Jenn Hicks

Posts Tagged ‘aging’

On mitochondria and thoughts on aging

Thursday, August 3rd, 2017

What are your thoughts on aging?

When you think about aging, what comes to mind?

Do you think of wisdom? Or maybe creaky knees or downsizing? Or maybe you see aging as full of opportunity?mitochondria and aging and interval trainingLately, when I think about aging, mitochondria pops up for me. Mitochondria? Yes. That’s right.

And it all has to do with why I’m teaching MoveIT (interval training).


Mitochondria and a Theory of Aging

Mitochondria are considered to be the “powerhouses” or energy generators of the cell.  Without well-functioning mitochondria, we are without energy.

Mitochondria extract energy from the nutrients in our food and transform it into a chemical called ATP (adenosine triphosphate for you acronym meaning-seekers!).

ATP is the energy “currency” of the cell which is responsible for powering all of the cells’ metabolic activity. You might think of food-derived nutrients as “crude fuel” and ATP as the “refined fuel” that helps the cells do things like break down nutrients to be absorbed.

For a variety of (extremely complex) reasons, as we age, the energy-generating capacity of our cells’ mitochondria slowly decreases. This means that our cells become less and less effective at converting and using energy.

And so aging occurs.


Can we boost our mitochondria as we age?

As I’ve been learning more about why MoveIT is such an effective fitness practice, I’ve read over and over that the cellular benefit of exercise has only recently been discovered.

While we know that exercise is good for our heart and lungs and other organs, understanding how the building blocks of those organs (i.e., the cells) benefit from exercise is only now being discovered.

A study, recently published in Cell Metabolism found that interval training affected not only the participant’s cells, but also their genes.

Not only that, but the genes that were working differently after interval training are believed to influence the ability of mitochondria to produce energy for muscle cells.

In fact, the subjects who did the interval workouts showed increases in both the number and health of their mitochondria — this finding was particularly pronounced in older subjects.


How does interval training work?

In every MoveIT class, we challenge ourselves to get into a period of “enough” between 3-6 times during the class. “Enough” is defined as a period of short duration, high intensity movement lasting anywhere from 30 seconds to 2 minutes.

The period of “enough” is when we use movement to get to our maximum aerobic capacity –  the point where we literally run out of oxygen supply for the muscles. When we get to this place of “enough”, our bodies then rely on other energy systems – anaerobic metabolism – which ultimately increases the efficiency of the cell.

Because of the potential to build up lactic acid during strenuous activity, active rest intervals are interspersed into periods of “enough” so that we can again return to maximum effort/”enough”.

Active rest periods also allow the muscles and the central nervous system to recover and come back with a punch during the next period of “enough”.


Curious and want to read more?

Look here and here  and here and here!

Aging and Exercise: Get up! Then down! And up again!

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

Nia: a Whole Body Workout

In Nia, we aren’t moving just our arms and our legs. We are moving our whole body.

Our torsos, chests, fingers, spine, toes, ankles, pelvis, heads — they all get mobilized during a Nia class.  The truth is, if we leave any body parts out, they tend to get lonely and jealous! Seriously, though, the use it or lose it adage is true. When body parts don’t get used, muscles stiffen, weaken and the end result is pain. And that’s not the way I choose to age.

In Nia we move through 3 planes: high, middle and low planes.  That means sometimes we move a little lower, dropping into the pelvis and coming closer to the ground (i.e., the low plane).  Other times we move at the level of the heart (i.e., the middle plane), and then there are times when we’re moving up above the head (i.e., the high plane).  Working through all these planes maximizes the conditioning effects on our whole body. Not just our arms and our legs.

What happens if we take out the middle plane, moving from the low straight to the high plane? As in low low low. As in getting down on the ground and then getting back up.

That takes it to a whole different level!

When’s the last time you got down on the floor and moved?  There are a ton of benefits related to doing that (building strength, maintaining flexibility, keeping the hips open and mobile). You only were able to learn how to walk because you got down on the floor. As an infant, you developed the right muscles, coordination and agility that allowed you to walk. Now, as an adult, you would not believe the healing benefits of getting down on the floor! Check out my post about my  5 day experiment with crawling on the floor.


Aging and Exercise: Gotta Get up and Down and Up and Down

As we age our bodies stiffen and creak. But why? Could it be because we’re not using them optimally?  Moving the joints is a way to keep them lubricated and therefore mobile. The more mobile we are, the less physical discomfort we experience.  So here’s an anti-aging idea:  Imagine yourself getting up and down and up and down and up and down from the floor.  But why would you want to do that?

Well, maybe to:

  • build strength in your legs and hips so that when you’re walking up stairs, you don’t need to pull yourself up using the railing (which puts a lot of strain on your upper body). At the same time, you won’t need to expose yourself to the multitude of germs living on that railing…
  • be able to bend your knees, hips, and ankles sufficiently so that when you’re looking for an item on the low shelf at the grocery store, you don’t wrench your back
  • develop the core and leg strength to get on off the toilet on your own as you age (I’m serious: we’re not getting any younger here!)
  • maintain the flexibility to be able to play golf
  • be able to get out of bed with ease; without grunting, clenching your jaw, or leaning down hard on your night table
  • be able to get down and make eye contact with children
  • be able to get in and out of a warm bubbly bath independently
  • continue to have picnics in the park, on a blanket, under a tree
  • be able to get up should you slip on the ice next winter
  • pick up the quarter/token/lottery ticket that you dropped without wincing
  • pick up a basket of laundry or bag of groceries in a way that doesn’t cause a visit to the chiropractor


So what if we got up and down off the floor for 60 seconds a day?

I’ll bet we’d stay mobile for a lot longer than if we didn’t!

(Oh, and here’s a great post about the importance of getting up and down as a means to maintain physical strength, mobility and flexibility and decrease pain as we age).


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