• Dr. Willix

Turn Back the Hands of Time

Updated: Feb 6

An Anti-Aging Exercise Program

With each passing year, some of the things that can happen include loss of strength, diminished oxygen capacity, less flexibility, and impaired balance increasing the potential for falls. The good news is that you can prevent all of these from happening.

The National Institute on Aging says, “When older people lose their ability to do things on their own, it doesn’t happen just because they age. More likely it is because they have become inactive.”

Rest assured that it is never too late to start exercising—no matter what your age. Exercise simply improves your quality of life while reversing aging. The best anti-aging exercises include those for strength, aerobic fitness, and flexibility. (Before you get started, especially if you’ve been inactive, get checked out by your doctor.)

If you have been sedentary up to this point, the best advice is to spend three to six months going for a walk for fi een to forty minutes a day, five to seven days a week. If you can’t walk, get an exercise bike and ride the exercise bike five to ten minutes twice a day. You can also do walking in water in a pool. It is helpful for your joints and a good way to move from sedentary to active.

Strength Training

There are numerous ways to improve strength. Many people are unfamiliar with going to the gym, and they don’t understand the different ways to strength train. Today, a personal trainer can be extremely helpful in getting you started on a fitness regimen. You’ll learn different ways to strengthen muscles, the importance of working muscle groups in order of importance—working large muscles first and then smaller ones to help maintain strength and balance—if you are working the whole body in one workout. In other words, you don’t do biceps exercise before a bench press. Nor do you do triceps exercise before back exercises.

Another method is to work opposing muscle groups such as quadriceps (thighs) and hamstrings, biceps and triceps, chest and back, abs and lower back. So generally, strength training follows a pattern. Understand the terminology, too. Repetitions, or reps, are the number of times you do an exercise. A set is the number of repetitions, and a superset usually represents working opposing muscle groups without rest.

Gym ettiquette also is important; weights should always be returned to the rack or to weight holders after you complete your sets. Weight workouts vary according to the level of experience. It is not uncommon to include dynamic exercises with static weight training, using dumbbells, barbells, and machines. A dynamic exercise would be pushups and pull-ups and the use of resistance bands; a static exercise would include machines that have pins in them, which are called selectorized machines; or free weights, which are usually barbells, dumbbells, and weight plates.

As a general rule, plates are usually 45, 35, 25, 10, and 5 pounds. A dumbbell rack starts at 5 pounds and can go up to 150-pound dumbbells. There are also multipurpose cable machines that can be utilized for varying body parts, flat and incline and decline benches, as well as a barbell rack called a Smith machine that can be used at multiple heights.

There are varying routines that can improve strength. Most people who go to the gym go two to three times a week and work all muscle groups during a single workout. If that is your routine, the exercise order should be legs, back, chest, shoulders, biceps, and triceps. Because the abdominal muscles are a very small muscle group, they should be worked out almost daily with varying types of crunches, leg lifts, and abdominal machines.

A standard workout would be eight to ten repetitions with three sets for upper body; twelve to fifteen repetitions and three sets for the lower body. The number of exercises for each muscle group depends on the time you have.

Try to rest between sets. The rest interval is determined by whether you are trying to build strength or endurance in the muscles. For strength, a rest interval of ninety seconds is best. For endurance, it can be just thirty seconds.

If you are new to strength training, start with light weights or resistance bands and do each exercise for ten to fifteen reps. Use enough resistance (weight) that you can do the exercise no more than fifteen times. If you can do more, increase your weights. Progress by adding more weight, more reps, and more sets each week.

Let me add that you can also explore another form of strength training—bodyweight training—which requires little to no equipment. Instead, it relies on your body weight as the training modality, such as pushups and planks. This is a cost-effective way to get stronger without having to purchase expensive gym equipment.

Aerobic Exercise

To avoid heart disease, strokes, and vascular problems, you should always do aerobic activities, such as walking, jogging, swimming, rollerblading, and cycling, to name a few. Select the one(s) you enjoy and are most comfortable doing. Perform them at least thirty minutes three times a week.

There is a push now for everyone to get involved in HIIT (high intensity interval training). HIIT combines intervals of high-energy exercises, followed by short periods of active recovery. It has various benefits: It is time saving, it builds aerobic fitness, and it helps burn fat.

However, HIIT has potentially high injury rates, particularly in people over age forty. Statistics reveal that nearly 70 percent of participants suffer an injury within the first year.

I counsel all my patients who want to do HIIT to have an exercise evaluation done first. I also recommend that you start with a five-minute warmup on an exercise bike. Then keep the interval at thirty seconds, followed by a one-and-a-half-minute recovery. Repeat this sequence eight to ten times over twenty to thirty minutes. Finish with a two- to five-minute cooldown.

