We offer hear in the media that exercise is a beneficial to prevent aging, but do we know to what level this occurs and how much it can benefit a person? The answer is a resounding, “ YES! We DO!” Recent research has been released on not only how exercise prevents aging, but they have been able to monitor to what degree exercise can benefit the human body. Further, scientists have found evidence on the best exercises we can do to get the most anti-aging “bang for our buck,” so lets take a look at what cutting edge science is finding out about exercise and aging, and take a look at what exercises we can do to help ourselves as we get older.
It is well known that a great anti-aging benefit that comes from exercise is better cardiac health and stronger bones. This is achieved through moderate exercise and continued weight bearing exercise. It is so is well researched that doctors often tell the older patients to do light weight training and continue walking to keep up their health as they age, but their are more antiaging benefits to continued exercise that aren’t common knowledge. Here’s what the latest research says.
In a landmark discovery published in the journal, “Preventative Medicine,” it was reported in July 2017 that research showed that exercise and physical activity decreased cellular aging by up to 9 years. How do scientists measure a cell’s age? By their telomeres of course! ( What the heck is a telomere?). Let me explain... telomeres are on the ends of our chromosomes in every cell. They protect our DNA in our cells. As we age and cells repeatedly divide, our telomeres shorten; DNA starts to fray, replicate weird, and cause cellular deterioration, increased aging, decreased healthy cell function, and poor DNA transcription. Poor DNA transcription causes illnesses to manifest and aging to occur. However, there’s great news. In that anti-aging study, they found that regular physical activity and aerobic exercise accounted for longer telomeres, which means more protection for our DNA and our cells. The length of the telomeres increased and were an average of 9 years younger.
In another “Earth Shattering” study, different types of exercises were assessed to see which ones helped cellular energy production by improving the mitochondria function in our cells. Mitochondria are the parts of cells that act as the “powerhouses” and assist in energy production in our body. This biochemical process is needed to regulate cellular metabolism, sustain daily life and activity, as well as, support organ function. What scientists found during their study was that high intensity interval training (HIIT)* not only improved heart and lung function, but it increased the amount of mitochondria in the cells helping the body to have more energy, run efficiently, and have greater cellular respiration and health. Who couldn’t use a better metabolism and more energy as we age!
Finally, as we age, our skin gets dry, flaky, and translucent. Our hair turns gray, and sometimes we get very frail, but scientists are finding that this can be prevented.
In another study published in 2014, mice were tested to see if increasing their exercise helped with anti-aging. The scientists in this study used mice that had poor anti-aging genes and separated them into 2 groups. One group was allowed to live a sedentary life style with no access to exercise (aka no running wheel), the other had as much access to their running wheel as they desired. In the mice that had poor anti-aging genes that lived a sedentary lifestyle, their fur turned grey, some became very frail and demented, many lost their fur, and all had thinner skin. Meanwhile, the mice that had access to their running wheel maintained healthy skin, healthy fur, healthy muscles, and a healthy heart.
A similar test measuring the skin thickness in humans was done. In this study, their skin was biopsied and measured. Those that lived a sedentary life style had thinner skin and a thicker flakier epidermis with more wrinkles, while the people that exercised had a thicker dermis, and better skin that was younger when it was looked at under the microscope.
As you can see, do to advances in science, scientists are finding that many of the keys to our anti-aging regiment are related to our internal cellular health, not only the creams we put on our skin. We have seen that creams can help superficially, but the true long term anti-aging comes from diet and exercise. It has been demonstrated repeatedly by scientific testing. So, if you want to age more gracefully, incorporate good nutrition and moderate exercise with strength training into your daily life and reap the rewards of more youth.
*HIIT is alternating moderate exercise with fast, quick bursts of vigorous exercise in short intervals.
Berry, S., ‘Earth Shattering’ study reveals the best exercise for anti-ageing [sic]. The Sydney Morning Herald. 28 March 2017.
Reynolds, G., Younger skin through exercise. The NY Times. 16 April 2014.
Tucker, L., Physical activity and telomere length in U.S. men and women: An NHANES investigation. Preventative Medicine, July, 2017. Pgs 145-151.