At some point in our lives, maybe in our 30's, a shift happens. Most People start thinking about exercise from the perspective of seeking the type and volume of exercise that provides the most long term benefits rather than instant gratification. Simply put, most of us age 30+ exercise because we want to increase both the quality and quantity of our later years. The focus is less about weight loss (unless truly warranted) and more about keeping our joints, muscles and brain as young as possible.
The truth is, when you see someone who's in their 80's, 90's or even 100's looking spry and you think to yourself, "I hope I look, move, and feel that good when I'm their age." That person was likely not setting power lifting records in the gym in their younger years or playing professional contact sports. Why? Because those sports beat your body up and the curve of where exercise benefits your body begins it's downward slump before that intensity and consistency of physical activity is reached.
This begs the question, "how much, what type and what intensity is most likely to increase both the quality and quantity years ahead of you?" The answer is, "it depends." It depends on an individuals current training status, body composition and a myriad of lifestyle factors. That said, there are a couple things we know for sure (when I say we, I mean academics and my anecdotal experience being an athlete and working with clients over the last 10 years).
1. Walk more, sit and drive less. Blue Zones has complied an impressive amount of research regarding longevity and lifestyle factors. This article highlights and supports the concept of urban planning and how living in a walk-able community can increase your longevity and reduce your risk for heart disease.
2. Commit to move your body everyday. Even if it's just 10 minutes of walking or stretching the increase in blood flow (vasodilation). Just setting your attention on your body begins to cements the habit into your life. You're not someone trying to exercise, you are someone who exercises. You have to own the identity you're striving for. Founder of Brightline Eating, Susan Pierce Thompson Phd, does an excellent job in explaining the importance of how you talk about yourself and the impact it has on your ability to adhere to any plans you may have for your life.
3. Variety is key. Mix up your exercise routine. Include many different movements, in multiple planes of motion. Avoid doing repetitive actions (ie: running, swimming cycles) unless complemented by a variety of other movement. Those who only swim, only run or only do repetitive movement are prone for overuse injuries and muscular imbalances. Additionally, learning new movements under varying loads increases neural pathways and some studies show it can decrease the age of your brain and increase brain plasticity.
4. Do something you enjoy. Exerciser have the highest rate of adherence when they're preforming an exercise modality they enjoy or the company they're exercising with. The buddy system works great here, but know enough about yourself to identity if you're seeking solitude during your workout.
5. Moderation is key. To experience the most benefits from exercise don't under or over do it. Do intense (if ok by your doctor) sometimes, do moderate exercise frequently and do low intensity exercise a lot. You might find yourself on either end of the curve above,but hopefully it's temporary and then you can get right back to middle and your goal of increasing the quality and quantity of the years ahead of you.
Live long, feel well and be deliberate about your exercise and nutrition. Your future self will thank you.