Longevity is not a given in life. It is the gift of good health, which is the result of good habits and healthy living. All things we have control over. Health is not an accident or something we wait to "happen to us" but something we empower from within us through positive thought and action.
It is the greatest gift we give ourselves, the key to our longevity and the one thing empowered to open the door to all other gifts.
It does, however, require our active participation and ongoing input in two main areas:
a healthy, nutrient-dense diet, free from as much processed, toxic food as possible; and
a properly challenging exercise programme focused mainly on strength-training exercise.
These types of exercises work the muscular system so that "growth and repair" hormones (HGH) stimulated at the cellular level continually replace old, worn-out cells and tissues with new, healthier and stronger ones.
When our HGH (our growth and repair hormone) falls below the level required to keep our body in good running order, signs of ageing begin to appear. Body fat increases around the mid-section, loss of muscle strength occurs, lung power and vital energy decline, along with a feeling that our life force is being drained away.
The truth is health studies continually show a strong link between strength and lower risks of all chronic lifestyle diseases including the three most-feared - heart disease, cancer and diabetes. It seems there is a crucial relationship between total body health and wellness and regular muscle-building and maintaining activity.
The results speak loud and clear: the stronger we are in relation to body mass, the healthier we are. Proper exercise focused on strength training is our body's greatest healer and nature's most powerful medicine. When consistently performed 2-3 times weekly, it is empowered to shift things deep inside the body at the cellular level.
Physically, our bones get stronger, heart and lung function improve - strength training is the magic bullet that beefs up the strength and resilience of the heart muscle, protecting it from disease. A strong "ticker" is a healthy ticker. Blood pressure is lowered and circulation improves, while excess body fat is reduced along with susceptibility to disease. This improved blood flow to the brain reduces the risk of Alzheimer's by a whopping 40 per cent!
Strength-training exercise is also a readily accessible, safe and inexpensive anti-inflammatory medicine. When performed properly, it releases signalling molecules that promote a unique healing response that in turn, couples both the inflammatory and anti-inflammatory mechanisms to regenerate, repair and grow stronger, healthier, resilient tissue.
Neurological activity improves. Exercise releases "feel-good" endorphin hormones while reducing cortisol, the stress hormone linked to depression. Mentally and emotionally our moods enjoy a nice lift, while stress, anxiety and depression are reduced. When we are happy, our self-esteem and self-confidence is higher too.
In other words, proper strength-training exercise changes the way our genes function and we are less likely to get cancer, heart disease, hardened arteries or suffer from depression.
Strength-training exercises are key to renewing our energy and our vitality. They offer bodily healing influences that help reverse negative biochemical trends, while improving our resilience and immunity at every level of our physiology.
In fact, no other activity offers a more positive impact on our overall health and wellbeing than strength training/resistance training does.
It truly is the real "Fountain of Youth" and clearly the most powerful weapon we can wield when it comes to slowing down or reversing the effects of ageing. And the best thing is it is accessible to men and women of all ages and levels of health and fitness, eliminating nearly every excuse in the book.
The reality is, if we value our life and want our health span to match our lifespan, we must protect our bodies' strength and participating in a muscle-building and maintenance programme is the perfect solution. Simple daily tasks and activities, although providing other benefits, are simply not enough.
And let's face it, aside from the tremendous health benefits that strong muscles provide us, we also gain something no doctor or surgeon can provide with their fancy tools or limited prescription – healthy, naturally built, vital-looking muscle tissue that lays taut against the body as opposed to flabby, unhealthy, less-than-attractive fat.
Proper strength training leaves us with a pleasing, tighter, firmer and younger body shape (can we say head-turner), one sporting a boosted immune system empowered to fight off disease.
Give yourself the gift of healthy longevity by taking time for proper, structured strength-training exercise and discover the joy of being in your own healthy body. Just a few sessions of strength training weekly return high dividends, making you feel mentally, emotionally and physically fantastic!
• Carolyn Hansen is co-owner of Anytime Fitness.