Thankfully, our attitudes and expectations of ageing have changed significantly over time. It would have been considered ludicrous for an 80, 70 or even 60 years old to run a marathon before. Now, it’s considered very doable. I am testament to that fact.
When I was nursing back in the 70’s, it was believed that the brain had very little capacity to change once we reached adulthood. As we aged, our brains became less and less able to adapt to interactions with our environments.
We now know that the brain has an incredible capacity for change over a person’s lifetime, and this is called neuroplasticity.
The fact that the brain is able to grow and regenerate means our cognitive and physical capacities can expand and thrive, even in our later years.
Several neurological health studies have demonstrated dramatic physical and mental gains in older adults who commit to a progressive activity schedule.
With these exciting discoveries, you can challenge any restricting assumptions that keep you from being physically and mentally active.
One really positive and motivating way to think about exercise is that it produces many physiological adaptations that are the opposite to the effects of ageing on our bodies. Even up to the 9th decade of life.
The Australian government Health Department specifies that 150-300 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity or 75-150 minutes of vigorous intensity physical activity, is required for good health and well-being.
The guidelines also recommend that adults aged 18-64 years do muscle strengthening activities on at least 2 days per week.
Exercise has many benefits for our health and well-being.
Australia’s physical activity and sedentary behavior guidelines says:
“Move more, sit less everyday.”
I heard a doctor say recently: “Sitting is the new smoking.”
So, what are the benefits?
Aerobic exercise (Cardio):
- improves your aerobic fitness and endurance
- reduces your risk of, and helps manage cardiovascular disease (CVD)
- reduces your risk of, and helps manage type 2 diabetes
- maintains &/or improves your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar -levels
- reduces your risk of, and assists with rehabilitation from some cancers
- helps prevent unhealthy weight gain and assists with weight loss
- builds muscle strength and endurance, and bone mineral density
- improves joint health
- promotes psychological well-being (reduces anxiety and depression)
- increases endorphins, which significantly lift mood
- enhances connections between brain cells (neurons)
- creates opportunities for socializing and meeting new people
- helps you develop and maintain overall physical and mental well-being
- experience more energy and less tiredness
Resistance training (weight training with body weight, weights &/or machines):
- improves white matter, which leads to better cognitive abilities, including attention
- improves the health of arteries throughout the body
- reduces levels of atherosclerosis, which can impede the flow of blood with it’s essential nutrients and oxygen
changes blood chemistry, so as to limit the inflammatory process (chronic inflammation can occur with high blood glucose, persistent stress, and other unhealthy lifestyle choices, resulting in tissue damage. The body actually attacks itself with chronic inflammation).
Flexibility and Balance Training:
- improves posture, mobility and balance
- reduces the risk of falls and injury
- helps maintain your ability to perform everyday tasks.
The goal is to find activities that keep you moving, challenge your brain, and make you happier in the process.
So, with all these amazing benefits, there are still many people who don’t exercise.
A recent Australian bureau of statistics national health survey revealed, that only 44.4% of 18-64 years old exercised sufficiently , that is, 150 minutes or more in the last week. 36% were classed as insufficiently active, and 20% inactive.
In addition, only 15.0% of the sufficiently active 18-65 participants met both the physical activity and resistance training, muscle toning recommendations.
69.6% of 18-64 years old did not conduct any muscle strength or toning activities.
For most of us, levels of physical activity decline as we get older. Adults aged 65 years and over are recommended to participate in 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on most, preferably all days.
Whilst three quarters of adults aged 65 years and over engaged in some type of exercise in the last week, only 26% of older adults met the above recommendations for older adults.
We all have our particular excuses why we don’t engage in healthy lifestyle choices. The most common excuses for not exercising are:
- a lack of time
- expense of gym membership or dislike of gyms
- lack of motivation to exercise
- getting bored easily
- being unfit, too old, too fat, uncoordinated or embarrassed to exercise
not being able to stick to a program
discomfort sweating too much
It’s also important to know that some of our habits are so ingrained, we don’t realize we’re doing them. We just do them without much effort or willpower.
This is good news when we wish to maintain healthy lifestyle habits long- term, without much mental effort.
Unfortunately, this also follows with unhealthy lifestyle habits, like not exercising or eating too much of the wrong foods. We keep doing the same unhealthy things without much awareness.
