growing old

No one enjoys growing old. Often times, aging brings a plethora of physical and mental problems that are tricky to cope with. However, combatting the effects of aging can be simpler—and more accesible—than you may think. A simple exercise routine can make all the difference in your youthfulness. Exercise has been shown to substantially slow down the effects of aging. But which exercises are best for halting the side effects of growing old? These are the four most important exercise practices to keep your mind sharp, your organs healthy, and your body youthful.

Do high-intensity interval training

It’s no secret that exercise keeps your body young. However, High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) takes youthfulness to another level. HIIT doesn’t just boost your immune system, sharpen your brain, and keep your organs healthy. Additionally, HIIT alters your body on a cellular level. Through HIIT exercises (particularly, through cardio and aerobic exercises) the body produces more proteins for the mitochondria and their ribosomes. What does this mean for your body? Essentially, HIIT halts aging at a cellular level. Fortunately, there are numerous effective HIIT exercises you can perform for incredible cellular strength and resilience against the effects of aging.

HIIT encompasses cardio exercises which you do in intervals/sprints. The key to HIIT is focusing on intensity and taking meaningful breaks. You can perform HIIT through a number of exercises, both at home, at the gym, or outdoors. Everything from sprinting up the stairs to racing around the block can contribute to a healthy HIIT routine. Exercises which are common with HIIT are running and biking. Intervals of speedy running and fast pedaling are great exercises for HIIT. In order to reap the most rewards from HIIT, it’s best to dedicate yourself to intense exercise for 30-90 seconds, then take a break twice as long as the sprint. Giving your body time to rest is an essential part of any effective HIIT workout. It’s during these rest periods that your body has a chance to recover and perform at maximum efficiency during your intense intervals of exercise.

Focus on cardio

Aerobic exercises are often highly recommended by professionals regarding heart health—and it isn’t all hype. As we age, most people tend to cut back on physical activity. This, coupled with the natural effects of aging, causes the muscles in our heart to stiffen. The chamber on the left side of our heart is substantially affected. It is the chamber responsible for producing massive amounts of oxygenated blood. Stiffening of this section of the heart can lead to disease and other issues within the organ. Heart failure is the leading cause of death in the U.S., and it’s often brought on with age. The best way to prevent these fatal effects of aging upon your heart is to create and stick to a cardio routine.

Luckily, cardio exercises don’t always require a gym. Jogging, running, biking, swimming, and even simply walking can ward off heart disease and damage. Even when practiced outside of the HIIT regimen, these aerobic workouts are highly beneficial to your long-term heart health. Cardio exercises are necessary for maintaining a youthful heart as you grow older. Practicing weekly aerobic exercises can substantially alter the flexibility and wellbeing of your heart and the muscles that keep it pumping.

Don’t Neglect Your Muscles

One of the most significant symptoms of aging is weakened muscles. While a focus on cardio is key, neglecting your muscular system will lead to significant balance and coordination issues as you age. This can lead to stumbling, falling, and difficulty walking over time. To keep yourself strong, stable, and self-supporting, maintaining your muscle strength through exercise is necessary. Cardio exercises are great, yet they only tone your muscles to a certain extent. Strength training is an excellent way to keep your muscles from growing weak over time. This sort of training can include lifting weights, squats, push-ups, planks, and much more, so long as it focuses on strengthening the muscles in your arms, legs, abs, and other parts of your body.

However, strength training doesn’t just strengthen your muscles—it also benefits the brain. As we age, our brains tend to shrink, and we develop white-matter lesions. These cause cognitive decline over time. Moderate cardio exercise hasn’t shown any improvement in fighting the development of these white-matter lesions. However, lifting weights does. According to a study performed at the University of British Columbia, those who practiced twice-weekly strength/resistance training (such as lunges, squats, and free weights) reported significantly lower white-matter lesions than those who didn’t perform such exercises. In conclusion, lifting weights every few days can do far more than just tone your muscles. It can also strengthen your brain and lead to a healthier, sharper, more resilient mind as you age.

Find your balance

Did you know that the leading cause of injury in older people is related to falling? Over 800,000 hospitalizations and 27,000 deaths in older adults are related to injuries sustained by falling. Your balance decreases with age due to muscular deterioration, reduced reaction time, impaired vision, and other age-based balance issues. One of the most important types of exercises you can focus on as you age are those centered around maintaining balance and flexibility. Luckily, there are dozens of exercises to help you stay coordinated as you grow old.

Besides intensive exercise practices such as yoga, there are numerous balance-based exercises which you can perform in the comfort of your home. One of these recommended exercises is the tightrope walk. To practice this, steady yourself on a solid floor and walk forward, heel to toe, as if balancing on a tightrope. Keep your eyes ahead of you. This will help you with your coordination and balance as you walk.

For an even simpler exercise, try the single-leg balance and reach. This exercise requires that you balance on one leg and elevate the other. Start by placing your feet hip-length apart. Then, while balancing on one foot, lift the other into the air. Focus on drawing in your abs and tightening your glutes. When you’re ready, move your lifted leg to a 45-degree angle and try to stabilize for several seconds. Then, return your lifted leg to its original lifted position, slowly lower it the ground, and repeat with the opposite leg. This should strengthen your glutes, abs, quads, and calves, as well as immensely improving your balance. A well-balanced body is a youthful one!