This may be the most important factor for healthy aging

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I think we all want to live long, but at the same time we may be scared that we might not remain healthy for a long lifespan. You probably have experience with your own family or friends who have health issues when they age. On the other hand, many elderly have a very beautiful life up to a very high age. We can’t stop aging but we can have some control over how it affects us. 

Regular exercise, eating whole foods with healthy ingredients, proper hydration, lots of good proteins, and community involvement such as joining group activities and living purposefully, are the recipe for healthy aging and really for all round good health too. Being active and especially engaging in resistance exercises helps with bone density which can prevent falls and lower the risk of joint pain, but increasing muscle mass is also critical for keeping your strength, improving posture, maintaining metabolism, and improving your overall cardiovascular health. 

There is one exercise metric that is very important for healthy aging — VO2 max (or maximum oxygen uptake). This is a measure of the total amount of oxygen that your body can utilize during intense exercise and is often considered a key indicator of cardiovascular fitness and endurance performance. It is usually expressed in milliliters of oxygen per kilogram of body weight per minute (ml/kg/min) and serves as a way to assess your body’s ability to transport and utilize oxygen for energy production.

Improving your VO2 max involves enhancing your body’s capacity to deliver and utilize oxygen.

To use an analogy, VO2 max is the size of your body’s engine, so the larger it is the quicker it can provide oxygen to your tissues for metabolic function. It’s a popular measurement for endurance athletes for obvious performance reasons but also an important number for all of us. Numbers vary depending on individual factors such as muscle mass, bodyweight, and age, but the same rule applies to everyone that adding longer moderate-intensity cardio exercise to your routine can help build your aerobic base and improve oxygen utilization. Resistance training, while helping you build muscular strength, can also improve overall endurance and your ability to sustain higher levels of effort during exercise.

I wrote about in a recent column that it’s important to build up your cardiovascular strength with Zone 2 training, but then you can start to add interval training — short intervals of 10-30 sec, or brisk walks as fast as you can for 30-60 sec, repeating the intervals 6 to 10 times. Of course it will depend very much on where you start as to how much intensity you can give, but almost any type of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) has been shown to be very effective in boosting VO2 max. Consistency in your training is key, in the same way that consistent correct nutrition supports your body’s energy production and recovery. Just make sure to allow your body time to recover between intense workouts, for example 48 to 72 hours between intense sessions.

The normal and healthy range for VO2 max can vary depending on factors such as age, sex, fitness level, and genetics. For older individuals (usually over the age of 60), VO2 max tends to decline due to factors such as decreased muscle mass, reduced cardiovascular efficiency and decreased lung function. However, maintaining a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise can help mitigate this decline. The best way to learn your correct number is by consulting a healthcare professional or a qualified fitness expert, but many fitness watches do measure VO2 max now too.

Improving your VO2 max helps reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, improves metabolic health such as balancing blood sugar levels, improving your mood, helping maintain muscle mass and strength, improving cognitive function, reducing the risk of cognitive decline and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, and maintaining functional independence as you age, reducing the risk of needing assistance for daily activities.

It’s important to note of course that engaging in regular exercise is just one part of a comprehensive approach to healthy aging but VO2 max does serve as a valuable marker of cardiovascular and respiratory fitness. Most importantly you should not wait until it’s too late. Like everything, we may not see the urgency now, but keeping ourselves healthy is essential for enhancing the quality of life as we get older.

References:

Fleg, J. L., Morrell, C. H., Bos, A. G., Brant, L. J., Talbot, L. A., Wright, J. G., & Lakatta, E. G. (2005). Accelerated longitudinal decline of aerobic capacity in healthy older adults. Circulation, 112(5), 674-682.

Kodama, S., Saito, K., Tanaka, S., Maki, M., Yachi, Y., Asumi, M., … & Sone, H. (2009). Cardiorespiratory fitness as a quantitative predictor of all-cause mortality and cardiovascular events in healthy men and women: a meta-analysis. JAMA, 301(19), 2024-2035.

Sillanpää, E., Häkkinen, A., Laaksonen, D. E., Karavirta, L., Jensen, B., Kraemer, W. J., … & Häkkinen, K. (2009). Body composition, fitness, and metabolic health during strength and endurance training and their combination in middle-aged and older women. European journal of applied physiology, 106(2), 285-296.

Seals, D. R., & Melanson, E. L. (2014). “Raging” against the physiological limitations of human aging. American Journal of Physiology-Heart and Circulatory Physiology, 306(4), H441-H446.

Healthline. “Everything to Know About VO₂ Max.” https://www.healthline.com/health/vo2-max

UC Davis Health. “V̇O2max and Aerobic Fitness.” https://health.ucdavis.edu/sports-medicine/resources/vo2description

Cleveland Clinic. “VO2 Max: How To Measure and Improve It”. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/what-is-vo2-max-and-how-to-calculate-it/

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competition history

Ayda competes regularly in fitness competitions and is currently preparing for the 2023 North American championships.

NPC North American Championships, 2022
NPC North American Championships, 2022
NPC North American Championships, 2022
CPA Toronto, 2021

You’ve probably heard so many people say “I love what I do”, BUT in my case I can truly say it from my heart. I’ve competed in sports all my life, but it wasn’t so long ago that I really understood that actually I can only ever compete with myself.

“You are perfect, until compare yourself with someone else”

I started contest prep in 2011, and since then I didn’t stop competing. In some competitions I got first place, in some it went not so well, but every competition that I prepared for taught me something more about myself and helped me take the correct direction, which I believe has shaped my work and my life in such a positive way.

When I competed in my first bikini competition I had just moved from my home country Turkey to Canada, and was getting used to the Canadian lifestyle — and, of course, the language too, which was the hardest part for me. I always wanted to do a fitness or bikini competition, but when I was still in Turkey the work and cultural differences made it so hard to do.

So I was in Vancouver BC, working at Steve Nash Fitness Club, and one of my co-workers, who was a competitor herself, asked me “why you are not competing?” I started asking myself and questioning if I could do it? I’d never done anything like it before… Maybe you’re asking yourself the same questions right now! Of course I told myself “absolutely, I can’’. And my competition journey began!

Each show that I competed in gave me more knowledge about my body, and how I can improve. Of course, it’s not easy to correctly identify what’s missing with training and nutrition, and this learning process and all of the experiences pushed me to learn more… I’ve been a personal trainer since 1993, but I wanted more and began my nutrition studies. I finished my Comprehensive Nutrition and Sports Nutrition degrees.

And yes, I am still competing! You can see a list of all of the competitions that I’ve competed in further down this page. And right now, AGAIN, I am getting ready for my next show…!

I’ll warn you right now, it wasn’t easy at all. The easiest part was the training, which was already part of my daily life. But posing, dieting, supplementation, getting a bikini, finding a trainer… This was much tougher, not the mention the cost for the registration, jewelry, tanning, hair and make-up, they cost a lot too. 

But I wouldn’t let anything stop me, and right after my first show — WBFF in May, 2011 — I immediately started looking for the next show to compete in. I was hooked!

I am so happy to be able to help other competitors who are willing to work and improve their mind and health at the same time. My goal is to create healthy and happy bikini competitors, who want to challenge themselves and put in the work that needs to be done to reach their goals. There is really no easy way to get there… But there is a smart way.

I look forward to working together and sharing my knowledge with YOU to get you in the best shape of your LIFE!!!!! 

AYDA HAS COMPETED IN

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