Once you can accomplish this comfortably, increase the interval time from thirty to forty-five seconds and the recovery time from a minute and a half to a minute and fifteen seconds. With more experience, up the intensity to a one-minute interval with a one-minute recovery, and eventually, a one-and-a-half-minute interval with a thirty-second recovery.

Most of you that are reading this are not going to start doing HIIT. Gentle aerobic activity would be for you in the form of a fifteen-to thirty-minute walk or leisurely bike ride. I rarely choose swimming as a good activity because it requires a lot of training to become a good swimmer. Most of you know how to ride a bike, and most humans can walk. I realize for those that have restrictions other activities should be selected.

For those of you who are limited with physical activity because of arthritis or other illnesses, I recommend water aerobics to get started in a class setting. As you progress in your aerobic training from your fifteen- to thirty-minute walk, instead of increasing the time of the walk, increase the pace of the walk to get additional benefits.

The average person can walk three to four miles per hour, which is 110 to 130 strides per minute. If you are accustomed to walking as your only activity; increase your speed until you are walking four miles per hour. If you are under six feet tall, four mph is a fast pace; if you are over six feet, you should be able to walk 4.2 to 4.5 mph before you must begin to jog.

A common exercise that I like to introduce to people is to walk a block, jog a block, walk a block, jog a block and repeat this until they can jog for thirty minutes at whatever pace they can go.

You could always use a bicycle, an Exercycle, or a rowing machine. All of these exercises can be performed to increase cardiovascular endurance. It is always better to incorporate both upper body and lower body, so using rowing machines, Nordic track, cross-country skiing, or aero- dyne bicycles (a brand made by Schwinn) all have added benefits because they incorporate more muscle groups.

We can certainly always do three to five aerobic days a week with one day of HIIT. Remember, combining aerobics and strength training is always going to be more beneficial than any other anti-aging program I could design.

Aerobics and Strength Combo

In 1983, I met a physician named Leonard Schwartz who had invented a workout method called “heavy hands exercise.” Basically, you carry hand-held weights while walking or jogging. His premise was that upper body exercise is extremely important in improving cardiovascular fitness.

I wanted to see for myself, so I did an experiment. I gave each of the patients in our cardiac rehabilitation program hand-held weights to use while walking on a treadmill or walking outdoors. The weights were light—only two to five pounds. They could swing them a bit or just hold them steady.

I measured their fitness level both before and after and compared it to those who did not use hand-held weights. Much to my surprise, we improved their overall fitness levels by 25–30 percent over a course of three months in patients who utilized the hand-held weights.

As I further pursued this experiment, I realized that people with cardiovascular disease often suffer from heart attacks while using their upper bodies to shovel snow and other similar activities. I felt that the heavy hands method could help prevent these incidents, so I began to teach all my patients the value of weight training the upper body.

I feel that using weights while performing aerobic exercise is an effective time-saver since it builds cardiovascular strength and cardio fitness at the time. It is also a good calorie burner that can help you shed pounds. And because walking is a low-impact activity, there is no shock loading of joints, meaning that this form of exercise is suitable for people with foot, ankle, knee, or hip problems; exercisers who are heavy; or anyone who prefers a less jarring workout.

Flexibility Workouts

Flexibility exercises are the next vital component to an anti-aging exercise program. After the age of fifty, good flexibility helps you perform daily activities while avoiding injuries—including back injuries. And let’s face it: the potential is high.

Back pain is the major debilitating injury in this country, with knee and neck injuries running a close tie for second. Everyone wants to avoid such injuries because, in addition to the pain they cause, joint or back problems can keep you from doing the things you want to do, such as dancing, playing sports, exercising, making love, or doing just about anything you enjoy.

Becoming more flexible also helps prevent falls. You can choose from many types of flexibility exercises, and with all the variety, it’s easy to find something you like. According to the Ameri- can College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), adults should do flexibility exercises a minimum of two or three days each week to improve flexibility.

Here’s a look at various types of flexibility work:

Static Stretching

This involves slowly stretching a muscle/tendon group and holding the position for a period of ten to thirty seconds. Static stretches help improve flexibility and range of motion (ROM), a measurement of the distance and direction a joint can move to its full potential. There are two types of static stretching: active and passive.

Active stretching involves stretching a muscle group by actively contracting one group of muscles in opposition to another group. You do not use external forces, such as a stretch band or other body part, to achieve the stretch. Usually these stretches are only held for ten to fifteen seconds.

