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Can You Guess the Best Workout for Anti-Aging?

We can’t deny it: Your body reacts to each additional candle on your birthday cake. As you age, your cell function decreases, bones lose density, joints show signs of wear and muscle tissue and strength decrease while body fat increases. You might not be able to turn back the clock, but you can slow the effects of aging on your body through exercise.

“Both strength and power training are critically important as we age,” says Alice Bell, PT, DPT, a spokesperson for the American Physical Therapy Association. “In order to effectively manage the impact of aging on muscle strength and power, it is critical to incorporate high-intensity strength training into your activity regimen.”


READ MORE > 3 STRENGTH AND MOBILITY WORKOUTS TO PREPARE FOR SPRING RUNNING


WHAT IS THE BEST ANTI-AGING EXERCISE?

New research shows that certain forms of exercise have the most profound anti-aging effects.

A study, published in the journal Cell Metabolism, assigned participants in two age groups — 18–30 and 65–80 — and divided them into three training categories: high-intensity interval training (HIIT), weight training or a combination of the two.

After three months, researchers compared muscle biopsies of both groups and found that strength training increased muscle mass and HIIT increased mitochondrial activity, a cellular process that declines with age and is associated with increased fatigue and inability for muscles to burn excess blood sugar. The HIIT/strength training combination had the biggest effect in older adults, helping to decrease aging at the cellular level.

In a statement about the research, K. Sreekumaran Nair, MD, a diabetes researcher at the Mayo Clinic and senior author of the study noted, “These things we are seeing cannot be done by any medicine.”

The research points to the benefits of incorporating HIIT and strength training into your routine as you get older.

“The rate at which we lose muscle mass varies dependent upon our level of activity and engagement in meaningful exercise,” Bell says.

In other words, you’re more apt to maintain muscle mass and keep body fat in check as you age if you’re physically fit.

To maximize the benefits, Bell suggests incorporating HIIT and strength training into each workout.

HIIT is defined as mixing intense bursts of exercise with short periods of active rest; a run-walk combination is a good example of HIIT. Interval training can be incorporated into activities ranging from walking and biking to swimming. These bursts keep your heart rate up and help burn fat and, according to Bell, “High-intensity interval training is considered one of the best ways to improve cardiorespiratory and metabolic function.”

BUT DON’T FORGET STRENGTH TRAINING

Strength training is also important to maintain good health as you age. A 2016 study published in the journal Preventive Medicine found that older adults who did strength training at least twice per week had a 46% lower odds of death from all causes during the study period, a 41% lower risk of cardiac death and 19% lower odds of dying from cancer than those who did not strength train.

Bell suggests building strength by training with weights 2–3 times per week. “In order to optimize results a person must be utilizing the appropriate amount of resistance, performing the exercises with proper [form] and building in recovery time,” she says.

A physical therapist or personal trainer can create a workout regimen that incorporates interval and strength training that is targeted toward your current fitness level. The effort could help keep you looking and feeling stronger, healthier and younger.


GEAR UP FOR YOUR NEXT WORKOUT

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Your Basic 30-Minute Open-Water Swimming Workout

World Oceans Day is June 8, which means it’s the perfect time to jump into an ocean or lake for an open-water swim. Don’t worry if you haven’t done one before. Everyone starts somewhere — and you can start open-water swimming with just a few things.

First, open-water swimming is a buddy sport, so grab a friend or four. Make sure you’re swimming in safe conditions and in a designated swim area monitored by a lifeguard, or you have someone kayak or paddleboard alongside you. Wear a bright swim cap so you’re visible to boaters and your buddies.

If you’re practicing for a race, you’ll need to build endurance because the shortest open-water swim competitions are around 400 or 500 yards, much longer than most pool races. Longer ones can last 3-plus miles. Make sure you can tread water or float comfortably on your back in case you get a cramp, need to take a break or grab something to eat or drink.

WARMUP (5–10 MINUTES)

Start slowly and pay attention to your technique. Like a distance race in the pool, you need to focus on long, powerful strokes that move you through the water at a controlled pace.

