Exercise is an essential part of any life transformation programme. Exercise transforms your physical and mental health, reversing metabolic issues and even ageing, making you happy (endorphins), relieving anxiety and depression, and boosting your confidence and self-esteem. Exercise is low-cost, available in many forms – and there is something for everyone.
The old saying, “If you don’t use it, you will lose it,” is correct. Physical activity is a vital pillar supporting our health.
This blog will show the metabolic benefits of exercise, specifically in those over 50. We will cover exercise patterns that will return your body to the fast energy-making machine it was designed to be, maximizing your vitality and enabling you to age gracefully. We will also explore how to fit exercise into your busy daily routine.
Lack of physical activity is a strong risk factor for disease, more than the use of alcohol or high cholesterol. A body of research showed that a lack of physical activity increases the risk of diabetes, heart disease, depression, cancer, and early death.
Three weeks of bed rest is worse for your health than 30 years of ageing
Over 40, your metabolism slows down, and your body cells become less sensitive to the action of insulin. This hormone allows sugar to be delivered to your body cells, helping you to make energy. You, therefore, are in danger of accumulating fat and gaining weight.
You lose muscle mass by 5% every decade. Postmenopausal ladies lose bone density. And you experience a 75% loss of mitochondria between 20 and 70. You also suffer hormonal imbalance, with the bad guys gaining ground (insulin, cortisol, oestrogen) and the good ones (testosterone, GH) disappearing. But exercise is the antidote to ageing.
Lack of physical activity is detrimental to health and well-being. In 1966, the Dallas bed rest study recruited five healthy 20-year-old subjects, measured their physical capacity after 3 weeks of bed rest, and repeated this in 1996. The researchers were amazed to discover that 3 weeks of bed rest had a more negative impact on physical health than 3 decades of ageing!
Physical activity involves using your muscles to move your body around. This usually happens every day without the intention to exercise. Your body regularly moves at work and whilst performing your household activities. physical activity accounts for 32% of your total daily energy expenditure. Exercise is a repetitive movement designed to improve one or more physical fitness goals. These types of exercise include brisk walking, running, cycling, swimming, and weightlifting.
In terms of physical fitness goals, people usually strive for bigger and stronger muscles on the one hand and aerobic fitness, meaning enhanced heart and lung function, on the other. We all know what it’s like to get puffed out running upstairs – aerobic fitness seeks to improve that capacity.
These types of fitness are important at any age to give you enough vitality to enjoy life. However, power, a combination of strength and speed, is crucial in giving you an advantage in competitive sports when you are young. In the over 50, your goals should expand to include agility, balance, coordination, flexibility and reaction time. These help to prevent falls and fractures as age advances.
The metabolic benefits of exercise
Most people exercise, aiming to lose weight. However, weight loss should not be your exercise goal. I have met many people who were discouraged by not losing weight while exercising regularly. They often burned fat and gained muscle, so their weight remained steady.
Again, body mass index is not an accurate tool to monitor your progress. There are healthy obese people, who store fat under the skin (subcutaneous fat), and there are people with normal BMI scores storing fat in the wrong area, within and around the abdominal viscera, increasing their risk of metabolic disease.
Exercise on its own is not an effective way to lose weight, as it makes you feel hungry, stimulates your appetite, and makes you eat more. This is compounded by the conventional advice to reload with a sports drink within 30 minutes of your workout. You need to exercise for a long time; for example, walk 10 miles to lose 500 calories!
On the other hand, exercise helps your metabolism. Walking for 15 minutes after lunch stabilizes your blood sugar and prevents blood sugar spikes.
It is sensible to monitor the yield of your exercise program by checking your body composition – fat, muscle, and lean body mass. The technology to do this is available in most gyms and in other affordable hi-tech equipment.
To correct your metabolism, you want to pursue exercises to speed it up, raising your resting metabolic rate (RMR.) This type of exercise helps you trade fat for muscle.
Increasing muscle mass is crucial since muscles are active tissues that consume energy. In a study of 12 weeks of high-intensity exercise, the subjects increased muscle mass and reduced belly fat by 17%.
High-intensity interval training (HIIT), involving 10 cycles of 2 minutes (20 minutes in total) of 30 seconds intense, 90 seconds recovery, results in micro-injuries that stimulate muscle growth. The body continues to show a high RMR and burns calories for up to 48 hours.
