I am writing this Thursday post on a Tuesday, 48 hours before it’s actually due to appear on my website. That’s 47 hours and 30 minutes earlier than my usual starting time.
Why the rush? Because in two days I’ll be under an avalanche of packing material and unhappy cats, trying to locate a coffeepot in a heap of boxes marked “kitchen.”
So it’s now or never.
Truth is, I work best under the gun, so writing a post at a leisurely pace feels like cheating. In fact, there’s a good chance this won’t get done until the movers pull up to the front door simply because I don’t know how this proactive routine works.
Okay, but my real inspiration for today comes from a subscriber, Johanne (thank you!), who sent me a link to an article that appeared in the New York Times’ WELL section that talks about the best exercise for aging.
Let’s start by taking a look at the opening quote:
“The toll that aging takes on a body extends all the way down to the cellular level. But the damage accrued by cells in older muscles is especially severe, because they do not regenerate easily and they become weaker as their mitochondria, which produce energy, diminish in vigor and number.”
Now for the English translation.
First, so much for making people feel better about aging.
Excuse me while I down a bottle of Geritol. Okay, I’m back. We only had Pepto Bismol, so that didn’t work.
Loosely translated, the article begins by saying aging is a slow, horrible process that affects us at the smallest, cellular level and attacks muscles with particular vengeance. These poor muscle cells are unable to fight back because aging weakens the powerhouse portion of the cells.
Basically, our muscle cells find their way to a rocking chair on the front porch and sit there with blankets on their laps, chasing kids off the lawn, waiting for the grim reaper to put an end to their misery.
In reality, it’s not as bad as it looks. So put down the spoon and slowly step away from the Chunky Monkey.
It will all be fine. There’s a light on the horizon.
And – surprise! – it’s exercise! Wooo hooo!
Finally, a study that shows exercise is actually good for us. So all of us who work out in secret, afraid of being ostracized for such an enjoyable indulgence, can now come out of hiding without shame!
Oh, wait, I got that wrong. Nearly all studies show the benefits of exercise.
This new study, however, talks about a specific exercise approach that reversed age-related changes older subjects. Can you guess the type of exercise?
Trick question! The answer is both 4 and all of the above.
The real answer: Interval workouts.
Defined by routines that require alternating bouts of increasing intensity followed by “rest” or lower intensity segments, interval routines were shown to increase the ability of mitochondria to produce energy for muscle cells by increasing the number and health of these beasties.
In simple terms, think of mitochondria as the elves in the Toll House cookie tree, except instead of producing chocolate chip cookies they’re pumping out energy.
The aging process acts like a Mafia hitman, knocking off the elves execution style. No one does anything about it because they’re afraid of ending up with a horse head in their bed.
Then along comes Mr. Intervals, a superhero who’s not afraid of anything, let alone some wimpy elf-kicking, greasy-haired gangster.
Okay, I may be getting a little carried away with my analogy, but you get the idea.
Bottom line: Interval training keeps you younger.
That’s all you need to know.
Well, except for how to do it.
Here’s the scoop…
You can approach cardiovascular exercise in a couple different ways: long, steady-state endurance workouts, where you maintain a moderate pace for hundreds of years.
Or maybe it just feels that way.
By adding a day or two of interval training each week you not only increase fat burning but, according to this research, can reverse the damaging effects of aging. And it’s a more interesting and challenging way to sweat off the pounds.
So intervals. Here’s a super simple pattern you can use with any type of cardio:
Warm-up: 5 minutes easy pace, cardio of your choice, then:
For more interval programs, check out these earlier posts:
YOUR TURN: DO YOU USE INTERVALS in your cardio regimen? If so, let me know in the comments section below and how you do them! I’d love to hear.
And if you like this post, please forward it and share with your ageless friends. I will be most grateful! xo
Your Ageless Body Coach,
Linda Melone is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, certified trainer and award-winning health and fitness writer. She specializes in helping women over 50 get in shape and lose weight.