The key for successful open-water swimming is learning how to swim in a straight line and a smooth, even stroke is the first step to attaining good navigation skills.

The second is sighting. There aren’t any lane lines or tiles on the bottom to guide you, so picking a target, whether a buoy or fixed object on land, as a reference point helps keep you on track.

Lift your head just high enough so your eyes come out of the water and you spot your marker, then turn your head to the side to breathe. This may take some work to accomplish, but it will make you much faster when you do it right.

Pro Tip: Arch your back slightly when you lift your head, so you keep as much of your body level with the surface as you can. If you drop your legs when you raise your head, you’ll slow down.

MAIN SET (20 MINUTES)

Break your swim into equal segments, such as the distance between buoys or buildings on land, time chunks or even stroke counts. Swim from one marker to the next with your desired pace and a short break in between. On your way back to your starting point, try to maintain a steady pace for the entirety of the swim.

You don’t have to sight every time you breathe. Instead, breathe to the side like normal and sneak a peek at the shore to make sure you’re going somewhat close to straight. If you’re getting off track, sight more often. And be sure to breathe to both sides because it helps balance your stroke and with sighting.


READ MORE > TRY THIS 30-MINUTE SWIMMING WORKOUT THAT BURNS BIG CALORIES


COOL-DOWN (3 MINUTES)

Finish with a short stretch of smooth, controlled swimming. This is another opportunity to practice your sighting — it’s key for making you a better open-water swimmer, which means you need to focus on it — and use good technique.

Don’t forget this step, even if it comes at the end and you’re tired. Your muscles need a chance to recover from the workout, and you can help that process by swimming at a pace slightly slower than your warmup.

Want more workouts? U.S. Masters Swimming members have access to workouts created for open-water swimmers by a USMS-certified coach. Want to learn more? Check out USMS’s Open-Water Swimming 101 article series.

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The One Thing You Can Do to Optimize Your HIIT Workout

With just a few short bursts of high intensity with periods of rest, you can see more results in less time than most workouts. Yes, high-intensity interval training can seem like a workout gift from the gods. Even better, HIIT workouts apply to cycling, swimming, weight training, bodyweight exercises and even walking.

Promising major results in little time, it’s true that HIIT may seem too good to be true. But if you’re not seeing results, you’re not the only one. The biggest caveat of HIIT is that the intensity really has to be high.

“For HIIT to be effective, you have to exercise at a challenging intensity. You need to be working hard-to-very hard during the hard bouts in order to put the correct and effective challenge on your cardiovascular system,” explains Dr. Len Kravitz, an exercise scientist at the University of New Mexico. “Often, people get the work-to-rest ratio right and it seems like what they’re doing is a HIIT workout, but what they’re doing isn’t intense enough during the high-intensity part,” explains Jason Loesch, a personal trainer and co-owner of the Minneapolis-based Hell Bent Fitness.

YOU MUST NAIL THE INTENSITY

The efficacy of HIIT training hinges on achieving an EPOC state which stands for “excess post-exercise oxygen consumption.” According to the ACSM, the high-intensity intervals should clock in at “80–95% of a person’s estimated maximal heart rate, the maximum number of times your heart will beat in a minute without overexerting yourself.”

Loesch explains that “you can think of it as oxygen debt. [After a proper HIIT workout] your body is basically running on an oxygen debt, trying to catch up with the lack of oxygen created by the training. It’s because of this debt that you continue to burn calories for somewhere between 24–48 hours after a HIIT workout.”

FIGURING OUT THE INTENSITY

Kravitz explains that your maximum heart rate can be ‘estimated’ by using the formula: 220 – age = maximum beats per minute. For example, a 40 year old would have an estimated maximum heart rate of 180 beats per minute, calculated by subtracting 40 from 220. Therefore, the 80–95% recommendation for this person would be between 144–171 beats per minute.

For those who have a heart monitor or another way to measure your heart rate as you work out, you’re all set. If you don’t, Loesch’s approach is a less complicated one: “You should have a hard time completing an entire sentence when you’ve finished your interval. When I’m working with people, I like to talk to them afterwards, and if they’re able to finish a full sentence, I know they’re not pushing themselves hard enough.”

