Tuesday 24 April 2018

Looking svelte and feeling fit aren't just side effects of the gym - genetics play a role

Pat Henry: training very hard and watching your diet will go a long way to improving your shape. Photo: Marc O'Sullivan.
Pat Henry: training very hard and watching your diet will go a long way to improving your shape. Photo: Marc O'Sullivan.

Pat Henry

In Ireland we have the highest population of over 50s and it's not uncommon to hear fitness experts refer to 50 as the new 30. That's fine if you feel 30 without the signs of ageing. But what if you are lacking energy, have bad muscle tone, are overweight or the opposite - are too thin - which is often down to genetics from our parents. So what's the secret to staying young, feeling good, having fewer aches and pains and living life to the full?

Over the past 20 years many studies have been undertaken on the secrets of youth, from the diet of the Hunza Tribe to the French and Mediterranean way of eating. The following are the top 10 tips for growing old disgracefully and each week I will take an in-depth look at the 10 points:

1. Good genetics

2. Very good sleep

3. Enjoy work

4. Good friends

5. A good sex life

6. Take up a hobby - music

7. Exercise for life

8. Good wholesome food

9. Weight train

10. Get regular medical check-ups

Good Genetics

Having good genetics plays a huge part in looking good, especially as we get older and if we have looked after our health and stayed reasonably active. Over the past 30 years in the fitness business, the main area of concern with the ladies, for example, would be 'How do I improve my legs and bottom?' With the men it's 'How do I get a six-pack?' Training very hard and watching your diet will go a long way to improving your shape.

But if you are expecting to have legs like Naomi Campbell, you will be disappointed. Those long legs were given by the Man or Woman Above and great genetics, which play an enormous part in how, even with hard exercise, your potential will be reached. But everyone can improve on what they have.

Legs can be reshaped, arms and shoulders can be sculpted to give a more streamlined shape. Ideally it's more important to feel good and to make the best of what you have. It can be frustrating if you have worked really hard in the gym and still see no improvement. This can be down to incorrect exercise or wrong food combinations; for example, in my opinion high-impact exercises, step aerobics with constant pounding on hard surfaces will widen your hips and the back of your legs.

For the ladies, the body will always try to protect you from damage by increasing fat on the legs and hips to avoid injury. Also the body is under attack by overloading the muscles. It will shut down the fat-burning process to assist and restore energy. Similar to crash diets, your main loss will be muscle and water, not fat. So you could end up actually softer than you were at the beginning.

The same applies to men who are overloading the body with too much heavy weights and probably doing thousands of sit-ups which will make the waist bigger and flood the ab area with too much blood, decreasing the chances of a six-pack.

Research has shown the most effective time spent in the gym would be 45 minutes to maximum one hour, three times a week or maximum five times a week. After that, get a life!

The concept of spot reducing fat in one area alone - forget it! Your body's fat composition will reduce all over when you change your diet and simply put less pressure on the overloaded system shutting down your metabolism, which will make you feel sluggish and increase fat levels.

Dr. Colgan of Colorado Research University, who deals with many of the top athletes, improved their performance by 30pc when training time was reduced and fat levels started dropping. Also it's important to find your best time to exercise. For some, early morning workouts are best. The metabolism will get a kick-start, fat stores will be used for energy as the hormone levels improve. Personally for me, 4pm is best. I feel strong with optimum strength and get the best results. Ideally try working out at different times and see what suits you and keep a check on how you feel.

Set a target to make changes in your physique with a six-week plan. Set aside three hours a week and make this your time, where you commit to sticking to a programme whether it's devised by you or by a trainer. For cardio, walking four miles in an hour is a good achievement. Increase freestyle exercises, press-ups, dips, chin-ups, etc. If you're in a gym, great! If not, there is loads you can do at home.

Only confide in like-minded individuals or friends, those who are positive and get behind you. This will keep you focussed on your diet and exercise plan and will stop you from being side-tracked.

Write down how you feel after your workout. This diary is your new plan. It also focusses the subconscious mind. Remember what you eat, drink and think, you become.

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