Different Exercises to Achieve Different Things
From Chris Crowley, creator and co-author of the New York Times bestselling Younger Next Year books.
Okay, we’re still laying down the heavy timbers. Here is a second set of basic points you’ll want to keep in mind as you take up the FITFOREVER regimen: You truly need to do two kinds of exercises – aerobics and strength training – which do very different things for you. You may prefer one or the other; doesn’t matter. You have to do both. Sorry.
Aerobics, for which there are far fewer sessions on FITFOREVER because it is simpler than strength training – is as close as you’re going to come to a Magic Bullet in this life. Aerobics is exercise which focuses on your circulatory and respiratory systems, like running, biking, hiking or using the elliptical machine. We’re talking exercise that raises your heart rate and keeps it up for a longish stretch. You sweat, you pant a little … you can talk but it’s a bit difficult.
And here’s the point: aerobic exercise is the key to good health.
It keeps you moving, which arguably is your single most important trait, as a human being. It improves your “aerobic base” which gives you greater endurance. Lets you climb the stairs, ski the bumps at 85 (like me, by heaven), walk for miles and so on. We are designed to move.
Aerobics is also the key to reducing your risk of all those diseases we talked about by a whopping 50% – heart attacks, strokes, adult-onset diabetes, most cancers and Alzheimer’s. Very, very important. That’s why you should do aerobics faithfully three or four days a week, for 45 minutes to an hour, until the day you die.
If aerobics goes to health and fitness, strength training goes to quality of life and fitness. Think all the time about “SARCOPENIA”. That’s the program that’s built into your body (for nutty, Darwinian reasons that are utterly heedless of what’s best for us as individuals) that dictates that you lose 10% of your muscle mass a decade from the time you turn 30 … and especially after 40 or 50. That means that by the time you’re my age, you will have lost half your muscle mass. And that is very bad indeed.
Are you familiar with the term frail elderly?
That’s what gerontologists call poor old buzzards who basically can’t take care of themselves. They can’t walk a city block; stairs are like mountain ranges, getting out of a chair or off the john is a group effort (very nasty) … all because you’re so damn weak.
Which is to say you become a hideous, broken-down old wreck and your life is pretty much not worth living. Oh, and don’t forget, you’re probably getting Alzheimer’s at the same time. So you’re really a mess. Sit in the corner and drool … no one wants to play with you. You don’t smell nice. While all that is happening, you’re also losing bone mass at about the same clip (making you a prime target for falls with broken hips and such). And you lose balance, coordination and proprioception (your sense of where you are in space). Oh, and don’t forget, you risk for Alzheimer’s increases at the same time.
Separately, strength training also reduces your risk of falls and other accidents by 50%.
Which is hugely important. If you keep your legs strong – your quads, your glutes and your ham strings – your risk of a fall (or of getting seriously hurt in a fall) are reduced by half. Your quads are the shock absorbers of your body. Instead of falling down like a bag of trash, you catch your balance. Or, if you do fall, you fall in a sane way … are much less likely to break something. Especially your hip. Old boys and girls break their hips all the time and it is not a great idea. 50% of the elderly who break a hip never walk unaided again: it’s the cane, the walker and the chair. And 20% are DEAD within a year. Don’t want to fall down, man. Stay strong.
And this doesn’t just happen to drug addicts and fools. It happens to everyone who doesn’t get Younger Next Year and doesn’t follow the FITFOREVER strength regimen. But for them, the news is truly amazing: If you do serious strength exercise (à la FITFOREVER) you can skip most of that horrible stuff and be your own sweet self, almost to the end of life. And strength training can accomplish it with the investment of a mere two or three workouts a week, if you do it right … if you follow the FITFOREVER guidance. Think that’s worth it? Oh, my!
Hate to be so scary, but those threats are very, very real. And it is worth almost anything to avoid them. It is certainly worth taking the time and developing the resolve to have and live a serious strength regimen. Which, astonishingly, turns out to be rather fun, after a while. Okay, fun is strong. But it’s not that hard and it feels good. So do it.