On the flip side, it’s possible to overdo it. “I see a lot of people going too long on intervals. One minute is way too long. You could probably push it up to 40 seconds, but I’d keep it in the 20–30 second range and even shorter for a sprint. It’s about intensity not endurance,” Loesch adds.

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How 7 Mom Trainers Squeeze in a Workout

When your day involves shuttling kids to school, daycare and baseball practice and … making three meals and snacks for the entire family, while also working and keeping everyone happy, it’s hard to remember to brush your teeth, let alone fit in a workout.

“As a mother of three and business owner, I admit it is hard (expletive hard!) to make time for exercise. Our mom to-do lists never end,” says Jessica Griffin, owner of NJ Fit Mom Training and Wellness Coaching.

But she finds a way. Like many other moms who are trainers, Griffin swears by one trick: scheduling her workouts for the week on Sundays. “As moms we live by the calendar. So my personal strategy is to schedule my workouts on there like all other things. Then I show up like I do all other important meetings. I do not cancel on myself. That would be rude,” she says.

You don’t need to be a mom to follow her example — or the examples of the trainers below who all have kids. If they manage to exercise while working and taking care of a family, you can too. After all, mother knows best, right?

1. MAKE A KID-FRIENDLY WORKOUT AREA

“I brought my 3-year-old’s art table into the place where I workout and will sometimes set her up with Play-Doh, coloring books, etc. to entertain her. But truth is, she does that for 5–10 minutes then prefers to come work out with mommy. She has her own 1- and 2-pound weights and she loves to ‘lift’ and do burpees!

– Griffin

2. EXERCISE WITH YOUR KIDS

“I have infant twin boys and a 3 1/2-year-old toddler who keep me active and on my feet. I do a mommy-and-me yoga class with the twins and with my toddler, I make it a priority to get outside and go to Central Park for some cardio where we do a lot of walking, running, throwing balls, riding scooters and playing soccer.”

– Kristin McGee, celebrity yoga and Pilates instructor and author of “Chair Yoga”

3. EXERCISE WITH YOUR KIDS, LITERALLY

“I’ll hold my son while doing exercises like squats or shoulder presses, have him sit in my lap for triceps dips, or I’ll bring out equipment like a mini trampoline and Bosu, and we’ll take turns using them. But sometimes he loves the equipment so much, I can’t get a turn!”

– Sara Haley, pre- and postnatal fitness expert

4. SET GOALS

“It’s hard to accomplish something when you haven’t identified exactly what you’re trying to achieve, so I set goals. Some examples are: number of runs per week, mileage, strength training goals, races I’ve entered (it totally keeps my run schedule on track when there’s a race looming!) and nutrition goals. Your goals need to be specific — decide what, when, how and where!”

– Nichole Sargent, American Council on Exercise certified personal trainer

5. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF NAP TIME …

“There really is no secret — it is all a mindset and how badly you want it. Excuses are so easy to make. Let’s face it, anything can typically derail our plans for the day. As soon as my daughter goes down for her first nap, I go jump on my treadmill and lift weights. If my little one does not want to nap, I include her in my workouts by either placing her beside me with one of her toys or actually using her as my weight.”

– Sia Cooper, personal trainer and Diary of a Fit Mommy blogger

6. … AND ANY FREE TIME

“I don’t schedule workouts into my calendar because everyday has different variables. If I’m set to teach at the studio, I try to take the class before mine or after, even if it’s just 15–30 minutes. If I’m working from home, I do a barre3 online workout, which are 10-, 30-, 40- or 60-minutes. Let’s be real, I rarely do the 60 minutes at home when my daughter is there. But 30 minutes is doable while she’s playing or watching TV. Sometimes I even break it up 10 minutes at a time.”

– Jenna Muller, certified barre3 and Pilates instructor

7. RETHINK YOUR COMMUTE AND DATE NIGHT

“I have learned to take advantage of biking to my dentist appointment instead of taking the subway, or, if the stars align, date night with my husband to a yoga class!”

– Tanya Sripanich Burton, instructor at Lyons Den Power Yoga

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