Can exercise really reverse aging? That's a question that has followed me consistently since the first time I ever trained a client many moons ago. The short answer to that question is “yes” it can.

Can exercise really reverse aging? That’s a question that has followed me consistently since the first time I ever trained a client many moons ago. The short answer to that question is “yes” it can.

Now there are other things that factor in as well, like eating the right foods, getting enough rest, taking the right supplements, and taking care of your skin. But for the purpose of this article, we’ll focus primarily on the exercise part.

I decided to spotlight my client Jessica in this article, because at the time she became involved in personal training, her body did appear to reverse aging, both inside and out. She had more energy, more flexibility; she slept better; she got stronger, improved her endurance, and physically looked a decade younger than her age. At one point when she was training for her first bodybuilding competition, some of her peers began to nickname her “Benjamin Buttons” because it really did look like she was aging backwards.

Now, the obvious question is what did she do? Was it magic water or magic beans? No, basically my focus with Jessica was to build her strength and build her muscle. She initially came to me years ago, after reading one of my articles in the Transcript about the importance of working our legs, and how that effects muscle growth, to get more answers from me about that subject. Her first meeting with me was basically an interview. I wasn’t sure if she was channeling Barbara Walters or Rachel Maddow from MSNBC the way she grilled me with questions.

I laughed a little at the time because it was rare to find someone so passionate about a subject she knew nothing about. Training with me was her first jump into exercise. At the time, she proudly told me she was in her early 40s and wanted Father Time to take a hike. I laughed and said, “OK, let’s do it.” I started her out on a standard weight resistance split during the week. On separate days, I trained her chest and biceps, her back and triceps, her entire leg muscles, her shoulders and her core.

Our split was a standard three-set pyramid set (starting at light weights and working up to heavier weights), with just enough recovery time in between each set to keep her going. As she progressed over time I continued to challenge her with a variety of different styles in resistance and calorie-burning training, including “push/pull”, “supersets”, “compound sets”, “drop sets”, “5x5x5”, “CrossFit”, “Plyometric”, “Military-style”, and more. If you have any questions on the details of these exercises please email me at michael@michaelroyshaw.com.

As Jessica did more, she became more impassioned. So, I asked her to enter a bodybuilding bikini competition for the National Physique Committee (NPC), the premier amateur physique organization in the world. She said “yes” faster than a New York minute. With her diet, I controlled her macros (proteins, fats, and carbs), ensuring she had the right amount of calories consistently to match the kind of workouts she was doing and the calories she was burning. I also encouraged her to have a consultation with one of my other favorite clients, a gifted aesthetician named Thelma-Carole Edwards, who was also defying age herself. I did that for several reasons: 1) I wanted Jessica to understand her own skin as well as she now understood her body; 2) I wanted her to bring all the elements together: physicality, health, and beauty, and see how far she could take it; and 3) I wanted her to learn enough to make this entire experience a permanent chapter in her life from this point forward.

The results were as great as I expected. She was now an inspiration to not only 40-somethings but women and men of all ages. I attached a photo of her at her competition to this article. She took fourth place out of more than 20 women and vowed to take first prize the next time she stepped on stage.

Training her taught me something about the strength of the human spirit. I’ve always coached my clients on the importance of having a strong sense of self, and a balance with our spirituality as well as our physical health, and Jessica is definitely a billboard for this. Her motto was and is: “If you want to be a better version of yourself, defy time and naysayers, and just do it.”

The power lies in you as they say. When I was a child, my mother used to call that side of me my “unrelenting stubbornness.” She’s happy I never grew out of it. Deepak Chopra once said, “You can free yourself from aging by reinterpreting your body and by grasping the link between belief and biology.” “No” is never an answer any of us should settle on. Although I do not have enough room in one article to fully explain how each of us can completely take care ourselves and control time, I hope I have given you a glimpse into the possibilities.

Michael Shaw is a certified fitness trainer, sports performance nutrition specialist, owner of Shaw LLC, a member of the Maryland Advisory Council on Physical Fitness, and a fitness and fashion model manager. He can be reached at michael@michaelroyshaw.com or www.michaelroyshaw.com.