3 Ways Lifelong Exercise Prevents Aging
It’s no secret that exercise is good for the soul. Lifelong exercise is associated with everything from reductions in frailty, to the regulation of skeletal mass and function, to successful aging (Elliott, et al. 2017). As we age, our bodies change. Physically active people and elite athletes often age more successfully than others, with successful aging being defined as “the optimization of life expectancy while minimizing physical and mental deterioration and disability” (Elliott, et al. 2017).
Staying active keeps your body young and at optimal health. Two related studies out of Birmingham (Pollock et al. 2018 and Duggal et al. 2018) compared a group of older people who had exercised all their lives to a group of similarly aged adults and young adults who did not exercise regularly. Their findings offer valuable insight into the importance of lifelong exercise on essential aspects of a healthy body ranging from muscle strength to the immune system to avoiding male menopause. Take a look at 3 of the main ways lifelong exercise benefits anti-aging.
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1. Lifelong Exercise Reduces Loss of Muscle Mass and Strength
As you age, you naturally start to lose muscle loss and function. This begins happening in your thirties, and if you’re physically inactive, you’re at risk of losing a higher percentage of your strength than if you exercise regularly throughout your life. Pollock et al. (2018) assessed 125 amateur cyclists aged 55 to 79 (84 male, 41 female) compared to a group of 75 healthy people aged 57 to 80 and 55 healthy young adults aged 20 to 36 who did not exercise regularly. They found that in the elderly people who exercised regularly, there was no loss of muscle mass and strength (Pollock et al. 2018).
2. Exercise Enhances the Immune System
We often see the older population suffer from illness and poor health. People are living longer, but not a lot of the aging population is living well and healthy. The study by Duggal et al. (2018) concluded that along with having a positive effect on muscle mass and strength, regular, life-long exercise enhanced the immune system of older adults. Thymus, an organ that makes immune cells called T cells typically starts to shrink in your twenties, producing fewer T cells, but this study found that in the physically active older participants, their thymuses were making as many T cells as those of a younger person (Duggal et al. 2018). More immune cells mean an enhanced immune system as you age.
3. Regular Exercise Lowers Body Fat and Cholesterol Level
Another finding from the study by Pollock et al. (2018) was that the cyclists did not have an increase in body fat and cholesterol levels with age, and the men’s testosterone levels remained high. Male menopause refers to the decline of male testosterone when aging, so this finding suggests that the cycling participants may have avoided much of male menopause.
Regular, lifelong exercise is key to health during anti-aging. There are so many different ways to stay active. Find something you love and stick to it for a healthier and stronger body as you grow older.
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Duggal, N.A., Pollock R.D., Lazarus N.R., Harridge, S., and Lord J.M. 2018. “Major Features of Immunescence, Including Reduced Thymic Output, Are Ameliorated by High Levels of Physical Activity in Adulthood.” Aging Cell.
Pollock, R.D., O’Brien K.A., Daniels, L.J., Nielsen, K.B., Rowlerson, A., Duggal, N.A., Lazarus, N. R., Lord, J.M., Philp, A., and Harridge, S. 2018. “Properties of the Vastus Lateralis Muscle in Relation to Age and Physiological Function in Master Cyclists Aged 55-79 Years.” Aging Cell.
Elliot, B.T., Herbert, P., Sculthorpe, N., Grace, F.M, Stratton, D., and Hayes, L.D. 2017. “Lifelong Exercise, but Not Short-Term High Intensity Interval Training, Increase GFD11, a Marker of Successful Aging: A Preliminary Investigation.” Physiological Reports.