Mythology is full of stories about the quest for eternal life. Whilst there may no longer be heroes or heroines riding off into the sunset to challenge the monstrous keeper of the elixir of life, they have been substituted by an endless array of cosmetics, vitamins, super foods, newly discovered berries and all sorts of specialist diets.
However it seems that the key to turning back time and staying younger and healthier for longer has been freely available to every human being since Homo sapiens walked upright. Exercise is the elixir of life that we’ve always had but has been overlooked and pushed aside for years!
The good news is that it’s never too late to start taking your recommended daily dose of exercise. With regular exercise you will quickly start experiencing the health benefits and you will look and feel younger.
It has been medically proven that people who participate in regular exercise have:
Up to an 83% lower risk of osteoarthritis
- Up to a 68% lower risk of hip fracture
- Up to a 50% lower risk of type II diabetes or colon cancer
- Up to a 35% lower risk of coronary heart disease or stroke
- Up to a 30% lower risk of falls (among older adults), depression, dementia and early death
- Up to a 20% lower risk of breast cancer
Also many of our expectations about the inevitability of becoming more fail, weak and less mobile the older we get may be incorrect. Rather than genetics and time, how we age is to a large extent dependant on how well we maintain our physical fitness by being active.
In short, being physically active makes your body function more like a young person’s and even when the effects of age set in, exercise gives you an edge over other people of similar age.
At a cellular level one of the things that affect how quickly cells age are Telomeres. Telomeres are the protective caps on the ends of chromosomes. They are combinations of DNA and protein that protect the ends of chromosomes and help them remain stable. As they become shorter, and as their structural integrity weakens, the cells age and die quicker. Telomeres become shorter as you get older, and longer telomeres are associated with longevity.
A small pilot study by University College San Fransisco (UCSF) and the Preventative Medicine Research Institute in California, showed that moderate aerobic exercise such s walking 30 minutes per day, six days a week was among 4 lifestyle changes that can result in longer telomeres. The other 3 were diet, stress management and increased social support.
If having more energy and feeling younger weren’t enough of a prize, regular exercise also improves the appearance of your skin by keeling it soft and glowing. Researchers at McMaster University in Ontario studied a small group of adults between ages 20 and 84. Subjects aged over 40 who exercised regularly had skin that resembled the more supple, elastic skin of people in their 20s and 30s (even accounting for sun damage).
The research team theorised that exercise creates body substances that help slow ageing in skin. Although exactly how exercise changes skin composition is not fully understood and requires more research in this area.
Other benefits of exercise that keep you fit and feeling energised include:
Making your heart stronger - like any muscle your heart weakens with age, and regular exercise strengthens the heart’s muscle tissue.
- Improved memory - A study reported in the British Journal of Sports Medicine (2014) found that regular aerobic exercise seems to increase the size of the hippocampus, a part of the brain associated with memory.
- Reduced belly fat - regular cardio exercise helps counter the middle age spread or visceral fat, which carries with it an increased risk of diabetes and heart disease.
- Improved blood flow - exercise improves the flexibility of blood vessels, which makes it easier for them to expand and contract and deliver oxygen-rich blood to the brain, heart, and muscles.
Whilst it may not be possible to alter your chronological age, exercise and living a wellness lifestyle can help you to look and feel years younger.