Exercise comes along with a whole lot of instant gratification. A single sweat session can immediately put you in a better mood (thanks, endorphins), and stringing enough of them together can have an impact on your health and body after only a few weeks. But while most of us tend to think in the short term as far as our fitness goals go (at the very most, we’re training for something that’s a few months away), it’s in all of our best interests to look beyond that to years—or even decades—in the future. Because thanks to longevity workouts, we can prep our bodies to properly function as far into the future as possible
“As you age, not being active and not being strong can mean you’re not able to do things in your life,” says Aleksandra Stacha-Fleming, founder of NYC’s Longevity Lab, a gym that works with people of all ages to create workouts that help their bodies age properly. “You won’t be able to move around as well—you might not be able to climb up a flight of stairs in the subway without getting out of breath.” Considering that a sedentary lifestyle ups the risk for things like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure (ever heard the term, “sitting is the new smoking“?), it’s extra-important to keep moving well into your twilight years.
While it may seem like you won’t need to worry about these things until you retire, it’s never too early to start prioritizing them as part of your exercise program. “You don’t want to wait until it’s tool late,” says Stacha-Fleming, adding that people should be encouraged to think about these things before they get to the point of having some sort of a diagnosis or injury that makes them think about it.
With that in mind, every longevity-focused workout program should be made up of three things: cardio, strength, and flexibility or mobility training. Each of these elements serves a specific purpose on its own, but work best in the long run when you think about them as parts of a whole. “Some people do only cardio, some people do only strength training, but you need to have it all,” says Stacha-Fleming. “All three of these elements are important, because they need to work in unity.” Read on to find out why.
1. For your heart: Cardio
Regularly getting your heart pumping is a critical factor in any exercise regimen, but it’s particularly important when we’re talking about longevity. “Your heart is a muscle, and you need to stimulate it,” says Stacha-Fleming. “If you don’t have any kind of cardiovascular capacity, you aren’t going to last more than 10 or 15 minutes in any workout, because your heart’s going to be pumping, and you’re going to be out of breath and won’t be able to recover as well.” In other words, keeping your heart strong is the key to keeping the rest of your body strong, too.
To get your cardio in at home, without equipment, Statcha-Fleming says “any move that gets your heart going” will do. Some ideas? Burpees, jumping jacks, high knees, jump squats, jump lunges, inchworms, butt kicks, and marching in place. Or, follow along with this 15-minute cardio jumprope session:
2. For your bones: Strength training
“You need to work your muscles to give signals to your bones to get stronger,” says Stacha-Fleming. “Weight bearing exercises help you get stronger and have stronger bones, which help you sustain strength for the long run.” The strength of your bones is directly related to their density in minerals, like calcium, and lack of exercise leads to a greater loss of these important bone mineral (which can leave you more prone to breakages and osteoporosis). Women, in particular, should prioritize bone-building exercises, because our bone density decreases dramatically when we go through menopause. Strengthening our bones early on will make us less prone to injury later in life.
When integrating strength-training into your routine, Stacha-Fleming suggests working your whole body, but focusing on large muscle groups like your legs, hips, glutes, core, chest, and back. For an easy way to do that in less than 15 minutes, press play on the video below:
3. For balance: Flexibility and mobility
Flexibility (your muscles’ ability to stretch) and mobility (your joints’ ability to reach their full range) are both important in ensuring proper movement and balance later on in life—just ask this 74-year-old Australian man who works on his mobility every day. Yoga flows, like the one demonstrated here, can help you improve upon both.
Need a HIIT workout that won’t disturb your downstairs neighbors? This burpee-free, apartment-friendly one has s got you covered. Plus, this foldable spin bike is the perfect way to get your cardio workout at home without taking up a single inch of floor space.