High Intensity Exercise
When it comes to exercise older people should start slow and progress with caution. It is important that they are gently assisted when trying to reach their maximum level of exertion. All bodies and minds need to exert themselves to their personal best; the feeling of physical excitement should not be exclusive to the young. All ages should experience this emotion, so let’s defy the ideas that limiting our actions should be limited by our age.
I used to take my father to a place near his home that had the most breathtaking view of the city. To get there we would have to park his car beneath the stairs and climb one hundred steps, where at the top, a panoramic scene of distant buildings and blue horizons awaited him.
After the first trip up the steps, it became our weekend ritual. We now go together and he runs them four times each Sunday and Monday mornings. At four hundred steps a day, our goal is to climb eight hundred steps each weekend. In a month we’ll strive to climb them five times each day. That will be four thousand steps a month.
My father is eighty years old.
More old than young in Canada
My father is an interesting statistic. Currently there are more seniors than children living in Canada. In 2016, the margin was very close, with children under 14 years old making up 16.6 percent of the population and seniors making up 16.9 percent.
With more people living longer lives today, doesn’t it make more sense to encourage them to lead healthier lives? Lives that will help slow down their aging cells? We can start with the elderly in our families.
A few years ago dad was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. That scared him. His doctor said it developed from the kind of life dad lived. He had to quickly make changes and at first, these changes were frustrating: Like the freedom to eat whatever he wanted to was taken away from him, and the necessity to start walking as exercise was forced upon him.
Although parts of his lifestyle changed for the better as a result, it was not enough. He still feels weak from limiting his diet, and his blood sugar levels fluctuate erratically. He is looking to increase his medication.
I am committed to take his exercise activity to the next level and see if this will help him instead.
The majority of people can agree that once you’re over 30, your body will show signs of slowing down. People over 40 will definitely feel more tired. People over 50 will show signs of age related illnesses and people over 60 will be struggling with devastating diseases.
Although some of these beliefs may be factual, what if I told you most beliefs can be challenged?
Aging is complicated but we can all agree that the longer we live, the more toxic our bodies become. Free radicals accumulate from the byproducts our cells release during many years of regenerating and duplicating. The longer we live, the more times our cells change and the more toxins we collect. This does not even include the environmental toxins we are exposed to. Toxins in our body end up affecting other cells and our immune system. This is why older people get sick more often.
But studies have shown that around 30 percent of aging is genetic, while 70 percent is environmental, and includes smoking, stress and chemotherapy.
Another reason we age is from the slowing down of cells duplicating.
After years of duplication, the cell’s natural life comes to an end the body will reach a level called senescence. This is when cells become damaged and cannot divide anymore. Part of the damaging happens when something called telomeres become short during cell’s years of division.
Short telomeres may be linked to the aging process
In 2009 something exciting happened. Three molecular biologists – Elizabeth Blackburn, Carol Greider and Jack Szostak – won the Nobel Peace Prize for decoding the nature of telomeres and for discovering an enzyme called telomerase that can replenish them.
Not too many people know about this so I will explain here. Telomeres are the small endings of our chromosomes which are inside our cells. These endings protect our chromosomes from dying. As we grow, cells duplicate and so do chromosomes–but telomeres do not. During duplication the size of telomeres get shorter and shorter until their size gets too small. When this happens the cell stops duplicating and renewing its body tissue. This results in the slowing down of growth, hence aging, and the increase of health risks. For example, the lack of new cells in the walls of our blood vessels can lead to hardened arteries, increasing the risk of a heart attack. This is how shortened telomeres may be connected to the aging process.
This short video talks about what telomeres are and how they are connected to aging:
In her book The Telomere Effect: A Revolutionary Approach to Living Younger, Healthier, Longer, Elizabeth cites numerous research on how lifestyle changes can affect the longevity of telomeres and our aging genes.
One of the lifestyle changes she mentions is adding high intensity exercises to your exercise regimen — just as I am doing with my father.
Why high intensity exercising?
My aim is to help my father control his diabetes. At his age having diabetes is dangerous. By slowing down the aging process, not only can he control his diabetes; there’s a possibility he could reverse it.
One study showed how high intensity exercises yielded longer telomeres in an elderly group of people that did high impact exercises than low impact exercises did in a similar group. I am hoping my dad will see happy results in his newly discovered challenging activity. There has also been some research done on the connection between type 2 diabetes and short telomeres.
Short spurts of exercises like running up steps, rowing, cycling or kickboxing recruits a higher number of muscle fibers to work because the whole body is engaged. The more muscle fibers are fired up at once, the more calories are burnt and the more oxygen is demanded to travel via blood to all the corners of the body and mind. This is highly beneficial for the heart, lowering blood pressure, awakening the mind, strengthening the bones and muscles and also improving coordination.
You see, my dad thought he could not do intense exercising because of his age. I now take him to the steps and push him past his comfort zone. As a martial arts instructor I know how to pull people out from their mental limitations with respect to their individuality. For example, when I first introduced my pops to the idea of adding a fourth rep to climbing the steps, he did not think it was possible. But with a little motivation, he did it and witnessed first hand that it was possible. Now he believes he can do it and possibly more in the future.
I will follow up on my father’s progress. Wish us good luck.
Still all new but very important
The connection between High impact exercises and telomeres is still new. I have been following it for a couple of years now. It is an ongoing journey and an interesting one because I find it amusing to be able to slow down age related diseases. Although many would rather not run up stairs, or run forty-five minutes a day, there have been other studies showing different life habits that may add to people’s longevity. It is nothing new. Along with intense exercising, avoiding mental stresses, eating wholesome foods and sleeping well also add to the tapestry of healthy living.
I will add this short video of a professor of theoretical physics named Michio Kaku and his opinion on keeping an open mind on the research done about longevity and better life habits.
“To be, or not to be?”
Health is a tricky topic. Many claim they have all the answers, and many more studies are being conducted. What can a person do? Well, for one thing a person should not ignore their health. This is self-sabotaging. Common sense tells us that indulging in excess alcohol, smoking and living a sedentary life will make us feel tired and stressed out.
Staying connected to the resources that fuel our minds with information on improving our lifestyle is part of being on the right path. It is an ongoing journey. It ebbs and flows and we too must be flexible. Healthy living is like being in a relationship with your mind and body. It requires trust, commitment and love.