The Ultimate Fitness Formula

There really is a fountain of youth:

It's called exercise. How? Let us count the ways. In study after study, regular workouts have been proven to insulate you from heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's, stroke, and diabetes. Exercise lowers blood pressure, reduces body fat, raises "good" cholesterol, lowers "bad" cholesterol, improves blood flow, keeps intestines and the colon healthy, and regulates key hormones.

To ensure you reap all these benefits, we asked leading experts on aging and exercise to devise the ultimate anti-aging workout. All agreed that it should include the four cornerstones of age prevention: consistent cardio, intense intervals, yoga, and weight training. Start now and you can turn back the clock... for life.

1. DO: Consistent Cardio

The verdict is in: People who exercise almost daily really do keep ticking longer. When scientists pored over data from the famous Framingham Heart Study of more than 5,000 women and men, they discovered that active folks lived nearly four years longer than their inactive peers, largely because they sidestep heart disease--the nation's leading killer. Aerobic exercise such as walking, biking, jogging, and swimming protects your heart by lowering blood pressure, reducing "bad" cholesterol, and keeping arteries flexible to improve blood flow.

Your Rx: 30 minutes, five days a week of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise. Work at a pace that allows you to talk freely; if you can sing, you're not exercising hard enough. To get started, choose an activity you enjoy and do 10 minutes, five days a week. Then increase by five minutes each week until you're doing 30 minutes at a time. Dividing your exercise into three 10-minute bouts throughout the day works, too.

2. DO: Intense Intervals

Exercise keeps your mind fit by bringing more blood and oxygen to the noggin, rejuvenating your brain in the process. "The hippocampus, the main area of the brain where memory resides, is particularly susceptible to damage from low blood flow or lack of oxygen - both of which become more likely as we age," says brain researcher Eric B. Larson, MD, of the Group Health Cooperative in Seattle. Doing bursts of higher intensity activity will increase blood flow and oxygen even more.

Your Rx: 45 minutes, twice a week (moderate-paced cardio exercise interspersed with 1-minute speed bursts every two minutes). Based on a 1-to-10 scale, you should feel like you're working at an intensity of 7 or 8 (brisk enough that you can talk, but you'd rather not) during the speed bursts and an intensity of 5 or 6 (moderate enough that you can talk freely) the rest of the time. If you're just starting out, do 15-second intervals, slowly building up to one minute as your endurance increases. Because this is cardio exercise, you don't have to do these workouts on top of the steady-paced cardio session (though you can if you have the time, and you'll shape up even faster). Just extend two of those workouts and make them intervals.

3. DO: Weight Training

A healthy heart is key, but unless you have strong bones and muscles, getting up off the couch, climbing the stairs, and walking out the door to enjoy life won't be so easy. Lifting weights is one of the best ways to keep these body systems in tip-top shape, says Wendy Kohrt, PhD, a professor in the division of geriatric medicine at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver. And it can help you stand tall--a quick way to look younger.

Your Rx: 20 minutes, twice a week. Pick up two sets of dumbbells (3 and 5 pounds for beginners; 5 and 10, or 10 and 20 if you need an even bigger challenge), available at most department stores or sporting goods stores. 

4. DO: Yoga
The less tense you are, the fewer lines and wrinkles you'll develop. One of the best workouts to fight stress? Yoga. In a German study, three hours of practice a week lowered the anxiety levels of 16 women ages 26 to 51 by a whopping 30 percent. "As your mouth, jaw, and brows relax, you can literally see the creases soften," says Larry Payne, Ph.D., director of the Yoga Therapy Rx program at Loyola Marymount University. It may also protect against free radicals, compounds that break down skin's elasticity. Your Rx: 30 minutes, four times a week. To get started, go to

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