Most people are aware that regular exercise is essential for fitness and weight management. But did you know that exercise can also help boost your longevity? A growing body of research suggests that exercise can help you turn back the clock in several different ways.
Exercise and Telomeres
Recent studies show that exercise has an anti-aging effect at the molecular level. Your body has an estimated 100 trillion cells. Each cell contains chromosomes that house your genes. A chromosome has two “arms,” with each arm housing a single molecule of DNA. Each DNA molecule is made up of a string of beads called bases. At the tip of each chromosome arm is the telomere, a tiny unit of DNA that protect and stabilize your chromosomes.
One aging theory suggests that you grow old because your cells grow old. Your cells start dividing the moment you are conceived in the womb, with the telomere becoming shorter each time cell division occurs. One telomere is believed to contain 15,000 bases. When your telomeres reach the point when they only have about 5,000 bases, you die of old age.
A 2009 German study published in Circulation, the journal of the American Heart Association, found that exercise can help slow down telomere shortening.
The researchers compared the leukocytes or white blood cells of two groups of sedentary young and middle-aged men and women, and two other groups of young and middle-aged runners. The young runners run about 45 miles a week while the middle-aged runners run about 50 miles a week.
The researchers found that the telomeres found in the leukocytes of the young sedentary group and the young active group were about the same length. On the other hand, the telomeres found in the leukocytes of the sedentary middle-aged group were 40 percent shorter than those of their young sedentary counterparts.
The telomeres of the middle-aged runners were also shorter than those of the younger runners but only by 10 percent. This suggests that exercise can help slow down telomere aging.
Chronic psychological stress is also believed to be associated with short telomere length in sedentary people. A 2010 study conducted by researchers at the University of California San Francisco found that vigorous physical activity can help protect your telomeres from stress-caused damage.
Look and Feel Younger with Regular Exercise
Aside from helping stall telomere shortening, exercise can also help fight the effects of aging. Regular exercise can help you look and feel younger inside and out. A University of Cambridge animal study found that running can help boost your memory by stimulating the growth of new cells in the hippocampus, which is known as your brain’s memory center. Exercise has also been found to help ease anxiety and depression.
You lose muscle and strength as you grow older but a 2011 study published in the journal The Physician and Sportsmedicine suggests that you can prevent or slow down loss of muscle mass and function as you age as long as you do not become inactive.
The study measured the body composition, leg strength, and muscle mass of 40 male and female cyclists, runners, and swimmers between ages 40 to 81. They were divided into four age groups: 40 to 49, 50 to 59, 60 to 69, and 70 and older. The researchers found that the members of the oldest group had almost the same thigh muscle mass as those in the 40 to 49 group, and were about as strong as the 60 to 69 group.
Avoiding exercise may also cause you to age “ungracefully.” Aging experts at Scotland’s University of St. Andrews along with Active Nation – a nationwide initiative that aims to encourage Scots to have a more active lifestyle as part of the preparations for the 2014 Commonwealth Games – used the latest facial imaging technology to show how sedentary people would look in 20 years.
They found that people who had less than 30 minutes of moderate physical activity may experience fattening of the forehead and eye area as well as saggy skin on the lower jaw and neck.
These are just some of the studies that provide proof of the anti-aging benefits of exercise. You can’t prevent aging but you can do something to look and feel young even as the years go by. A regular exercise regimen is one of the most important components of a healthy, anti-aging lifestyle.
About The Author: Francine Luke writes for Top Beauty Secrets , an online resource that provides eyelash and eye cream reviews. Aside from writing about beauty products, Francine is also interested in fitness, health and sports.