Why do you want to get in shape? Usually the answer is to look and feel younger. It’s no wonder that anti-aging has become a billion-dollar industry full of skincare, supplements, and secrets to staying young. New diet and workout fads are popping up all the time that claim to hold the answers. Honestly, the key to staying young is mobility; in its simplest form, getting around. Mobility comes from using all the muscles required for movement. With physical fitness, connecting the mind and body to properly engage the right muscles not only prevents injury but delivers the results we’re all seeking. All too often, people jump into new workout routines without taking the time to know if their body is ready and able to do the exercise properly. In order to build lifelong strength, we need to get back to the basics.

Exercise Should Feel Good

If a workout is hurting you, causing pain in the body during or after, it’s time to take a break from it. Usually what’s happening is improper form causing the body to become misaligned. We all have inherent weaknesses or imbalances and it’s important to check in with our body to understand what’s going on and how to fix it. Pay attention to what’s locked up, or what’s tight. The human body will subconsciously overcompensate in weak areas, making an imbalance worse. Imbalances lead to injuries!

So, if you’re having trouble with a workout remember to:
– Start at basic level
– No weights at first
– Learn how to do the proper form
– Let go of your ego

Muscles Need to be Engaged

Next time you work out, really focus on the muscles you’re working. Slow down and dial in. Odds are that you’ll get a better workout and feel it more (in a good way) the following day. When you learn to truly feel your body and muscles, you become more connected with your body. This has an overflow affect into life outside the gym. The mind-body connection can help you discover how moods and foods affect you physically. It all ties into becoming more fit.

Before Starting a Fitness Routine

Don’t just rush into a new physical activity because it’s popular. Give yourself an assessment first. This is part of going back to basics. When it comes to fitness and anti-aging, hitting the gym every day won’t bring the results you’re looking for unless basic health principles are aligned with your goal.

Focus on Health
Are you eating healthy? Too much fast food, processed food, etc. will undermine your gym visits
How is your digestion? Eating habits could be causing issues that affect your workouts
Are you drinking too much alcohol? We all know this wreaks havoc on our bodies make sure you are limiting your alcohol.

Focus on Movement
Find a sports-medicine specific physical therapist to give you a functional movement assessment. This will shed some lights on any weaknesses or imbalances in the body and can give insight on what workouts will help versus potentially make them worse. On a day to day basis, most of us are not connected to our bodies and we go through motions without really feeling them. It’s time to start paying attention. If you’re thinking, “why would I need a test?” just think about these common issues that affect fitness and aging:

– Joint pain, stiffness, and arthritis that make it hard to move
– The opposite: hyper-mobile ligaments or double-joints that are moving too much
– Most of us have bad posture, especially females, from leaning/hunching forward
– Back pain is usually caused by weak glutes and a twisted pelvis from standing unevenly

During your Workouts

What we do with our body while sitting, standing, and walking matters. These body behaviors overflow into fitness routines and affect results. That’s why it’s so important to focus on posture during workouts, keeping a strong core, and balancing the entire body – left to right, front to back, and top to bottom. The more you connect the mind to the body, the more you feel your body moving, the more endorphins will release and make you feel good.

The process of making physical fitness is just as mental as it is physical. When our bodies feel good from a workout, our brain correlates positive thoughts to exercise. Over time, this helps us develop healthy habits and routines. If you’re serious about anti-aging, the focus needs to be on a healthy lifestyle.

Make it fun!
The mind-body connection is never truly mastered, it’s a continuing process we all must put effort towards every day. For fueling this connection, activities should be fun and challenging. That’s why it’s recommended to switch up exercise routines every few months. Don’t let your body get bored. That’s when the mind checks out and we find ourselves going through the motions. Are your muscles engaged? Is your heart rate up? Are you sweating? Are you smiling? If not – you’re not getting the full potential from the physical activity.

Don’t Think About Weight Loss
Think about continued mobility – being strong for life! So often we take for granted our abilities to get up out of bed each morning, push ourselves up, reach for things. If we aren’t careful and don’t make it a priority to stay mobile, we’ll find ourselves aging faster and having more health problems down the road. When we think about retirement, we don’t imagine needing assistance to walk. We don’t want to be dependent on someone to take care of us. If we work on basic movements, achieving them in the proper form, that’s the best anti-aging strategy.

Basic Movements Everyone Should Work on and Why

– Squats – Bending down, getting up from chairs and lifting are all activities of daily living
– Pushups – So you’ll never need to utter the words “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”
– Dips – Work on the triceps, which are usually weaker, for the same reason as pushups!
– Planks – Even a modified plank engages the core, which keeps us strong and upright
– Shoulders – Roll them back! Much needed to improve posture – we hunch forward too much
– Balance! Helps the feet and stabilizer muscles around the ankles which will keep you walking

Help the Mind, Help the Body, Help the Mind

This cycle never ends. Just as fitness is a lifelong journey, so is the mind-body connection. We all have heard of the “runners high” – when working out releases endorphins. It doesn’t just come from running. It can occur when lifting weights, doing yoga, and even walking. Why? Because you’re dialed in, thinking about the muscles you’re working, and feeling confident that you’re able to do the activity properly with correct form. Slowing down to focus on proper movement gives that boost, too.

Remember, being strong for life is all about making fitness part of your daily routine and working the brain muscle to get the most out of it. Usually it’s a lack of results that causes people to quit going to the gym. Or other times, a workout is hurting and rather than focusing on the body and getting to the root of the issue, people simply give up and blame aging for being unfit. Don’t give up on exercise! It’s the best anti-aging solution out there.

This blog post is a summary of a podcast. Click here to listen to the podcast!

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