Exercise is the Fountain of Youth
Here’s a scary thought: YOU ARE THE OLDEST THAT YOU HAVE EVER BEEN! The good news is that getting older does NOT mean that you have to stop exercising. In fact, making exercise the foundation of a healthy lifestyle could be the proverbial fountain of youth, helping you to slow down, and in some cases, even reverse the effects of the aging process. This blog is part 1 of 2 that will help you to identify the optimal exercise for each decade of the lifespan so that you can continue to enjoy all of your favorite activities no matter what the calendar says. The following information is based in part on the latest research of how exercise slows down the aging process as well as my personal experience from 48 trips around the sun.
If you’re in your 20s, enjoy your youth but realize that investing the time to adopt healthy lifestyle habits now can be important dividends throughout your entire adulthood.
Experiment with different workouts to find what you enjoy then do it on a regular basis.
There is no specific type of exercise that you should be doing but whichever type you select make it an important component of your life, the more consistent your physical activity the better your quality of health. Make it a goal to be active every day of the week, that doesn’t mean crushing yourself with high intensity workouts every day, but it DOES mean moving your body for at least 30 minutes so your breathing gets a little quicker and you break a little sweat.
Consider joining a health club or attending classes at a studio, when it comes to cost consider this fact: either you pay to stay in shape while you’re young, or you’ll end of spending lots of money over the course of your life dealing with chronic disease and health conditions.
Types of Exercise in Your 20s
Whatever you enjoy, this is the decade when you will have the freedom to experiment (talking about fitness) to find what you really like and, more importantly, what works best for your body. Yes, you can get away with high intensity workouts most days of the week but it’s important to make time for mobility training as well.
Nutrition in Your 20s
You’re young, eat what you want; you have a high metabolism, enjoy it. Not really, establishing healthy habits while you’re in your 20s like taking the time to prepare healthy meals and snacks on the weekend so you can use them all week will set you up for long-term success. It would also be a good idea to meet with a registered dietitian-nutritionist who can help you identify any possible food allergies so you can eat right for your body.
Sleep in Your 20s
It can be easy to think, “Meh, who needs sleep, I’ll sleep when I get old.” The truth is that high intensity exercise requires the right quantity and quality of sleep for optimal recovery. Like other healthy habits, establishing good sleep hygiene now will pay important dividends in the years to come.
According to both the research AND personal experience, this is when the effects of aging begin to accelerate. The biggest challenges during this decade are that your professional career will be taking off and if you haven’t already, you’ll probably be starting a family. This is why establishing the proper habits in your 20s is so important, by the time your career and family life start making more demands on your time you are already living an active and healthy lifestyle.
Research shows that over the age of 30, without regular exercise, cardiorespiratory efficiency, the ability to efficiently move oxygen-nutrient-carrying blood around the body, starts to decline. The heart is a muscle, exercise improves its ability to function, which helps to lower the risk of developing heart disease while burning the calories to avoid unnecessary weight gain.
After the age of 35, if you’re not strength training on a consistent basis then you will start to experience a loss of muscle mass. Unless you lift weights, the research suggests that once you’re in your late 30s and beyond you can expect to lose up to 10% of muscle mass PER DECADE.
If you’re a guy, once you’re over the age of 35 you will experience lower levels of testosterone; that’s bad eough, but if you have excessive amounts of abdominal fat then the enzyme aromatase could convert what T you do produce into estradiol, a female sex hormone (explaining why heavyset men develop breasts).
Both strength training, to increase muscle mass, and metabolic conditioning for weight loss are extremely important in this time of life. Women in their 30s should be strength training because it can help elevate levels of human growth hormone which metabolizes fat, promotes muscle growth and helps skin maintain a youthful appearance.
Exercise is so important when you’re in your 30s that if you haven’t been successful at following a regular exercise program on your own you may want to consider hiring a personal trainer or going to a studio with instructor-led workouts. Working with a personal trainer or taking group fitness classes can help you identify the best workouts for your needs as well as hold you accountable for making exercise a priority in your life.
Even if you have a demanding schedule it’s important to realize that even 15-to-20 minutes of exercise at a time can make an important difference and provide important health benefits. When life gets busy, as it relates to exercise your personal mantra should be: “A little bit of something is better than a lot of nothing!”
As you progress through your 30s you will want to make smarter nutrition choices and plan on going to bed earlier because the right diet combined with proper amounts of sleep are essential for good health.
Types of Exercise in Your 30s
Resistance training – at least 2 or 3 times a week. Strength training classes at a gym or doing a bodyweight circuit from the comfort of your own home are great places to start.
