In search of the fountain of youth, many of you have turned to exercise to add as many healthy years to your life as possible. But is what you’re doing at the gym really making you feel younger and more productive? Is just getting your blood flowing enough to make you look 50-going-on-30?
There is no question that exercise is an effective anti-aging tool — but only if used correctly. It should improve your flexibility, posture, cardiovascular fitness and muscle tone. Does your program effectively address all these areas of fitness?
For example, do you do enough strength training to decrease the muscle loss associated with aging? On average, individuals lose up to one pound of muscle every year starting in their early 30’s. Strength training your entire body is essential to maintaining that muscle and keeping it burning calories.
Anti-aging exercises are designed to increase flexibility and improve posture and strength. In a recent e-newsletter from one of my favorite trainers, Mike Boyle, he criticized the average gym-goer for doing too many bench presses, bicep curls and bike rides. He said these exercises reinforce poor posture that is typical of the elderly: shoulders rolled forward, neck out, bent over at the waist.
To bench press without at least the equivalent number of sets of back exercises will cause your shoulders to roll forward (from those tight pecs) and neck to stick out. If you really want to look young and spry, you might even want to do more sets of back than chest, like John Romaniello recommends in his program Final Phase Fat Loss.
Sometimes the best approach is to get your body in balance and keep that way from the beginning. Mark Verstegan in his book Core Performance coined the phrase pre-habilitation, meaning doing rehabilitation exercise before injury to make sure that all of the joints in the body are functioning correctly. These exercises focus on stretching and strengthening muscles around the joint to get the joint in balance. The primary areas of focus are the core, shoulders and knees — areas that are commonly injured. Reducing injuries allows you to work out harder and more consistently.
Back to getting your blood pumping: It can have a tremendous effect on your overall fitness if done correctly. The challenge is that too many gym-goers jump on exercise bikes, watch the TV and forget they are even exercising. Not only is the bike hard on your hip flexors, but it puts you back into a seated position — which you spend too much time in anyway! The shortening of your hip flexors can be detrimental to the health of your lower back. Mike recommends cardiovascular exercise that keeps you upright, like walking or running.
You can’t stay young forever, but why not feel like you are for as long as possible? Focus on doing anti-aging-friendly exercises at the gym.