Weight training is the traditional way to increase muscle mass, and speed up your metabolism and RMR, accounts for 60% of your total daily energy expenditure.
We lose 75% of the mitochondria between 20 and 70. This is not directly age-related but is primarily due to a lack of physical stress. A body of research on hormesis confirms vigorous exercise and other extreme physical stress will enable you to reclaim lost mitochondria at any age. Fasting, Wim Hof’s extreme cold and saunas may also help in this respect.
Vigorous exercise increases insulin sensitivity, controls blood pressure and blood sugar, and increases VO2 Max, the very accurate measurement of your cardiopulmonary fitness.
One study confirmed that the benefit of exercise is greater in the old compared with younger adults. The younger group (20 to 30 years old) had a high basal aerobic fitness, which increased minimally after the exercise program. However, the older group (60 to 70) significantly improved their low basal aerobic fitness.
Age was irrelevant in another study of nursing home ladies, aged 87 to 93, who gained 10% muscle mass in 8 weeks of weightlifting training, empowering some to leave the facility to live independently in their own homes.
Other benefits of exercises
Improving your nutrition is not going to work without exercise. Studies have shown that the Mediterranean diet, very well known to help people reverse their metabolic disease, does not work without adequate physical activity.
During exercise, you sweat toxins via the skin. These include urea, the end-product of protein metabolism, toxins in food like pesticides and herbicides, plastic (BPA) and heavy metals like mercury, aluminium and lead. Exercise also activates lymph circulation to remove cellular trash and enhance bowel function.
Regular exercise also helps you to enjoy a restful sleep. You will break down the energy molecule ATP during training, and adenosine accumulates to give you longer and deeper rejuvenating sleep.
Cardiovascular exercise also helps brain health, increasing the number of connections between the brain cells through brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF.) The release of the natural morphine endorphins, given to you naturally in the correct dose, makes you happy and confident and raises your self-esteem.
Exercise also burns belly fat, a high-risk factor for dementia. Studies have shown that the wider your waistline, the smaller your brain!
Weight-bearing exercise prevents osteoporosis (bone loss) and the associated falls and fractures.
How do you make exercise part of your daily routine?
You need to select a physical activity that you love to practise and that suits your body. I had met many people struggling to run, for example, but thrived when they switched to cycling, swimming, or weightlifting. You need to practise with a partner, a friend or join a local club. Build up your activity gradually and use simple equipment. Maybe use your body weight (performing squats, sit-ups, and push-ups.)
There are many simple ways to increase your physical activity. Park some distance away from your destination, at the end of the superstore car park; take the stairs more often than the lift; set up a program to cover your daily household work; do your gardening and DIY; use a standing desk; hold “walking meetings”; use the pedometer in your iPhone; aim for 10,000 steps every day, including a 15-minute walk after your lunch; go out hiking and walk in nature at the weekend.
Any form of physical activity will help you to reverse the metabolic disease, particularly those forms of physical activity not counted as exercise.
Specific programs to correct your metabolism should increase your insulin sensitivity, raise your metabolic rate, burn belly fat, and increase your muscle mass. You also need to include exercises that stress and challenge your body to reclaim your mitochondria (energy plants.)
Any exercise increases insulin sensitivity, including brisk walking, jogging, running, cycling, and swimming. However, resistance training or weightlifting builds your lean muscle mass with maximum results.
You want to lose belly fat, as this is the fat that produces inflammatory cytokines that worsen your insulin sensitivity (response to insulin.)
Exercises that increase your muscle mass include push-ups, squats, lunges, resistance training using weights or gym machines, and high-intensity interval training (HIIT.)
Focus on monitoring your body composition – fat, muscle, and lean mass- rather than just your body weight. Increasing muscle mass and diminishing fat mass will reassure you that you are moving in the right direction, much more than just weight loss.
You also need to boost your vitality with exercises that improve agility, flexibility, balance, and coordination, to improve your quality of life, reverse ageing, and add years to your life and life to your years!
So, you see, my friends, exercise is a vital component of our fight against metabolic diseases and ageing. Yet this vital part of our healthy lives is easy to incorporate and enjoyable to perform. Once you start, you will notice the benefits, motivating you to continue. As always, please ask any questions in the Comment section below – and please subscribe to the newsletter so that you don’t miss further vital information. Thank you!
Energy requirements of the body