I’m 36. I don’t know if I look younger, older or exactly what I should look like at my age, but I feel like I look better than in my 20s. 

I give plenty of credit to regular exercise. However, about six years ago, I felt like I looked like I was in my 40s. I believe it was because I was exercising the wrong way.

When we exercise, the body develops free radicals from the stress of training, a natural response from the process of recovering and rebuilding the muscles. The downside is, depending on type, duration, frequency, diet and recovery time, the overflow of free radicals can accumulate and can deteriorate the cells. 

This can make you look older.

Have you ever seen an athlete who looks beat up from too much of one type of exercise? Let’s look at ways to prevent this:

a) Are you doing just cardio? Aerobic activity means that the cell needs oxygen to produce energy, which brings an oxidation process and creates free radicals. So the more cardio you do, the more free radicals your body produces. Cut back on cardio, especially long sessions and balance it off with some resistance workout that relies more on the anaerobic metabolism.

b) Yoga for a healthy skin: This body/mind discipline has been proven to lessen physically and psychological stress. Experts believe that yoga stimulates the oxygen flow while removing toxins from the body. Some poses are considered a natural “face lift.”

c) Mix it up: Don’t get stuck to one type of activity. You’ll create imbalances while taxing too much of one muscle. No matter if you plan to run the NYC marathon or just lose a few pounds, include strength, cardio and stretching in your program. Remember to vary the order of the exercises, the exercises, rest, reps, type and intensity of your cardio workouts.

d) Work out all the muscles: Not every time you exercise, but throughout the week. Don’t just train the ones that you like and see like legs or abs. Think that the muscles have two faces so every time you work one, work the opposite as well. A six-pack looks great but a strong lower back musculature will support the abs for a solid frame that will allow you to move freely and lessen the risk of aches and pains.

e) How much resting is enough? If you are just a weekend warrior, you are not helping prevent wrinkles. Chances are that you want to do it all at once, which will set you on a “binge” pattern. But if you are an “ exerholic,” chances are that your body is on an outgoing catabolic state and adrenal exhaustion, which means that neither your heart, hormones, immune system, bones, muscles or soft tissues get to fully recover. So, leave at least one day to fully recover and make sure you sleep at least 6 hours a day.

f) Hydrate: Between 65%-75% of the weight of the muscle is made of water. Water will help you to lubricate joints, skin and will guarantee that minerals important for electrolyte balance get dissolved to do their job. Drink 400-600 ml of water 2 hours before working out, 8-12 oz 15 minutes before starting the activity, 3-4 oz every 10 to 15 minutes and 16 oz for every 0.5 kg weight loss after working out. This is particularly important when you’re working out at a high temperature and/or exercise for over an hour. Also, don’t forget to put a sports sun block before going outside.

g) Eat plenty of antioxidants: Antioxidants are the ones that fight against free radicals. The most important are vitamin E, C and beta carotene. Eat more carrots, sweet potato, nuts, almonds, papaya and peaches. Also add some sources of Omega 3 fatty acids to decrease inflammation. Experts advise to get these sources as much as you can from whole foods rather than getting the nutrients from supplements.

When I made the changes mentioned above in my exercise program, I recovered my glow and freshness.

Marta Montenegro inspires people to live healthy lives by giving them the tools and strength to find one’s inner athlete through her personal website MartaMontenegro.com. She created SOBeFiT, a national fitness magazine for men and women, and the Montenegro Method DVD workout series – a program she designed for getting results in just 21 days by exercising 21 minutes a day . Marta is a strength and conditioning coach and serves as an adjunct professor of exercise physiology at Florida International University.

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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, martamontenegro.com, 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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