Most of what people call ageing, and most of what we all dread about getting older, is actually decay. We are struck with real ageing, but decay is optional. What do we mean? In the absence of signals to grow, your body, including your brain, decays, and you ‘age’. The keys to over-riding the decay signals? Daily exercise, good nutrition, emotional commitment and a real engagement with living. But it starts with exercise. You have to exercise because it’s who you are, where you came from, hundreds of thousands of years ago. Humankind grew up, hunting and gathering, which required hours of walking, with intervals of running and sprinting in between. Exercise, then, is the single most powerful signal you can send your body that it’s spring, and time to live and grow. It isn’t complicated, but you have to do it every day. Aerobic, balance and strength training help you age healthy...
Balance, co-ordination and proprioception (your sense of where you are in space) are all run by your brain’s signalling system. The brain has 100 billion neurons, or signal senders, each with connections to 10,000 other neurons. And one of your brain’s big jobs is dictating – in exquisite detail – how you move. But there’s a problem: Everything you don’t use rots! Especially the signalling system that governs the body’s fine motor movements. Which means, of course, that your balance and coordination go to hell and you don’t know where you are. Sounds like the very definition of old age, doesn’t it.
2 EXERCISES THAT CAN HELP 1 Hip Circles
Why bother? Moving in three dimensions is an excellent way to maintain flexibility in your hips. Step 1 On all fours, lift one leg out to the side, then back, up, and down in a circular-style motion. Do 10 clockwise on one side, then 10 counterclockwise. Keep your lower back still. As your mobility improves, increase the size of your circles. Step 2 Repeat on the other side.
2 Overhead Reach (Dry Backstroke)
Why bother? This one is outstanding for mid-back and shoulder mobility. Step 1 Lie on your back with one leg bent. Reach over your head with your right arm, as if doing the backstroke. Return the arm to your side. Step 2 Alternate between the right and left, 10 times each.
If it’s aerobics that keeps you alive and moving, it’s strength training that offers you quality of life. The rule: Strength train two days a week. For the rest of your life. Normal ageing is grim. It means losing 10% of your muscle mass every decade after age 40. Ditto bone mass. At 60, you can’t get out of a deep chair. Or the tub. Your joints hurt. So do your back, your hips, your knees. You fall down and break a hip. You’re a boring old wreck. That’s normal ageing. But do serious strength training two days a week and you’ll have little muscle loss and much less bone loss. You don’t need machines. Use free weights, elastic bands, your own body. Worry like crazy about posture: Lousy posture is the mother of bad hips. Which are the mother of bad backs. Get a decent exercise book or video. Doing strength training wrong is worse than not doing it at all.
5 EXERCISES TO BUILD MUSCLE 1 The Squat
Why bother? It’s superb exercise for strengthening your core and the big muscles of your legs. Step 1 With your core tightened and your back straight, drop your butt back and down until it almost touches the chair. Hinge from the hips. Step 2 Return to standing position. Repeat.
2 Split Squat
Why bother? This one helps improve your hip stability and balance. Step 1 Stand with one foot about 18 inches ahead of the other. Step 2 Lower your butt until your front thigh is parallel to the floor. Rise. Repeat on the other side.
3 Rotation With A Medicine Ball
Why bother? You’ll boost your arm strength and flexibility. Step 1 Engage your abs. Begin in a squat position, bringing the ball down and right. Step 2 Swing the ball to the left and over your shoulder. Return to centre and repeat.
4 Side Plank
Why bother? This enhances lateral hip and core stability. Step 1 Lie on your side, up on one elbow. Lift your hips and knees off the floor. Step 2 Hold for 10 seconds. Relax. Repeat 3 times.
Why bother? It’s great for building abs. Step 1 Lie on your back with your knees bent. Contract your abs and lift your shoulder slightly off the floor. Step 2 Hold for 3 to 5 seconds. Do 3 sets of 10 repetitions.