Those unhealthy habits that are so easy to perpetuate, can then be so difficult to change.
The entrenched nature of some habits is one of the reasons it can be really challenging to create new healthy habits.
So, we need to find ways of challenging what we are doing and being open to look for something better.
Establishing good habits, as well as continued success, involves both learning and participation in healthy behaviors.
It can take around 5-6 weeks, even longer to form a new habit.
To create new healthy habits we need to be mindful of a number of things:
- Set both short and long-term goals
- Write SMART goals – which are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-based.
- Set yourself up for success- good planning, doable small incremental steps, involve your friends
- Keep track of and reward yourself for your achievements
- Be kind to yourself with setbacks
The Fit Tone Flex program delivers built-in strategies to help you cultivate the motivation required for new healthy exercise habits. You will learn a range of effective strategies to implement into your life, and create new exercise habits that will stand the test of time.
A lot has changed in the exercise area over the last 15 years.
Traditionally, it was thought that we had to spend hours exercising in the gym or running for long distances. Advanced recent understanding has led to exercise programs that combine strength training and cardio in significantly less time. These range for programs involving short bursts of high intensity exercise with limited rests, called HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) to less intense ones that are around 30-45 minutes of moderate exercise, for instance, circuit training, Tabata (cycles of 20 seconds moderate exercise/10 seconds rest), F-45, Body Attack, and boot camp.
While HIIT has been shown to deliver impressive results in reduction of body fat, aerobic fitness, strength, as well as significant improvements in brain and cardio-vascular health, even with older individuals, it’s not for everyone. Physical injuries may preclude some people from this form of exercise. Also, some report that the intense burst of effort feels uncomfortable and even unpleasant, thereby affecting ongoing motivation.
This is where the less intense exercise programs like circuit training or Tabata are beneficial.They encompass the latest scientific findings that the best form of exercise, especially as we age, combines sets that challenge the body in different ways: aerobically, strength, balance, agility, flexibility and range of motion, without the inherent demotivating experiences of pushing the body to its absolute limits.
One thing that strikes me as really important is that we now have many options for how we choose to exercise. I feel we need to find the one that we like and that works for us; whether it’s going for a jog, a brisk walk with the dog then resistance training at the gym, doing HIIT classes or circuit training, or maybe a Body Attack class.
Because the only effective exercise program is the one we do consistently.
Furthermore, the effects of exercise are cumulative, so every time we move in a way that elevates our heart rate and works our muscles, we are working towards changing our overall health and well-being.
The Fit Tone Flex program delivers a premium exercise package that draws on current exercise research findings. The exercise component of Fit Tone Flex involves:
- various safe and effective moderate range cardio-based exercises, designed for a range of abilities and fitness levels
- resistance training activities, using light weights or our own body weight
- muscle activation techniques designed to enhance the muscle-mind connection (see further details below)
- different stretching and flexibility movements, as well as balance exercises
Measuring exercise intensity.
There are various ways to measure exercise intensity.
The most common method is heart rate monitoring. Heart rate is a good indication of our oxygen consumption (VO2), which is the best measure of energy expenditure and exercise intensity. There are two methods. One is the percentage of maximal heart rate.This determines a target heart rate range by calculating percentages of maximal heart rate. A prediction formula is used, such as 220 minus age.
The heart rate reserve gives an even better target heart rate by determining the heart rate training zone- how hard one wishes to train, eg, 55% to 65% or 70% to 85% of maximal heart rate. Thank fully, we now have digital devices that an calculate and monitor heart rate training zones for us.
I like to keep it really uncomplicated myself ad use the talk test, which monitors breathing during exercise. The idea here is to maintain exercise intensity to a point where you can say 3–5 words per breath and hold a comfortable conversation. This is a user friendly method as it applies to individuals of all ages and fitness levels and tells us how hard we’re working so we can adjust the intensity as required.
As a rule of thumb;
- If someone can talk and sing without puffing at all, they’re exercising at a low level
- If they can comfortably talk, but not sing, they’re doing moderate intensity activity
- If they can’t say more than a few words without gasping for breath, they’re exercising at a high intensity
The other method is rate of perceived exertion (RPE) This is a subjective measure of how hard a person feels their body is working.
The Borg Modified Scale 1-10 is used for this purpose.
0.5- very, very light
1- very light
4- somewhat hard
6-7 very hard
8-9 very, very hard