Turning Back the Clock
You have probably heard that regular exercise can help you look and feel younger. Well, that is not a myth! There have been numerous studies that have proven regular exercise is the key to healthy aging.
In 2018, researchers from the Human Performance Laboratory at Ball State University in Muncie, IN assessed the physical condition of people in their 70s who had been exercising regularly for decades and published their findings in the Journal of Applied Physiology. What they discovered is that those who had exercised regularly since their 20s and 30s still had similar cardiovascular health to someone in their 40s. Lead researcher Scott Trappe, director of the Human Performance Laboratory stated,“Exercise wins’ is the take-home message.”
In addition, researchers at the University of Birmingham and King’s College London published their study in 2020. They found that staying active throughout one’s life keeps the body young and healthy. When people have a sedentary lifestyle, they lose muscle mass and the risk of heart disease, dementia, and reduced immune function increases. However, this study proved consistent and varied types of exercise prevents the loss of muscle mass and strength, keeps stamina and metabolism from plateauing, and it even helps to maintain a healthy blood pressure, normal cholesterol levels and a healthy weight. All of this promotes healthy aging.
How Exercise Promotes Healthy Aging
You maybe wondering how exactly physical activity leads to all of these health benefits. Studies from the University of California San Francisco explain that we age at the cellular level and chromosomal level. At the tips of each chromosome is something called telomeres. Telomeres control a cell’s aging process, and as we age these telomeres get shorter and shorter. However, exercising causes the telomeres to slow down and prevents them from getting shorter, which allows your cells to live longer.
In addition, everyone has a critical immune organ called the thymus, which makes immune cells called T cells. These start to shrink from the age of 20 and as you get older, you make less T cells. When you have less T cells, your immune system declines and your DNA has less protection from damage caused by free radicals. However, exercising regularly helps keep your immune system strong by increasing the production of T cells and helps to prevent free radical damage.
The overall goal should be to find an exercise that you enjoy in whatever environment that suits you so you can make physical activity a habit. Remember to start small! Even walking for 30-45 minutes a day will have incredible benefits for your body. As you get stronger and more confident, you can incorporate a wider variety of exercises. As the research above proves, you will reap the rewards throughout your life and be able to enjoy an independent and productive old age.