Exercise: The fountain of youth?
Exercise can help people lose weight, increase energy and improve outlook. But, here's added bonus: studies show that those who exercise also are physically younger. Who couldn't appreciate that?
The fitness-age connection
Keeping fit can help your life expectancy in two ways, according to a study in the Archives of Internal Medicine. It can decrease your chances of developing diseases and conditions as you age. It also can affect the aging process itself, as shown by the impact on an individual's chromosomes.
During the study, researchers learned that chromosomes can give clues on the effects of aging. The chromosomes of the most active people were similar to those of inactive people 10 years younger – a strong reason to get moving.
Another study by the Buck Institute for Age Research found that exercise – and weight training in particular - actually can revive muscle tissue. Active older men and women took part in six months of twice-weekly strength training. Then, their tissue samples were compared to those of younger men and women. Exercise brought the samples from the older group back to levels similar to those in the younger group.
Boost your brain power
Exercise can slow the aging process not only physically, but mentally, too. In another recent study of Canadian women older than age 65, a link was found between physical exercise and the brain. Those who did regular aerobic exercise had better blood flow to the brain, which helps its ability to process information. In fact, the women who exercised scored 10 percent higher in brain function tests.
Keeping your brain fit with mental workouts also can help increase memory. So, challenge your brain by trying a new hobby or tackling a crossword puzzle, suggests the American Psychological Association. Learning a new language or playing a new musical instrument may help, too.
Get your weekly dose
In order to reap the benefits of exercise you have to hit the pavement, not the couch. You can follow these guidelines from the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association. They suggest that healthy adults need at least:
- 30 minutes of moderate activity on five days each week - such as brisk walking, yoga or dancing or
- 20 minutes of intense activity on three days each week - such as jogging, swimming or aerobic dance and
- 20 minutes of strength training twice a week
Along with a healthful diet, regular exercise can help you make your health a top priority. But, talk with your doctor before significantly increasing your exercise levels.