I have many over 50-age patients who want to do what they can to improve their health. But, do you know many of them think they’re too old for exercise to be of benefit to them? Somehow, they’ve gotten the idea that their body is like an old car that’s been left out to rust – too much damage has been done to it. I have to laugh a little but then I tell them about new research that explains why nothing could be further from the truth…
Fight Premature Aging with Endurance Training
A recent study that came out of France and the European Society of Cardiology revealed that, even if you start at age 40 and beyond, your body is not too old to reap the healthy aging benefits of exercise.
Their study looked at 55-70 year-old men who had no prior cardiovascular risk factors already. Some of them had only maybe exercised 2 hours a week throughout their life. Others had exercised up to 7 hours for about 5 years. Their exercise was either in the form of running or cycling.
The study revealed that the men who had exercised the least had a much lower uptake of oxygen. As a cardiologist, I know this can be a significant risk factor in cardiac health. But it also figures prominently as a risk factor in general body health as well. Your heart is fueled by the amount of oxygen in your blood. So, if you’re not taking in enough oxygen, your heart (as well as your brain) is going to function suboptimally.
Your heart’s blood pumping action is your body’s oxygen delivery system. If it’s not pumping enough blood/oxygen throughout your body, the vitality and health of all the tissues and organs of your body is going to be compromised. As a result, they’ll age much faster. Doing aerobic exercise is an excellent way to increase your body’s uptake of oxygen. Endurance training is aerobic exercise that builds your body’s oxygen uptake capacity.
Even though you might think you’re over-40 self is too old to benefit from exercise, echocardiograms done during this study proves this untrue. They showed that the heart (and lungs) are still capable of changing for the better.
In addition, endurance training had positive effects on other body structures as well. It helps build all important bone density and muscle mass – two significant factors in aging. Improved bone density helps prevent debilitating, or even life-threatening, hip fractures as well as other arm and shoulder fractures. Improved muscle mass helps you stay strong, flexible, able to keep your balance and prevent falls.
Endurance training also fights oxidative stress damage – free radical damage that hastens aging. More oxygen intake means less free radicals get a stronghold.
In a December 2013 report by the Centers for Disease Control, it was revealed that fewer than half of adults in the United States get the recommended amount of physical activity. This can lead to obesity and other diseases but even normal weight individuals can have lower oxygen intake capacities.
Researchers agree that doctors need to be more proactive with their patients in inquiring about, and advising them on, increasing their physical activity levels. Patient’s responded more favorably to building CRF – cardiorespiratory fitness – when their doctors, or health care professionals – specifically advised them to do both endurance training and resistance training (weights).
Stay Younger, Longer: How To Start Endurance Training
Now, when I say to start endurance training to get its anti-aging benefits, that doesn’t mean you have to go out and start training for a marathon – only if you want to.
Endurance training can be as simple as taking the stairs at work everyday instead of the elevator. In an 8-10 hour span of time, if you used the stairs instead of the elevator even twice a day, you would have done the equivalent of about 20 minutes on a stair stepper.
How about parking your car out further and walking in? What about riding your bike to work if you live near enough? You might even just start to walk, or ride your bike, around the streets where you live. You might even play a few regular basketball games with your grandkids or neighborhood kids.
Some other endurance training ideas also include taking a swim a few times a week at the nearby Y or recreational center. Great oxygen-building swim strokes include the butterfly and the back stroke. You might just turn on some fast-paced dance music in your living room and break a sweat moving for 30 minutes to an hour. Of course, you can always make a concerted effort and go do some HIIT – high intensity interval training – either in a class or on your own at the gym.
The point, is all aerobic activity counts. Even regular gardening like cutting the grass, planting shrubs, planting flowers, etc. As much as you can fit into your daily routine, the better your oxygen intake will be. A 2013 Canadian study published in the Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism journal found that the total amount of exercise time was more important than frequency. Even 150 minutes a week – that’s 30 minutes 5 times a week – can be just as beneficial as more.
So, whatever method you choose – a structured class or workout period at the gym or Y, or doing your own aerobic thing for at least 30 minutes, 5 times a week, getting more aerobic exercise into your life will confer the greatest anti-disease, anti-aging benefits to you.
Ron Blankstein, M.D.
Forty Not Too Old/Too Late To Start Endurance Training, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140509110748.htm
More Physically Active Adults Have Improved Cardio respiratory Fitness, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131211132548.htm
Total Amount of Exercise Important, Not Frequency http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130620132406.htm