Yes you have heard it before - exercise, exercise, and more exercise! Is it really that important? Why do I have to do it now? How much to do? What kind of exercise? What intensity?
If there is a magical pill for anti-aging, there is no doubt among leading researchers that exercise is it. Nothing comes closer to achieving anti-aging effects in our body as exercise. Researches over and over have shown that those who exercise consistently lives longer, happier, and get sick less often. The bottom line - do it or die!
From an anti-aging perspective, the real question is not whether to exercise but more importantly, what kind of exercise, how much, and how often. This is where the secret is. To know the details is what separates the master from the amateur.
Anti-aging exercises therefore consist of 3 separate components:
- Flexibility Training
- Cardiovascular Training
- Strength Training
Make no mistake about it! Each of the components is equally important. It is well known that aerobics is good for the heart. What is less well known but just as important is that flexibility training and strength training contributes as much to longevity as aerobics. As you read further on, you will come to a better understanding of the reason. Suffice to say at this point that any anti-aging exercise program must be individually tailored to meet your personal needs, based on your current physical conditions. As well, the program must include, in a balanced fashion, all three components mentioned above.
Let us now look at each of the three components in detail.
Inflexibility is an important component of physical deterioration and a critical element in any anti-aging exercise program. Often misunderstood and under-rated, most people go straight into an exercise program without warming-up the body and stretching the muscles. Many people choose not to take the time for stretching as they don't realize the great benefit of the well-balanced flexibility training program. Others simply don't know the safest and most effective ways of improving flexibility and achieving anti-aging results that comes with a solid flexibility program. You need to learn exactly how to include flexibility training and stretching into your busy schedule using no more than 5-10 minutes a day of your time.
Flexibility training is the foundation of any exercise program because it increases blood flow to the muscle. It also warms up the key muscles of our body and allows our body to be more pliable and less prone to injury. Stretching only takes 5-10 minutes a day. Think about it. The key to what you are trying to do is to have a healthy and active life. If you are injured, doesn't that defeat the purpose? A simple stretching exercise program before starting to exercise and during the cool-down period is therefore mandatory. The lesson is simple: do not embark in any aerobic program or weight-training program without first doing stretching exercises for your key muscle groups.
Flexibility training for anti-aging purposes encompasses comprehensive precision stretching of the 11 major muscle groups in your body. Your muscles are arranged in opposing muscle groups. While you are stretching one muscle, for example, the biceps, you are, at the same time, relaxing the opposing muscle group, the triceps. The concept and principle behind stretching is to increase blood flow to the muscles, starting with the major muscles with the biggest mass first. By allowing increased oxygenation and blood flow to the big muscle groups, excessive blood flow and the nourishment is carried on to the smaller muscle group.
The design of the flexibility training program is a simple routine encompassing precision stretching of 11 major muscle groups, starting from the major muscle groups and working to the small muscles. It is designed also to start at a relaxed sitting position and progressively work to a supine position, ending in an upright position where you will then be ready to start your aerobic training or weight training program. While there is no hard and fast rule that all the stretches must be done in a specific sequence, it is recommended especially for a beginner that you follow the sequence that is time tested. After you have done the routine several times, it is easy to remember and it becomes a part of you automatically. Regardless of what program or in what order you would like to follow, the important part is to stick to a particular routine so that you will not inadvertently miss any stretching for a particular exercise group.
Phase 1 - starts in a sitting position. Begin with the big muscles like the chest stretch where you stretch the pectoris.
After that, stretch the opposing upper back muscle, which is the latismus-dorsi muscles. Then stretch the shoulder muscles which are deltoids and trapezius.
Phase 2 - will take you to a laying down position where you work on first the lower back muscles (lumbar muscles). After the lumbar muscles, work on the opposing abdominal muscles (rectus abdominus). This is then followed by the anterior thigh muscles (quadriceps), followed by the opposing group of posterior thigh muscles (hamstrings). By this time, most of the large muscle mass is warmed up.
- Now proceed to a standing position and finish up with the smaller muscle such
as the calf muscles, anterior upper-forearm (biceps) as well as the posterior
Precision stretch routine should take about approximately 5-10 minutes, depending on how fast you do it. Please make sure to do it slowly and to allow full range of motion during each stretch. Critically important is to not forget to leave each muscle in its stretched position for 15-30 seconds at the end of each maximum stretch position. Also some find it relaxing and shake the same muscle loose after each stretch. You may wish to repeat the stretching as frequently as you wish until you feel that you have fully warmed up and your muscles are loose and relaxed, prior to moving on to any aerobic or weight training program. It is also highly suggested that between sets of weight lifting during the strength training program that you pick out the specific muscle that is going to undergo the weight training program and do before and after warm up and cool down stretches of those particular muscles as well. Since stretching does not involve resistance in weight and you are not concerned about building the size of the muscle, generally speaking stretching exercise routines do not change over time. There is no progressive development and advancement of the stretch other than to push yourself to the limit of the stretch which your body will tell you accordingly.
There are 3 basic techniques that are often used to increase flexibility:
ballistic stretching, proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF), and static stretching.