Metabolic conditioning – almost every day, find an activity that gets your heart rate up and try to do it on a regular basis. If life gets real busy, try to make time for walking 10-to-15 minutes at a time 3 times a day (once in the morning, during lunch and again in the afternoon or evening) for minimal health benefits. This could be taking the stairs at your office or in a hotel or just walking around the block, the important thing is to move every dang day!
Nutrition in Your 30s
As your metabolism changes it will be important to start paying attention to your nutrition choices. If you’re busy, it might be a good idea to try a meal delivery service so that you can have high quality ingredients delivered directly to your door.
Do your best to eat as many fresh fruits and vegetables as possible while limiting sugary and salty snacks. Again, consulting with a dietitian can help you identify the best nutrition for your needs.
Sleep in Your 30s
This is when sleep starts becoming more important. Our brains repair themselves during sleep, if you’re sleep deprived it could affect your performance at work and keep you from getting that promotion. In addition, the muscle building hormones of testosterone and growth hormone are produced during the REM cycles of sleep which is important for when you do your strength-training workouts. Finally, recently published research has found that middle-aged adults who sleep less than 6 hours per night have a 30% GREATER risk of developing Alzheimer’s in their later years.
Recent All About Fitness Quick Fit Tip about the Benefits of Sleep
The first thing you notice when this decade begins is that you thought you would feel ‘older,’ at least that was my experience. In another year (written in 2021) this decade will be in my rearview mirror, yet I still feel, and sometimes act, like I’m in my 20s. However, I have noticed that it takes longer to fully recover from high intensity workouts, if I lose a night of sleep then I’m absolutely no good for the next 2-3 days and if I deviate from my regular (mostly) healthy diet for more than one or two meals I feel it immediately.
In this decade you’re relatively ensconced in your career and family life; while there will be unforeseen challenges, for the most part you have established a consistent routine.
An important component of healthy and successful aging is your friendships and relationships; research shows that people with a robust social life have a better experience during the aging process.
If you’re exercising regularly, congratulations! However, take time for a critical review of your exercise habits, if you follow the same routine for too long your body adapts and the exercise, while good, won’t have the same effects. If you find it hard to make time for regular workouts consider ways that you can add small bouts of exercise to your routine by bike commuting to work or identifying various strategies that can help you increase your daily level of physical activity.
If you’re looking for ways to change your routine consider adding yoga which can help reduce stress levels while improving mobility both of which can reduce the risk of disease or injury.
Consider adding at least 1 high intensity exercise like a group cycling, sports conditioning or kettlebell class to your routine. High intensity exercise can help promote muscle building hormones while increasing caloric expenditure, both of which are important at this age. It’s important to realize that explosive explosive exercises can help improve muscle elasticity which is reduced during the aging process. Regular strength training exercises make skeletal muscle tissue strong but don’t challenge the elastic connective tissue which surrounds it. Adding exercises like kettlebell swings and plyometric jumps help improve tissue elasticity.
Keep in mind that while some high intensity exercise is good, it does take longer to recover so try to limit it to 3 or fewer times a week and make sure you are getting plenty of sleep to help promote the recovery process.
Exercise in Your 40s
Change your exercise habits so you provide fresh stimulus to your body. Continue regular strength training and metabolic conditioning and make sure to incorporate explosive and multi-directional movements to promote optimal tissue elasticity. Yoga can help manage stress and improve your overall flexibility, both of which provide significant health benefits, so if you’re not already doing it, consider adding it to your routine.
Nutrition in Your 40s
Gone are the days of grabbing whatever for dinner and ordering the Friday night pizza because this is when you really start feeling the effects of unhealthy food choices. The good news is that you are probably earning more money so if you’re having a hard time making smart nutrition services you may want to consider subscribing to a service that provides fresh vegetables along with recipes or pre-packaged, proportion controlled meals.
Sleep in Your 40s
You don’t need me to tell you to get more sleep because this is when you really start feeling the effects of lack of sleep. Review your sleep hygiene and try to remove light sources like TVs and mobile devices from your bedroom because the light waves can actually wake you up as you’re trying to drift off to slumberland. In the evening wearing glasses that block blue light can help prepare your body for sleep.
This is only part 1, the next part will appear soon and will cover the best types of exercise for your 50s and beyond.
To learn more about exercise and the aging process:
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Learn how exercise can slow down the aging process and help you stay fit and active at ANY age; this e-book will show you the types of workouts that can help you to slow the aging process.