How it works
Each of our cells contains a nucleus, and in that nucleus there are chromosomes. Each chromosome is made up of DNA and genes.
Telomeres are the protective caps found on the ends of the chromosomes, and affect how quickly cells age. They are combinations of DNA and protein, and help the chromosomes to remain stable. As they shorten, so their structural integrity weakens, and the cells age and die quicker. Research shows that shorter telomeres have been associated with a wide range of age-related diseases, including some forms of cancer, stroke, vascular dementia, cardiovascular disease, obesity, osteoporosis and diabetes.
A study conducted by scientists at UC San Francisco (UCSF), in conjunction with the Preventive Medicine Research Institute (a non-profit public research institute in Sausalito, California), indicated the effect of diet and lifestyle choices on health and disease. Lead researcher Dr Dean Ornish, UCSF clinical professor of medicine, founder and president of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute, explains: “Our genes, our telomeres, are not necessarily our fate.” He was quoted as saying: “So often people think, ‘Oh, I have bad genes; there is nothing I can do about it.’ But these findings indicate that telomeres may lengthen to the degree that people change how they live. Research indicates that longer telomeres are associated with fewer illnesses and longer life.”
Time to exercise
“Age causes a loss of lean body mass, muscular strength, vital capacity, certain hormones and the ability to regulate blood sugar. It is also linked to an increase in body fat, insulin levels and stress hormones. Exercise reduces the effects of all of these,” says Robyn Browsky, personal trainer and owner of CoreFit Pilates in Sea Point, Cape Town.
Both Gouveia and Borowsky agree that the perfect age-combating workout should combine strength, cardio and stretch components.
“Your best age-defying workout would be a combination of light weight training, cardiovascular training, and stretching and relaxation exercises, such as yoga and pilates,” suggests Gouveia.
Borowsky believes that as men and women age, they desire to target specific areas associated with youth. “They want to tone up their arms, particularly the triceps, as well as flatten their abs.” She recomme[ppnds doing more core strength work. “Our shoulders and spine are prone to curl the more our bone density decreases. That’s why weight-bearing exercises are brilliant, under supervision of course.” A lecture by Dr Keijo Häkkinen, entitled The aging neuromuscular system in men and women still responds to strength training, delivered at the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) National Conference in the USA in 2011, revealed that older females “seem to be able to gain strength to about the same extent as middle-aged or young adults when using a similar type of low-volume, total-body strength-training protocol”.
Similarly, in their research, entitled The impact of metabolic stress on hormonal responses and muscular adaptations, Dr Kasushinge Goto and his colleagues discovered that in order to produce the anabolic hormones that can effectively delay aging, it is important to create a necessary stimulus incorporating the “load, performance, anaerobic endurance and anaerobic power phases of training”. They further discovered that high-intensity interval training provides the perfect anti-aging stimulus through “enhanced metabolic stress”.
For best results, do the anti-aging workout two to three times a week. This should be alternated with yoga orpilates sessions of around 45 to 60 minutes, as well as cardiorespiratory training. It is important to remember that although many women may be uncomfortable with weight training, it is necessary to produce the age-defying benefits that go hand in hand with exercise.
Note: Progression and injury prevention is key. Due to the high-intensity nature of this workout, adequate rest is essential. Feel free to take a day or two off every alternate week to allow the body to recover.
A new trend known as active aging, or pro-aging, is an empowered, holistic approach to aging that includes mental, nutritional and physical aspects.
Research indicates that, over time, the pool of muscle cells that an individual has steadily decreases; however, with regular exercise, it appears that the pool of muscle cells increases and therefore muscle is regenerated. In short, exercise has been shown to lengthen telomeres and therefore slow down the aging process.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit,” is the wisdom we gained from Aristotle. If we take the effect of exercise into consideration, it seems that those who exercise regularly will be younger than their given age. We can combat the signs of aging and start to turn back the clock at any point.
“Starting at about the age of 40, your metabolism slows by roughly 5% each decade. This can be halved by a healthy lifestyle,” explains exercise scientist and Sweat 1000 manager Monique Gouveia. She believes that proper nutrition is your first line of defence, and suggests that sufficient hydration (consuming at least 1,5 to 2L of water per day) can drastically impede the effects of aging. Developing a combination of healthy habits, such as participating in regular physical activities, eating a well-balanced diet, ensuring adequate hydration and maintaining effective sleep patterns, will stand you in good stead for reducing your risk of developing many age-related diseases, she says.
Your years-off workout plan
Take 10 years off with this age-defying workout
Training: Cardio warm up
Monday: Active warm-up
Tuesday: Cardio session
Wednesday: Active warm-up
Thursday: Cardio session
Friday: Active warm-up
Saturday: Light cardio
There has been one consistent compliment I’ve come to associate with my weight-loss transformation: people seem to think I’m younger than I am. This is fantastic news. So what is the elixir? Well, apart from good nutrition, an overwhelming amount of evidence suggests that exercise can actually turn back the clock.
Studies show that regular exercise positively affects our minds and our bodies, and not only does a workout produce that emotional and physical “feel good” factor, it can literally slow the aging process right down to the cellular level.
The training programme was designed by Monique Gouveia and Robyn Borowsky, to be used three to four times a week with a rest day in between, in order to improve fitness for high-intensity interval training.
After three weeks the training programme can include more high- intensity interval sessions.
Weights: Eight repetitions can be performed with correct form. If the 8th rep seems easy to reach, add more weight, ensuring proper form. If difficult, reduce the weight.
The focus in the yoga or pilates sessions is to creates a strength core and develop flexibility, therefore reversing the aging effects of reduced range of motion. Inversions such as downward dog, head stands and shoulder stands literally reverse the effects of gravity!