- Ballistic stretching
Ballistic stretching is often called dynamic stretching. Rapid bouncing motions are used to promote dynamic flexibility. This is often used in athletes training for competitive sports where it's important to promote dynamic flexibility by preparing the tissues for high speed activities such as that in archery or baseball.
- Proprioceptive neuromuscular
Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) was developed by physiotherapists for use of rehabilitation. This is more complicated and is not designed for general anti-aging purposes.
- Static stretching
Static stretching involves slow, gradual and controlled movement of the muscles to a full-range motion. After the muscle is stretched, it will be maintained in the comfortable and stretched position for 15-30 seconds. It is important that the stretching be done in such a way that the muscle can be extended as much as possible without pain and is held for anywhere from 15-30 seconds. This holding increases your blood flow and stretches the muscles as well, causing micro-trauma to the muscle fibers. The micro-trauma that allows the increased blood flow to warm up the muscles and to carry oxygen to the muscles which promotes healing.
Most anti-aging professionals as well as exercise physiologists agree that stretching should be done on a daily basis. It is especially effective in the morning, before exercises and after exercises. Since stretching is easy to do and it can be done without any equipment and in any place, it is something that anyone can do at any time of the day to relieve any tightness, muscle soreness created by stress or daily life. Stretching exercises can be done when in the subway, in the office, or in a restaurant.
Before embarking on any serious stretching, warm up the muscle groups by simply moving the muscle groups around. Warmed muscles are much more easily stretched than cold muscles and the muscle that is used is more pliable and has more ability to be stretched. You may notice that when you wake up in the morning, it is more difficult to stretch your muscles as compared to during the afternoon when you already have been using the same muscles for a period of time. Stretch before and after exercise. Do not proceed to aerobic exercise without stretchingStretching improves dynamic flexibility and decreases the chance of injury. Warming up with stretches before aerobic activity increases the performance of your muscle groups by increasing blood flow to the muscles. The increase in blood flow increases oxygen levels for nutrition as well as carrying away waste products of the aerobic activity during the course of exercise. It is equally important to stretch your muscles after any aerobic exercise. The reason is simple: during and after the exercise a lot of waste products are built up in the course to produce energy, drive the muscles and drive your body forward. These waste products need to be carried out of the blood stream into the detoxification centers where it is eliminated. Stretching of the muscles will allow the increase in blood flow to these muscles and facilitate this function.
Stretch before and after strength training exercises. A complete anti-aging exercise program incorporates a moderate strength-training program to increase lean body mass and strength. Strength training involves progressive resistance exercises, commonly using weights either in free form or through machines. Those of you who are currently lifting weights know that lifting weights is done in sets whereby you lift the desired weight through a series a number of times. 8-12 repetitions is the ideal numbers of repetitions for anti-aging purposes. After you have done these 8-12 times, your muscles are sore. The reason is because during the weight lifting activities, metabolism by-products such as lactic acid are built up. Stretching allows increased blood flow to carry away these waste metabolites and allow the muscles to regenerate more quickly. It is important to stretch each specific muscle between sets of strength training. It is equally important to stretch them before and after the strength-training program. A simple way to incorporate stretches into the weight-training program is to do an extra set at 30-40% of what you intended to lift as a preliminary warm-up set. After you finish one exercise group, go to another exercise group. There are 9 major exercise groups in the body and complete stretching of these 9 groups on a pre warm-up basis should not take more than 5-10 minutes. The benefits are immense and should not be undervalued.
Very simple stretches can be done anywhere, at any place without any equipment. You will find it simple and straightforward. Besides prescribed stretch exercises for individual muscles, you can consider general stretching exercises such as yoga, qigong, tai chi, and the various forms of martial arts warm up activities as a substitute. The key fact to remember is that while there is no one magic bullet and no holy grail in stretching, those who stretch, regardless of what form or modality, will benefit more than those who don't.
Flexibility Training And Age
It doesn't matter how old you are. You can benefit from flexibility training. In fact, the older you are, the more you should consider flexibility training not only once but sometimes 2-3 times a day. Researchers have shown that the greatest increase in flexibility occurs between the age of 6 and12 and levels as we grow older. Flexibility declines after age 25 due to the decrease in the diameter of the muscle fibers and the connective tissues associated with it. How active a person is also affects his or her flexibility. Those who are more active are generally more flexible than those who are not. Inactivity causes shortening and contraction of muscle fibers. You can see those who are inactive in the nursing homes generally end up with the muscle contraction that is beyond help. Regular stretching therefore reduces such contractures and is the key to increasing the functionality of your skeletal system and thus your longevity.Importance Of Combining Strength Training, Cardiovascular Training And Flexibility Into One Comprehensive Anti-Aging Exercise Program.
It should be obviously to you now that flexibility training is an integral and an important part in any anti-aging program. Flexibility training forms the foundation of the pyramid of any anti-aging exercise regimen. Flexibility training consists of stretches that can be easily done without any tools. It can be done at any place, at any time and without specific equipment.
Exercise No: S1
Muscle stretched: Pectoris Major and Minor
- Sit upright with shoulders back and chest out.
