the exercise regime that will help you stay younger for longer

Eufemia Didonato

Go up a gear with jogs and bike rides

When you feel fitter, make some of this daily activity a more moderate intensity, such as a spin on an indoor bike, some fast-paced walking or a light jog. “Moderate-level cardio should be done three days a week,” says Roberts. “The level should feel like a ‘seven out of 10’ intensity. You should be able to have a conversation but should also be raising a sweat.”

This helps fortify the heart and control your blood pressure and blood glucose levels. “We need to be more active than we think,” says Roberts.

HIIT it hard with high-intensity circuits

To really fine-tune your heart and lungs, and trigger cellular regeneration as you age, you need high-intensity exercise, too. “We are designed to be challenged and we adapt fast,” says Roberts. “If we are not pushed, cellular redevelopment starts to slow.”

Roberts recommends two to three high-intensity sessions per week. For those getting back into shape, a body weight circuit, or sprints on an indoor bike or rowing machine, are all good options. But if you are feeling fitter, try some sprint intervals outdoors, or a sweaty home cardio circuit with med ball throws and kettlebell swings.

Protect your muscles and bones with squats and step-ups

Muscle mass and bone health decline with age, making you vulnerable to injuries and impairments, but there is a way to fight back. “Weight training helps retain muscle mass and supports nerve function and bone density,” explains Roberts. “By increasing the resistance pressure, or the overload, we also increase our central nervous stimulation response which helps with our hormone production levels.” This in turn helps to regenerate tissue cells, muscles, tendons, ligaments, hair and skin.

Roberts suggests doing resistance training twice a week. Start with simple exercises, such as squats, lunges and press-ups, for three to six weeks, then build up to heavier weights, with 6-8 reps per lift. If you don’t have dumbbells at home, you can try the smart body weight techniques Roberts is now using on Zoom workouts with his clients. “The key is to keep it varied,” he explains. “You can build in pauses, holds, different ranges of motion and different speeds to work your muscle fibres. With a simple squat, for example, you might hold the position midway through, so you’re building tension in the quads and inner thighs. This is called a ‘static contraction’ and is used in rehab to create strength quickly. Just using a chair to do a step up, and changing the speed of that step up, by moving up slowly for 2 seconds, and down slowly for 3 seconds, is another good example.

Exercise your brain with mind-sharpening sports

Sitting on an indoor bike will build your fitness, yes, but playing a racket sport or team sport – when we’re allowed to – will also protect your grey matter. “Find sports that encourage you to think,” advises Roberts. “Tennis is very analytical. You’re always working out a strategy, which is good for your synapses and your nerve endings. When you have to react quickly, it involves a vast amount of electronic responses in your brain, which is anti-ageing.” 

Stay strong and supple with Pilates and V-sits

A strong core will protect your posture and flexibility as you age. “As we get older, we get more joint issues and back pain which stops us doing things and leads to inactivity,” explains Roberts. That’s why he suggests doing 10-15 minutes of mobility and activation exercises before each workout. Planks, V-sits and glute bridges work well, but yoga poses like the downward dog or child pose are also good for mobility.

This kind of supplementary work can also help to prevent more serious injuries as you age. “If you lose your stability in your back, shoulders and hips, your chances of falling go up enormously,” says Roberts. “Even if you hurt your ankle or knee, your level of activity gets reduced and that’s when people gain weight. So keep up a good mobility programme, whether it is through Pilates or foam roller work, so you keep feeling agile and young.

“The moment we stop moving properly, the older we feel.”

More from our series with Matt Roberts

Read more:​ Matt Roberts: ‘My body fat and fitness levels are the same at 46 as they were at 20’

Read more: ‘A health test said my biological age is 41, but I’m only 30’

 

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