Regular gym goers are by their very nature a competitive bunch, but there is one battle that can never be won – the battle against age. However, there is no reason why we can’t give it a really good go!
There can be major differences between your chronological age and your biological age – what this means is that you can be 50, but literally have the body of a 40-year-old. We all know someone like that – you celebrated their 50th birthday but they have more boundless energy than all the 30 year olds you know.
The circuit classes at Kelsey Kerridge are full of such people, I remember one lady who looked 50, doing press-ups, sit-ups and burpees as energetically as anyone in the class. I later found out she was 76!
And, according to new research, taking part in circuits or functional fitness activities is one of the secrets to a younger looking body.
First of all, lets look at the depressing side of ageing – what happens as we get older?
- Your metabolism slows as you get older. That means that burning fat and controlling weight becomes more difficult. Think middle age spread.
- The hormones responsible for youth-like qualities, such as healthy skin tone, strong lean muscle, high energy levels and insatiable sex drive decline year-on-year.
- Bones become weaker and more brittle as essential mineral uptake declines.
- Your decision-making skills and memory worsen year-on-year.
- Once past 40, your biological age speeds up so it is faster than your chronological age – therefore, as you turn 42, your body essentially turns 43.
- Exercise ignites the metabolism, meaning that you start burning fat.
- It also boosts your endocrine system, making it produce those hormones that keep us looking younger and feeling full of vim and energy.
- By regularly doing weight-bearing activities, you will slow the loss of muscle fibres. This will also help maintain bone density for longer.
- Physical activity has been proven to improve cognitive functionality, preventing the onset of dementia and enhancing brain power.
But what type of exercise should you be doing?
The most simple answer is a wide variety, at least five times a week. This doesn’t mean a trip to the gym for an hour and a half of heavy exercise, but it does mean some cardio, some flexibility and certainly, some activity that combines power, strength and cardio in an intensive work-out.
Just one cautionary word: too much cardio as you get older (45-plus) can be counter-productive. Long cardio sessions can break down muscles and increase the release of free radicals – nasty things that can damage cells. Some cardio is good, but too much can be detrimental. If running is your thing, one long run a week is ample, mixed in with other shorter, higher intensity sessions.
So back to the question of what works.
The best exercise routine, no matter what age you are, involves functional exercises that work a range of muscles. Here are some sample exercises that can be performed in a circuit, the gym instructors will be able to help with the techniques required to perform these effectively.
Burpees – work the legs and the core, plus add a cardiovascular element.
Medicine ball squat with an overhead lift – works the legs, glutes, lower back, arms and shoulders.
Stair climb/step with bicep curl – legs, arms, plus cardiovascular fitness.
Diagonal reach with medicine ball or kettle bell – arms, shoulders and legs all get a work out.
Push up with knee raise – as you lower your body, bring the knee out and towards your shoulder – works chest, shoulder, triceps, core and glutes.
Russian twists with medicine ball – strengthen and coordinate core muscles.
Dumbbell reverse chop – works upper body, especially shoulders, plus core. Combine with a squat to give your quads a good workout too.
Pull-ups – a tough exercise, but gives arms, back and shoulders a fantastic work-out.
Kettlebell swing – legs, arms, torso and shoulders all get a good workout with this exercise.
Plank push-up – from plank into push-up, then back into plank again – phewee, total core work-out.