Dr. Alex Lief of Harvard Medical School believes that exercise is the closest thing that humans have to an anti-aging pill. There are two types of aging – one is chronological aging, the number of years you have been alive and the other is biological aging or your body’s physical age.

A former president of the American geriatrics society, Dr Bortz did a review paper for the The Journal of the American medical association titled “Disuse and Aging” in which he points out that if you compile two lists, one for all the changes that take place in the body due to time and another for all the changes that occur due to inactivity, you will see two very similar lists.

These changes include things like bone density, muscle mass, body fat levels, blood pressure, cholesterol, sleeping habits, mental alertness and cognitive abilities, sexual performance as well as overall mood and vitality.

We cannot stop the inevitability of aging, but it is how we get older that is important.

A case in point is a gentleman by the name of Ron Broedelet who works out regularly at my fitness centre at the “Castle” in Beacon Bay. Ron is the “tender age” of 86, but when you see him train and the amount of weight and intensity he moves at, you can only be inspired. I personally have adopted Ron as my role model for my way forward in the years to come.

He runs on the treadmill, does hanging leg raises, dead lifts up to 140-150/kgs and keeps us entertained with second world war stories. In one word “awesome”.

It has now been determined via research on aging that you can be up to 30 years younger than your chronological age in biological terms. Many people believe that they get enough exercise through activities they undergo daily like gardening. This type of activity is most certainly better than being completely sedentary however it falls way short of the benefits of actual fitness related workouts. According to gerontologists, when we reach the age of 50, the need for fitness becomes more crucial because of the physiological changes that are taking place within the body.

It is false to believe that we become more fragile as we age if Wolf’s Law is anything to go by. It states: “The robustness of a bone is in direct relation to the physical forces applied to that bone”.

I have another client that recently went for a bone density test. She is in her 50s, exercises regularly and has a bone density of a 30-year-old. She does a combination of resistance and cardiovascular training, reflecting a cardio respiratory status of elite. No chance of osteoporosis here. Talk about quality of life!

Aging affects all bodily systems, yet its effects can be stalled and even reversed in many cases. Dr Bortz wrote in his book titled, “We live too short and die too long”, that almost everything we have been taught about aging is wrong. We now know that a very fit body of 70 can be the same as a moderately fit body of 30.

Before starting a training schedule designed for the elderly, medical clearance should be obtained with a detailed referral from a properly qualified fitness professional detailing the frequency, intensity, type and duration of exercises that are planned.

Declare all medications and ailments to avoid pitfalls, then begin on the guided tour back to active living and the road to many more productive and happy years.

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