About Fifteen years ago, when I was then older than most of you readers are today, my doctor gave me three keys to a long and healthy life:
- Pick your parents
- Take a baby aspirin every day
- Exercise every day that ends in “y”
If you’re reading this then you can eliminate directive number as no one gets to select the DNA they are born with. Obviously, your chromosomal makeup plays a vital role in who you are physically and mentally. Your genes determine your eye and hair color, your body type, height, I.Q. blood type, susceptibility or resistance to certain ailments or diseases and thousands of other features that make you unique. You may have “good genes” that bless you with good health or you may have inherited a body type that is less than athletic or an immune system that is not as robust as the average person.
However, you can control your what you do with the body and mind that was given to you at birth. At age 67, I have tried to adhere to items two and three above. If you are a male over 50 or a female over 60, being on an 81mg daily aspirin regimen may have long term health benefits for you. It has been shown to reduce the chance of heart attack or stroke. Check with your doctor to determine if an aspirin regimen might be good for you.
Did you have to stop and think about number three for a second? Of course, every day of the week ends in “Y” therefore the directive is to exercise every day. I can’t say that I have been as diligent with this directive as number two but most would agree that it is a good idea. Does that mean 2-3 hours in the gym every day? No, but the literature shows that as little as 15-20 minutes of movement/day is beneficial to your cardiovascular and neuromuscular systems and therefore to your quality of life.
So here are my top five directives or methods for staying fit, living longer and healthier.
- Resistance Training
- Get lean/stay lean
- Play more on the Floor
- Take the stairs/walk whenever and wherever you can
- Exercise your mind
We will cover each in a five-part series. Starting here with Resistance Training.
With a background in football coaching and competitive powerlifting, I am, of course, an advocate of progressive resistance training. Benefits: Progressive resistance training (increasing volume or weight over time) has been proven to not only strengthen muscle, but also to increase bone density and reduce the incidence of osteoporosis in mature adults. In addition, increasing lean body mass (defined as body weight -your body’s fat in lbs.), improves your metabolic rate as muscle burns calories at rest faster than fat so you get a “boost” over your previous less lean body. That’s right, a fit person will burn more calories watching a football game than his less fit “couch potato” neighbor doing the same activity.
Furthermore, a solid program of resistance training will result in a metamorphosis in your body that is visible to you and others. You will receive compliments from your significant other, friends and relatives. Comments such as ‘have you been working out?’, ‘you look like you lost weight’ and ‘you look different, did you cut your hair or something?’ will become commonplace. Those comments will boost your confidence, put pep in your step and encourage you to continue with your training regimen. So not only will you experience physiological benefits, but psychological as well. Improved self-esteem is a key benefit of regular physical activity. This improvement in self-esteem will carry over to your personal and business life likely resulting in improvement your relationships and your professional career.
Sound good? How do I get started? The biggest barrier to starting an exercise program for most people is taking that first step. Lack of knowledge and self-confidence (aka fear) stand in the way of people getting into the gym. So here are some tips to help:
- Before walking into a gym (preferably one located near your home or work for convenience purposes), call and discuss your goals with the gym owner and/or the head trainer/coach. I have seen many people come into the Lab “cold turkey”, look around and never come back as they are intimidated by the sight of the already fit people training there. Whether you are a beginner, a weekend warrior, or someone who has started and stopped a training routine over the years, invest in yourself by hiring a qualified trainer who can help you become familiar with the equipment, the exercises and a program customized to your particular needs.
Give yourself a solid six weeks to begin to seeing results (you will not be bigger, stronger or faster after just a few training sessions). Make a commitment to yourself that you can keep for six weeks. That is only a .0014 percent of your lifetime—you can do that!
- As you progress with your trainer and are ready to move forward on your own, find a buddy that has similar goals as yourself with whom to train. Having a buddy or training partner makes your training session more fun, less burdensome and more motivating (it’s the competition in all of us). Hold each other accountable for making each workout and to complete all your reps and sets.
- Keep a training log. Write down your workout and keep track of your work and your gains. It is extremely important to know where you left off from week to week and day to day. The reason it is called progressive resistance is that you must gradually increase the resistance (weight) on the bar to effect change in the musculoskeletal system. In today’s world of high stress and bombardment of stimuli from work, family, electronic media a mature athlete should not rely on memory to recall what last week’s set, reps and weight was for each exercise. In addition, by recording your work you will be able to look back and see your gains which will add to your self-confidence and increase the likelihood of you making a lifestyle change to become a regular gym attendee.
So what are you waiting for? Get off the couch and take the first step to a longer and healthier life by beginning progressive resistance training today!