Passive stretching requires some sort of external force in order to achieve the stretch (e.g., another person or a stretching device). With passive stretches, you rely on the external force to hold the body part being stretched in place. These stretches can be held ten to thirty seconds.


There are many types of yoga being taught in the United States: Hatha yoga, Vinyasa, Bikram (hot yoga), Kripalu, and power yoga, among others. Each incorporates different techniques while using similar poses and groups of exercises called asanas. One of the most commonly incorporated asanas are Sun Salutations.

Yoga stretches and tones all the muscles and joints, exercising every part of your body. Yoga imparts not only remarkable physical benefits, but emotional and spiritual benefits as well. I believe it is especially valuable for people in high-stress jobs.

Research backs up yoga as an anti-aging activity. A study conducted in New Delhi in 2017 explored the impact of yoga and meditation on cellular aging in healthy participants. Ninety-six people were enrolled in the twelve-week study. Markers of aging were recorded at the beginning of the study and again after twelve weeks.

The researchers discovered some amazing benefits as a result of yoga: telomeres lengthened, cortisol was balanced, oxidation was low, mood hormones were elevated, and anti-aging genes (sirtuins) increased. So, yoga for anti-aging? Absolutely! In addition to anti-aging, I recommend yoga for everyone with high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, arthritis, and especially for those with back problems. Many gyms, community centers, and private studios have yoga classes for all different levels—so it is fairly easy to get started and make yoga a regular part of your fitness program.

Tai Chi

This ancient Chinese practice has a number of different forms and incorporates movement and flexibility. There are various types of tai chi, including Wu style, Chan style, and Yan style, all of which incorporate different movements.

In general, tai chi is a slow-moving process, based on defense mechanisms found in martial arts. Tai chi focuses on breathing and flowing gestures, which is why it is often called “meditation in motion.” It exercises mind and spirit as well as body. And once you learn the basics, you can practice for as few as five minutes to as much as an hour a day. Just don’t push yourself—the meditative effects of tai chi are important, too.

Several studies have found that tai chi exercises can help relieve pain, regulate blood pressure, build energy and strength, aid sleep, improve flexibility and balance, alleviate stress, and lessen the risk of falls. A 2004 study published in the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation reported that tai chi also helped to slow bone loss in early postmenopausal women.

Additionally, arthritis sufferers are able to do tai chi because its low-impact movements place less stress on joints and muscles. A thirty- minute session twice a week for six months is enough to make a positive impact on your physical and emotional health.

Take lessons from a tai chi instructor who can make sure you’re doing the movements correctly. Practice on your own after you’ve learned the basics and follow-up on corrections with the instructor.

To find a class in your community, contact the Arthritis Foundation (800–283–7800) or the Taoist Tai Chi Society at (850–224–5438/www.taoist. org). Your gym or local Y may also offer

tai chi classes.


This method of exercise was created in the 1920s by the physical trainer Joseph Pilates for the purpose of rehabilitation. Some of the first people treated by Pilates were dancers such as Martha Graham and George Balanchine, who wanted to strengthen their bodies and heal their aches and pains.

There are really two basic forms of Pilates: one utilizes a machine called the reformer; the other is a sequence of floor exercises that were originally designed by Joseph Pilates to teach people how to recover it by strengthening their core.

One of the basic differences between Pilates and yoga, other than the exercises, is that Pilates elongates, and yoga increases flexibility and strength. Also, Pilates works on core strengthening, which is a major component of rehabilitating from almost any injury of the back.

Elongation of the spine and spaces between the vertebral bodies helps bring relief of chronic nerve pain—one of the strong benefits of Pilates. It also helps to increase the flexibility of all muscles inside the abdominal cavity known is the iliopsoas muscle. There are very few movements that will do this, other than Pilates.

Very recently, a patient named M. T. came to see me. He was a sixty- year-old man who had an injury at a very young age that not only hurt his back but also punctured a lung. Since his teenage years, he suffered with back pain brought on by minor motions like picking up a bar of soap in the shower. He walked tenuously for years because of this back pain, which greatly limited his golf game and many other activities.

After examining him, I found that he had one leg shorter than the other and inflexibility in his iliopsoas muscle and hamstrings. I advised him that over the next year, he could improve these issues by using the reformer and Pilates exercises two to three days a week. After two months, I put him into a yoga class and had him do some basic strength-training moves. In only one month, M. T. had improved remarkably and was almost pain free with greater mobility. His case illustrates the power of flexibility exercises, along with some strength training.

The above is an expert from my book, The Rejuvenation Solution

Video clip - courtesy of @plsur digital art curator

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Copyright 2019 - Enlightened Living Medicine / Robert Willix, Jr. MD

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