Up until recently, there has been an expectation about what aging looks like. The idea that we must lose function and mobility as we age was taken lying down.
A growing number of aging adults have decided that they don’t want to slow down with age. They want to stay active, fit, and strong, and enjoy the activities of their choice. They don’t want to give in to the “inevitable” cycle of aging and decay.
Put simply, there is a growth signal and decay signal in your body. When you are young, the growth signal dominates. Somewhere around your mid-thirties to early forties, the signal begins to shift to one of decay. You may notice that your body shape begins to change, you aren’t as strong, or you just don’t have the ‘get-up-and-go’ that you used to. In their new book, Younger Next Year: The Exercise Program Chris Crowley and Henry Lodge, MD have outlined a program that can keep your body in the coveted growth cycle. Their basic premise is that how we live directly affects the signals our body responds to.
The idea that Crowley and Lodge put forth is that, with intense enough exercise, you can damage your muscles just enough to signal them to grow. They stress the importance of being active six days per week for 45 minutes to one hour, with two of those days involving strength training. Their premise is that by activating your body’s inflammation response almost daily, you also activate it’s repair response, creating growth, which ultimately makes you stronger.
The protocol they lay out has you starting with a visit to your doctor to determine if you are healthy enough to begin a program. Though seemingly rote, it’s a sound place to begin.
Once you’re given the green light by your doctor, they suggest starting slowly, beginning with a warm up, and doing some kind of aerobic exercise, your choice, at a moderate intensity, for 15-20 minutes, depending on your starting level of fitness. They stress that working up to an hour will create the chemistry in your body that favors growth signals.
Each workout should begin with a warm-up, which they outline in detail, and includes movements that engage your core and work to increase mobility and blood flow to the joints of your body. The warm-up is meant to get you ready to move, in all planes, with as much range of motion as possible.
Strength training, which Crowley and Lodge suggest twice per week is a crucial component in maintaining a high quality of life. The suggested series, designed by Bill Fabrocini, PT, includes full body moves intended to strengthen your muscles, and also challenge your core and balance. Ultimately, they suggest challenging your muscles enough so that the last couple of repetitions feel like you couldn’t do another. That, they say, is the magic point where your chemistry gets altered the signals for growth and repair flood your body.
Their ode to strength training includes four main points:
- It makes you stronger, in essence battling the loss of muscle mass which will happen unless you get lifting.
- It helps your bones regenerate. Stressing your muscles stresses your bones, which triggers bone building.
- It keeps you balanced and coordinated. Loss of balance is a big deal as you age, putting you at risk for falls, and general loss of functional movement. Challenging your muscles and your balance simultaneously will keep you from going down this slippery slope.
- It keeps pain at bay. The aches and pains that come with aging can be warded off with strength training. You may be sore from your workout, but you might learn to call it a “good kind of sore”.
Throughout the book, the authors maintain the importance of getting the guidance of trainer if needed to ensure correct form, and not pretending that you are trying to get ‘younger tomorrow’. They insist that it’s the cumulative effect of consistent exercise that will bring the profound benefits of being “Younger Next Year”. It’s enough to make you want to get up off the couch and start moving.