- Clasp your hands behind your buttocks.
- Slowly lift your hands up face upward from your body until they have reached their furthest comfortable position.
- Keep your chest out and your chin in without hunching over.
- Hold in this stretched position continuously for 15-30 seconds.
Exercise No: S2
Area: Upper Back Stretch
Muscle stretched: Latismus Dorsi
- Raise both arms up vertically to the sky.
- Grasped both hands together, palms facing the sky and parallel to the floor.
- Reach out and attempt to touch the palm of your hands to the sky until you feel a comfortable stretch in your upper back.
- Hold in the furthest comfortable stretched position for at least 15-30 seconds.
- Shake out the shoulders and return to relaxed position.
Exercise No: S3
Muscles: Deltoids, Trapezius
- Sit upright in a comfortable position.
- With your extended right hand, reach across your body. Your arm should touch your chest if possible.
- Put your left arm in front of the right arm. Push the right arm towards the chest.
- Turn your head towards the right.
- You should feel your right shoulder being stretched.
- Hold for 15-30 seconds at the maximum comfortable stretched position.
- Shake out the shoulders and return to relaxed position.
Exercise No: S4
Area: Low Back
- Lie on your back with your knees bent.
- Grasp your hands together and hold your shins firmly.
- Gently pull both knees toward your chest lifting your feet off the floor in the process. Try to touch the knees to your chest.
- Once you feel a comfortable stretch in your lower back, hold in this position for 15-30 seconds.
Note: If you have back pain or after prolong sitting, does this stretch whenever you get a chance. You may want to get a friend to put weight on your knees to help them reach your chest in the process if you desire more stretch.
Exercise No: S5
- Get down on your hands and knees, resembling a cat.
- Let your abdomen slowly drop down, allowing your lower back to bend downward and stretch. Hold in this position for 15-30 seconds.
- Next, slowly arch your back as much as possible and hold for at least 5 seconds.
- Now sit back on your heels with extended arms out straight. Hold again for 5-10 seconds.
Note: A well-done cat stretch takes a little while. Do not hurry for maximum effect.
Exercise No: S6
Muscles: Gluteus (also spine, hip, and lower back get stretched as side benefit)
- Sit on the floor with both legs extended directly in front of you.
- Bend your right leg over your left leg, keeping your right foot flat on the floor outside the left knee.
- Place your left elbow on the outside aspect of your right knee, and extend your right arm behind you with your palm flat on the floor for support.
- Slowly twist your upper body to the right while looking over your right shoulder simultaneously.
- Apply light pressure with your left elbow on the outside of your right knee as you twist. Be sure to keep your body upright at all times.
- Once you have reached a comfortable stretched position, hold it for 15-30 seconds.
- Switch to the other side and repeat.
Note: This is a wonderful stretch for the entire spinal column also.
Exercise No: S7
Area: Anterior Thigh
- Lie face down on a mat.
- Lift your right leg up towards your buttocks.
- Reach around with your right hand and grasp your foot.
- Slowly pull downwards, stretching your quadriceps to the furthest comfortable position.
- Hold in this position for 15-30 seconds.
Exercise No: S8
Area: Posterior Thigh
- Sit on a mat with legs straight ahead but spread apart.
- Extend your arms out in front of you and slowly lean over, trying to touch your chest to the mat as far as possible.
- Once you feel a comfortable stretched hamstring, hold this position for 15-30 seconds.
Exercise No: S9
Area: Front Upper Arm
Position: Standing or sitting
- Stand upright with your feet apart in comfortable position.
- Make a fist and put your right hand against a bar something you can hang onto. Your thumb should be touching the bar and your arm should be parallel to the floor.
- Slowly turn away from the bar until you feel a comfortable stretch in your biceps.
- Hold this position for at least 15-30 seconds.
Exercise No: S10
Area: Back Upper Arm
Position: Standing or sitting
- Stand or sit, with shoulders back and chest out.
- Raise your arm overhead, with your elbow bent and your upper arm in a vertical position.
- Keeping this position, grasp the right hand with your left hand and pull your right hand down. If you cannot reach your right hand, you may want to hold a towel with your right hand so that the left hand can hold onto the towel instead as an extension of your right hand. Sustain this until you feel a comfortable stretch of your triceps.
- Hold this position for 15-30 seconds.
- Repeat stretch for other arm.
Exercise No: S11
- Put the sole of the top half of your right foot against the wall. Slide your right heel as close towards the wall as possible.
- Slowly lean forward towards the wall, stretching your calves.
- Once you have stretched your calf to the furthest comfortable position, hold for 15-30 seconds.
- Switch legs and repeats.
Note: If you plan to do cardiovascular exercise involving the legs, repeat this stretch as frequently as possible to increased blood flow to the lower extremities.
You should now have better understanding of the importance of stretching and flexibility training. No anti-aging exercise program is complete without stretching and this cannot be over-emphasized. Regardless of how much knowledge you have, no knowledge can turn to action until you do it. Take action now to incorporate that as part of your regular exercise routine on a daily basis.