By John Cardillo, CEO, Premier Fitness
The British Journal of Sports Medicine recently reported that a study they conducted indicated that 30 minutes of exercise each day throughout middle age can delay the effects of aging by as much as 12 years. As John Cardillo, the CEO of Premier Fitness, and fitness professional, I was not surprised by the results of this study, as I have always maintained that in order to delay the inevitable ravages of aging, a person must take part in moderate-to-vigorous exercise at least two or three times per week.
Our skeletal muscles form the functional and metabolic engines that control the expenditure of energy and the general health of our internal systems (heart, lung). For our bodies to function optimally and remain healthy, we must use our muscles, rather than burden our body by piling on body fat due to lack of exercise and bad eating habits.
We have all encountered some exceptionally fit seniors who have incredible energy and stamina, and are beaming with great health, while others of the same age or younger barely get around, and when they do, it's often to visit the doctor, and are daily losing their physical independence and quality of life. Imagine having 12 additional years to enjoy your friends and family, watch your children and grandchildren grow, and smell the roses! Not to mention hanging on to independence and the ability to do things for yourself far later in life - and feeling good while you're doing them.
The British Journal of Sports Medicine study specifically refers to aerobic exercise such as jogging, cycling, brisk walking and swimming. Regular outputs of energy in these pursuits slow down, and sometimes even reverse the decline in balance, coordination, muscle strength and the body's capacity to use oxygen and generate energy that occurs naturally with a sedentary lifestyle. Men who do not exercise lose up to half of their maximum aerobic power between the ages of 20 and 60, and women experience the same effect between 35 and 60. This is partly why older people often find normal activities so tiring.
On the other hand, the study indicates that prolonged regular exercise can boost aerobic power by a whopping 25 per cent. Fitness and health professionals advise that aerobic exercise should be intensive enough to raise the heart rate to 120 beats a minute or more for the maximum effect - but frankly, even moderate exercise like a leisurely stroll or a bout of gardening is better than none at all.
All of these findings confirm what I have advocated to my employees and members for more than 30 years; however, now I wish to go a step further. I believe that regular aerobic exercise will certainly benefit anyone and slow down the effects of aging significantly (as the study suggests by up to 12 years). However, I firmly believe that by adding strength training that is of a high-intensity nature, performed two times per week for 30 minutes per session, together with proper nutrition, any person, male or female (provided they don't have a genetic predisposition for diseases such as cancer), could enjoy a good physical quality of life well into their nineties, and could hit the once-believed-unattainable ripe old age of 100.
History has shown that the medical field has been slow to recognize the benefits of exercise, and specifically weight training. If you recall, in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, any form of exercise was hardly regarded as worthwhile by doctors. It was often considered a pursuit for cosmetic and vanity purposes only. It was only in the 1990s and at the turn of the century that newly enlightened medical professionals embraced the idea that exercise is a must in helping to prevent disease.
North Americans are sadly lacking in their efforts, despite all the benefits regular exercise brings, such as lessening the risk of illness and premature death from conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. People who exercise also recover more quickly from illness, and they find the physical exertion heightens their moods and feeling of wellbeing.
I maintain that high-intensity strength-training exercise interspersed during the week with aerobics is the ideal scenario. Strength training can help to maintain your muscle mass and bone density, and in turn help you improve your circulation, uptake more oxygen into your lungs, and invigorate your metabolism. However, the connection between strength training and improved health has still not been validated by the medical community as a real benefit and necessity to the improvement of health and vitality. Now that the British Journal of Sports Medicine has concluded that aerobics exercise is a real benefit in delaying the aging process, I can only wonder how many more decades it will take for some medical researchers to come to the same conclusion about the importance of strength training to longevity and the quality of life.