This is the second in a series of articles about the five habits you need to practice in order to live longer and live better. In addition to not smoking, there are four other habits that you can read about on our website.
As we age, it becomes increasingly important to make exercise a priority. Even if it’s been a mainstay in your life, making time for exercise can be a difficult task at any age. And if you are just getting started with an exercise regimen, well, it’s even more daunting.
But nothing that is worth while is easy, is it? And exercising regularly– moderate daily exercise– is one of the most essential components to prevent cognitive decline, frailty, and fight that plummeting metabolism, making it easier to maintain a healthy weight. In fact, exercising is imperative if you want to live longer and live better.
What is moderate daily exercise?
The term exercise may conjure up imagery of a person thumping on a punching bag in a sweaty boxing gym or training for a marathon on a dirt path. And if that’s your preferred method of exercise, then that’s great. However, a high intensity sweat session isn’t the only type of exercise that can have life long benefits. In fact, exercise can come in many forms. The important thing is to choose activities that you enjoy and make a part of your regular routine. Recommendations for exercise are 75 minutes of high intensity training each week, or you can instead engage in 150 minutes weekly of moderate intensity training. High intensity means spending the majority of your workout at 75% or higher of your maximum heart rate. Moderate intensity merely requires a brisk walk, or operating at 50-75% of your max heart rate for the majority of the workout. While high intensity training may burn more calories in a shorter time compared to lower intensity exercise, it isn’t necessarily needed to reap the benefits of exercise. The assumption is that there is so much more to be gained from high intensity training; however, in terms of cognitive decline and living longer, a daily 30-40 minute brisk walk has equal value.
Take a load on
A brisk walk is a great start, but to truly get the most out of the time you invest in yourself, you’d be wise to add weight to your workouts. Weight bearing exercise has benefits way beyond making you feel more confident in your own skin. As we age, metabolism slows because muscle mass is replaced with fat. Weight training can help slow that process. Frail bones are a common problem as we age, especially as women age through menopause. Adding just a few days of weight bearing exercise into your routine helps keeps bone strong.
Some say you lose weight in the kitchen, not in the gym. While it is true that you can’t expect to lose weight from exercise alone, weight management and maintenance is nearly impossible without exercise. Burning an extra 500 calories per day can result in a pound of weight loss per week. Living longer while maintaining mental acuity is only one benefit of exercise. But managing your weight if needed through exercise will also help you decrease risk factors for chronic disease.
Exercise to live longer and live better
As we age, it’s not as easy as lacing up our running shoes and hitting the trails for a run. There are some modifications that need to be made to avoid injury and get the most out of your workout. Stretching is important for anyone, but it’s especially so as we approach 50 and beyond. Get your muscles warm with a few minutes of movement and then stretch before the most intense part of your workout. Finishing the workout by stretching the muscles you worked will ward off next-day soreness. A total body stretch, involving all major muscle groups, a few days a week will help increase overall flexibility. Another way to avoid injury would be to allow yourself more time for recovery. Though we still recommend moderate daily exercise, if you do high intensity workouts, it is best to take a day (or two) off between such workouts. On your rest days, take a brisk walk. As for high intensity workouts, adding one or two of those each week will pump up the fat burn, helping you reach your goals to live longer, live better and redefine aging.