Sports scientist Dr James Timmons says activity is the key to a good quality of life for the future.
But the exercise expert insists we need to start today if we want to age well, no matter how young or busy we are.
Today he wants to give Irish Mirror readers an exercise prescription that aims to match life to life.
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His ‘exercise as medicine’ program comes after boxing legend Barry McGuigan said yesterday that staying in shape is the secret to staying young in your 60s.
McGuigan thinks, “Fitness should be the standard for the course.”
Dr. Timmons agrees, recommending it as part of our daily lives.
He said: “We age from the minute we are born, but it accelerates from around the age of 30.
“From then on, muscle cells, tissues and bones begin to age. There is a slight decline in muscle mass from year to year from this age.
“Between 30 and 50 is a very stressful and hectic time – we are raising children and there is work stress and lack of sleep
“It is a critical time slot in life and yet its pressures are not conducive to a healthy lifestyle.
“You have to take the reins and say to yourself: ‘I’m going to take the time in my day to move.’
“If you can build a consistent habit of physical activity from age 30, you can maintain muscle mass and strength well into your 80s.
“If you do nothing and become sedentary, the risk factors for diseases associated with aging become higher. All of that may not matter when you’re 30. But if sedentary habits continue, it counts when you’re 60, 70, or 80.
“If you have less muscle mass, you are weaker and more likely to fall. If you fall, you’re more likely to break something. If you break something, you’re more likely to move less, and if you move less, you’re more likely to die.
” It’s reality. On the other hand, if you increase your muscle mass, it has benefits in terms of strength, function and balance.
Turning 40 is another health milestone: “I’m 41. When you reach your forties, it’s a key moment. Which direction do you choose to go? One way or another?”
As an academic, Dr. Timmons has published extensive international research on how sedentary behavior is a powerful risk factor for chronic disease and disability.
He founded the Age Well Fitness online exercise programs and has a particular interest in exercise adherence and maintenance for the older generation.
There are clinical benefits to appropriate exercise with no upper age limit and he believes there are “no excuses”.
He adds: “Genetics play a role in how you age, but we know from twin studies that 80% is lifestyle related. Only about 20% is genetic. It is a key factor.
He found that a mix of strength training and cardiovascular training gives the most effective results.
Dr Timmons says: “It’s all about movement – but there are many different ways to move. There are two components to aging well when it comes to activity.
“One of the most important is cardiovascular. Physical fitness is important because cardiovascular disease is still one of the biggest killers.
“Cardio is anything that gets your heart rate up. Walking, running, rowing, cross-training, cycling. It raises your heart rate above a certain level and kicks the cardio. Even dancing is a fun way to do cardio.
“It’s often underestimated in the fitness industry where the focus is on aesthetics. But it’s extremely important for your heart muscle.
He says it also has wellness benefits as it generally involves fresh air and head space and helps with mental focus and cognitive function.
“As you age, your memory may decline, but fitness due to blood flow to the brain can help.”
Strength training can be done in a gym or at home. It makes you flexible, mobile, strong and reduces the risk of injury. Weight training, resistance bands, or calisthenics — exercises that use your own body weight — are examples of strength training.
Dr. Timmons advises a mix of cardio and strength training, for 24 minutes, done three times a week. His studies show that doing both together — as opposed to alone — gets rid of the dreaded middle-aged spread, the spare tire no one wants.
He says, “Doing both types together is called ‘simultaneous training’ and it’s extremely effective on all levels.
“It improves overall fitness, improves lower extremity strength and reduces trunk fat.
“This is visceral fat around the midsection, often referred to as ‘middle-aged spread’.
“From a health perspective, this fat clogs up your vital organs.”
We should also walk half an hour five days a week.
He advises: “Walking is good for you. But walking alone is not enough. If you’re going for a walk, you need to make sure you pass the “talking/singing” test.
“That means you shouldn’t be able to sing and you should have trouble speaking.”
Dr. Timmons is a former athlete. When he felt groin pain and movement problems, he became interested in how the body works. He focused on elderly patients as a way to improve and prolong life.
He says, “It’s about matching your lifespan to your lifespan.
“We are all living longer. I want to live to be 100, but I want to be healthy at 99.5. You will also be happier.
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