Some people exercise for cosmetic benefits. They want to lose weight or look better in a swimsuit. But there’s another reason to get out the weights or work up a sweat with cardio. Exercise is one of the few lifestyle habits that can slow down the aging process. When researchers at McMaster University in Ontario compared mice that exercised for 45 minutes several times a week and were genetically bred to age quickly, the mice appeared much younger than mice with the same defect that didn’t exercise. In fact, they behaved more like young, healthy mice and were physiologically similar to normal mice. Such is the power of a regular workout. Have you ever stopped to consider the many ways exercise slows aging?
Exercise Reduces the Age-Related Loss of Muscle Mass
Muscle mass declines by about 40% between the ages of 20 and 80. That has a negative impact on metabolism since there’s less metabolically-active muscle tissue to burn energy. Resistance training decreases this loss of lean body mass and drops in metabolic rate. Even though growth hormone and testosterone levels normally decline with age, resistance training increases the level of these anabolic hormones. That’s one reason resistance training is so important as we grow older.
It Helps Maintain Bone Mass
Twenty-percent of women over the age of 50 already have osteoporosis and the number increases with age. High-impact cardio and resistance training help to maintain bone mass and prevent osteoporosis. How does it help? The pushing and pulling effect of lifting weights or pulling on resistance bands stimulates bone growth just as high-impact exercise, where both your feet leave the ground, boosts bone density. Bone density starts to decline after the age of 30. The good news? It’s never too late to get the benefits. Research shows that even elderly people can increase their bone density from exercise.
It Slows Down Brain Aging
Exercise may be just what the doctor ordered for staying mentally sharp. Research shows that regular exercise reduces the risk of mild cognitive impairment by almost 40% in women. Mild cognitive impairment is a condition characterized by memory and thinking problems that are more severe than what you’d expect based on a person’s age but not significant enough to be called dementia. In other words, these are memory problems that are more profound than simply forgetting where you put your car keys. The problem with mild cognitive impairment is it increases the risk of dementia later on. Regular exercise is one way to reduce the risk of developing this problem in the first place. Regular workouts also improve memory and cognitive skills and can even make you a better multi-tasker. Why does it work? Exercise stimulates the growth of new nerve cells and nerve cells connections in the brain and also builds new capillaries to supply the brain with more oxygen. That’s another good reason to work up a sweat.
It’s a Stress-Reliever
Whether it’s the endorphin release that happens with exercise or simply because exercise takes your mind off of problems, research suggests working out reduces stress and improves mental health. What type of exercise is most effective for easing anxiety and lifting the mood? According to a study carried out at the University of Missouri-Columbia, high-intensity exercise works best, at least for women. Next time you’re feeling stressed, work some high-intensity intervals into your fitness session and feel the stress melt away.
It Reduces the Risk of Age-Related Diseases
Working out regularly reduces the risk of a number of health problems many people face with age including type 2-diabetes, obesity, hypertension and heart disease. It also lowers the risk of some types of cancer including breast cancer in women. In fact, research suggests women can reduce your risk of breast cancer by 30% by regularly working up a sweat. How does it work? Exercise lowers the levels of hormones like insulin and growth factors like IGF-1 that can stimulate the growth of some cancers. It also reduces the risk of obesity, another risk factor for some malignancies.
The Bottom Line?
Even if you’re not focused on getting a six-pack, there are lots of reasons to get out your exercise shoes. You may age faster if you don’t.
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Reuters. “Exercise protects and improves the aging brain”
American Psychological Society. “Another Reason to Break a Sweat”
Science Daily. “High-Intensity Exercise Best Way To Reduce Anxiety, University Of Missouri Study Finds”