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Stay young with vigorous, varied exercising

January 10, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
There may not be a fountain of youth, but there's a real-life alternative that can keep you healthier as time marches on. It's called "exercise." Here are some tips on how to go about it and why it's so important as you get older.Sue Bartholomew's session with trainer Valerie Waters isn't always comfortable, but that's OK with Sue, as she knows the end result.

"I like to feel strong. I like to feel flexible. I like to feel capable of doing things. And I like to eat and drink," said Bartholomew.

There are ample studies to suggest exercise is good for you, starting with weight-bearing work.

"If you're not working your muscles, you're losing them, and that affects your metabolism, that affects your balance," said personal trainer Valerie Waters.

Maintaining muscle ensures your body burns calories at a faster rate even when you are not exercising, which in turn can keep weight in check, fight diabetes, high blood pressure and even heart disease.

In addition, bones stay strong, and equally important as we age, you stay flexible.

"If you're not working on your flexibility, you're probably losing it. It's come to a point in society where we spend so much time sitting," said Waters. "Muscles in your back get stretched out and they get weak, your hip flexors get tight, your pecs get tight."

So do hamstrings. That's all remedied by using a foam roller to increase blood flow to connective tissue.

"It certainly is a stress reliever, I sleep really well," said Sue Bartholomew. "I feel like I got through menopause with hardly batting an eyelash."

Co-author of "The Real Age Diet," Dr. Michael Roizen says exercise is key at menopause.

"Because that lack of estrogen leads to lack of testosterone, so you lose muscle mass, so you gain weight especially around the middle, that pouch where you don't want it, because of that decrease in estrogen level," said Roizen.

One of the keys to making exercise work for you is mixing things up. That's because feel-good brain chemicals you may have heard of, such as dopamine, serotonin and endorphins, all elevate with new movement. And that could be anything from a new gym workout to gardening.

"The body adapts so quickly to anything, so if you were doing the same thing over and over you're not getting the same results you were when you first started doing that," said Waters.

So change the tempo, the equipment, even location. Waters uses circuit training mixed with cardio bursts, balance and core work.

"And that keeps the mind guessing, it keeps the body guessing, it keeps you more interested in it," said Waters.

Those 40 and older might go with lower-impact activities if joints are screaming for attention. Elliptical, spinning, even stairs are all great cardio options.