Marta Montenegro: Your RX to Delay the Aging Process

“Young adults aged 18 to 29 (56.8 percent) remained the most likely to exercise frequently in 2011 as they have in past years,” reports a survey from on American exercise habits. Up to here, we can’t complaint. However, the frequency diminishes as we pass the 30s; precisely, when the typical signs of aging starts to show.

Through the 30s decade many fitness-related capabilities are affected negatively. According to Pete McCall, exercise physiologist, American Council on Exercise, during the biological/chronological aging process, this is what you can expect:

1. Loss in lean muscle mass, which leads to a reduction of strength capacity and physical function
2. As muscle is lost the resting metabolic rate (RMR) –  the ability of the body of burn calories during rest –  is reduced. Thus, the metabolism slows down
3. Loss of bone mineral density
4. Changes in the endocrine system, which produces the hormones responsible for stimulating or inhibiting very important cellular reactions from cardiovascular health to skin look.


We all grumble about how easy was to lose the last 10 pounds when we were in our 20s and how difficult is to get rid of them when hitting our 30s. The aging clock is hard to stop, especially among some fitness components that will not just make to run with your dog harder, but will also play a role on the occurrence of some diseases.

Cardiovascular Endurance

Sara Mahoney, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Exercise Science, Texas A&M University-Kingsville, explains that both your maximal heart rate and the maximum amount of blood that your heart can pump -cardiac output- will decrease. Thus, cardiovascular endurance diminishes approximately one percentage per year after age 40.

But not just your ticker starts to slow down, lung function – as Mahoney adds -  also decreases around eight to 10 percent per decade from age 30 to 60 and then more rapidly after that.

Anti-aging cardio workout:

“People who changed from low to high intensity physical activity during the observation period had substantially higher VO2 peak at follow-up compared with people whose activity remained low,” confirms an epidemiology study from Norway, published in the Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

Do some high intensity intermittent training (HIIT) by combining very short periods (15 to 30 seconds) of near maximum heart rate or 9-10 in scale of perceived effort from 1-10 with recovery period twice the time in a scale 5-6.  Since the intensity is higher, the total time of your cardio activity will be shorter (30 minutes or so).

Muscle Strength

The rate of muscle loss will affect both the aerobic capacity and the metabolic rate. The less muscle you have relative to your weight, the less work you can do and the slower your metabolism becomes. You will also burn fewer calories at rest and while exercising.

“Muscle strength will decrease beginning in the 30s about eight percent per decade, and the rate of strength loss accelerates after age 70,” says Mahoney.

The rate of muscle loss will result in a 40 percent decrease in total muscle mass between the ages of 20 and 60. However, strength declines at a faster rate than muscle loss due to age related neural changes that affect muscle function.

Particularly, the loss in muscle mass is mostly due to a loss in the number of fast twitch fibers- the ones that produce force rapidly but fatigue quickly. Thus, the rate of force development or power, diminishes even more rapidly than strength, adds the professor.

McCall points out that loss in muscle is also linked to hormonal changes. For example, in men over the age of 35 there is a reduction in serum testosterone levels – three to five percent per year without regular exercise, which adds on loss of body mass and overall strength capabilities-.

Anti-aging weightlifting workout: To fire the fast twitch muscle fibers and the neuro-muscular system to kick in the adrenaline response to break down fat and to boost growth hormone and testosterone, there are different exercise protocols to follow.

Two of the most common are:  exercises that use large amount of muscle mass – such as squats, deadlifts, pull-ups, snatches, among other Olympic moves (3-5 reps and up to 3 minutes rest).  Another approach is to use multi-joint exercises with a higher rep range (6 to 12) with very short rest intervals (60-90 s).

Bone loss

McCall warns that both men and women will experience bone loss.

“Particularly, in women bone density peaks around age 30, slowly decreases until age 60, and then quickly decreases throughout the remainder of life. Women lose bone mineral content much more rapidly after menopause,” says Mahoney.

Anti-aging bone loss workout: Power training (explosive moves such as jump squats, split jumps and vertical jumps)  will not just improve peak muscle power, but also studies show that functional performance and bone mass prevention are maximized.

In a study published in Journal of Strength and Conditioning that power and agility-oriented moves such as depth jumps, jump squats and back squats increased bone density mass more effectively than walking.


Inevitably, balanced is reduced in older adults as indicated by more pronounced postural sway; in addition to gait impairments, as states in the article “Strategies Foraging Well” in the Strength and Conditioning Journal.

Anti-aging balance workout: However, while this article suggests that Tai Chi may be one of the best exercise interventions for maintaining functional balance, the authors note that “ a combination of resistance training, flexibility and some type of balance training are the ticket.”


The sharp decline in muscle mass, aerobic capacity and endocrine function, in addition to the increase in body fat, poor sleep and stress management set the environment to develop chronic health conditions such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and onset type II diabetes, as McCall recalls.

Anti-aging metabolism workout:  exercising regularly will keep not just your metabolism up and running but also will slow the withering of the telemores, the protective cap of the chromosomes which delays aging, indicates a research from King’s College in London.

While caloric restriction has been shown to preserve aerobic function, it is not only how many calories one consumes but what one eats that matters. Some experts suggest that up 70 percent of the relationship between exercise and diet.

“The top three foods that you should eat are: 1) variety of fruits and vegetables, 2) omega 3-fatty acids found in tuna, salmon, ground flaxseeds and/or walnuts, 3) legumes including beans and lentils. “The proteins found in these foods are needed to rebuild muscles and keep them strong,” advises Jennifer Crum, RD, nutritionist at NYU, Langone Medical Center.

Marta Montenegro is an exercise physiologist, certified strength and conditioning coach and master trainer, who teaches as an adjunct professor at Florida International University. Marta has developed her own system of exercises used by professional athletes. Her personal website,, combines fitness, nutrition and health tips, exercise routines, recipes and the latest news to help you change your life but not your lifestyle. She was the founder of nationally awarded SOBeFiT magazine and the fitness DVD series Montenegro Method.

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