes how mechanical forces create chemical change in the body. The mechanical forces applied from lifting weights or moving rapidly through gravity, like when running, cause new satellite cells to be produced that are used to repair the tissues damaged from exercise.
That’s right, one response to exercise, especially vigorous exercise like heavy strength training or high intensity interval training (HIIT), is that your body produces new cells which can help keep your tissues young and vibrant. Chronological age is the amount of time since you were born, nothing except a time machine can change that. Biological age is the affect of time on the physiological systems that control your body. Vigorous exercise that stimulates the growth of new cells can help you achieve a biological age that could be years younger than your chronological age.
That is only one way that high intensity exercise helps to slow down the aging process, allowing you to retain your youthful energy and appearance well into your later years. The top five other ways that exercise can mitigate the effects of time are listed below:
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Lifting weights can make bones stronger, that is indeed mechanotransduction in action. As the force of external resistance is applied to osseous structures (the nerdy word for bones) they adapt by producing more bone cells that ultimately make the bones stronger. One of the greatest benefits of heavy strength training throughout the aging process is developing stronger bones capable of resisting injuries. Strong bones can resistance fractures from any unintended falls whether it is from walking down a sidewalk or bombing a gnarly downhill run on a mountain bike. High intensity strength training will give you the extra confidence to go out and enjoy your favorite activities no matter how old you become!
This is absolutely THE sexiest benefit of high intensity exercise for slowing down aging…NOT (90s reference). BUT this is an extremely important benefit because developing onset diabetes is a serious risk during the aging process. The problem is that lower-intensity exercise like walking or water aerobics, while beneficial, primarily use the aerobic energy pathway which uses oxygen and fat to produce energy. This means that older adults who stay active by walking CAN become more efficient at burning
fat in the type 1 muscle fibers, BUT it’s the type 2 muscle fibers that use carbohydrates to generate higher levels of force for more intense activity. Higher intensity exercise like lifting weights or interval training to the point of breathlessness activate the type 2 muscle fibers that metabolize carbohydrates for fuel helping the body to improve carbohydrate metabolism
Aerobic capacity is the body’s ability to use oxygen to help produce energy and is measured as the volume of oxygen per kilogram of bodyweight. Improving your aerobic capacity could extend your lifespan. The research that compares older adults who exercise to those that don’t show that the ones who are physically active have, on average, a higher aerobic capacity and live longer lives. The folks at the Harvard Medical School noted this in a relatively recent blog post that you can READ HERE.
There are two primary ways to improve aerobic capacity, either do LSD, no, not the drug, that’s an acronym for Long Slow Distance exercise which means moving at a steady pace where breathing is quick, but under control, for extended periods of time. The other way is via HIIT which can be extremely challenging but can produce more benefits in less time. A LSD workout could take 30 to 40 minutes while an effective HIIT workout can be knocked out in less than 10. An exercise program for improving aerobic capacity should have you doing 2 HIIT workouts and one LSD per week.
Want to learn more about how exercise can slow down the aging process?
Activating Type II Muscle Fibers
As referenced above, your muscles have two primary different types of muscle fibers – Type I, which use oxygen and fats to create the energy for muscle contractions and Type II muscle fibers which, because they can produce energy from carbohydrate both with and without oxygen, can generate higher levels of force. Lower intensity or endurance-based workouts can help the Type I fibers become more efficient at sustaining contractions over a longer period of time; whereas using heavier resistance and more
explosive muscle actions activate the type II fibers.
Here’s the thing – if one of the reasons that you exercises is to improve muscular definition, you must engage the Type II fibers – they are the larger of the different classifications and more responsible for providing the shape and definition of a particular muscle. Recruiting the Type II fibers responsible for definition requires exercising to the point of fatigue – the inability to do another rep. You have a choice, you can use a heavier weight to fatigue within 5-8 reps OR you can use a lighter weight but have to do as many reps as possible until you can’t do another; either way, if definitions is what you want, and you can achieve it at any age, you should be lifting to the point of fatigue. To learn more about your muscle fibers READ THIS POST.
Here’s the best part about high intensity exercise: It can help increase the levels of testosterone, growth hormone and mechano-growth factors (AKA IGF-1) which are anabolic hormones that help promote muscle growth. Lifting heavy weights and doing HIIT create damage on muscle fibers, as a result the body will produce more hormones to repair the damaged fibers and promote the growth of new tissues.
Research has shown that even adults in their 60s and 70s can elevate levels of these hormones in response to high intensity exercise. While heavy resistance training and high intensity exercise is important, it’s equally important to alternate with periods of lower intensity exercise. HIIT and heavy resistance training can help increase lean muscle, but after a period of 8-10 weeks, it’s important to do lower intensity exercise for 2-4 weeks to allow a little rest and recovery for your body. It’s like watching a video on your phone – you can, but it drains the battery quicker requiring a period to recharge. A few weeks of lower intensity exercise after a phase of high intensity workouts allows helps the systems of the body refuel and recharge so you can do another period of high intensity work.
Over the course of a year, it’s a good idea to do 4, 8-10 week phases of really strenuous exercise followed by a period of lower intensity activity. This will keep your body properly challenged to keep growing while allowing the requisite time for the growth.
There is no guarantee that exercise can stop the effects of time, but according to a growing body of research, high intensity, strenuous exercise can provide many benefits that help your tissues and systems to function much more efficiently over the course of the aging process. If you exercise for no other reason, you should be working out to control the effects of time on your body!
Do you want to learn how to design the workout programs that could help slow down the aging process?
Take the Exercise Program Design for the Fountain of Youth online course, it includes the e-book: Exercise for the Fountain of Youth and goes deep into the science of how resistance training and metabolic conditioning can slow down the aging process – include 0.3 ACE continuing education credits. Only $49