We all exercise for different reasons: better health, more energy, better appearance. Did you know one of the best reasons to engage in regular exercise is the ability to dial back the physiological clock? Stiffness in the morning, decreased strength and stamina, chronic aches and pains, and all of the other perceived “symptoms” of aging can be minimized or avoided with the help of good fitness throughout our lifetimes. Ironically enough, as we get older many of us become more inactive during a time where we need it the most. If you find yourself looking for creative ways to fend off the effects of aging, be sure to include exercise in your daily routine, and check out the following eight ways exercise can fight aging!
Exercise can slow age-related muscle loss.
Sarcopenia is the loss of muscle tissue due to aging, typically beginning during our 40s and 50s. The rate at which we lose muscle tissue is completely dependent on our nutrition and lifestyle habits. Strength training is one of the most proven ways to build and maintain muscle tissue. Be sure to focus on getting enough strength training in each and every week (2-3 times per week). The more muscle you have when sarcopenia begins, the more muscle you’ll have decades later.
Exercise takes the creak out of your joints.
Chronic inactivity is the main cause of stiff and creaky joints. Think about dogs and cats when they wake up from a nap. The first thing they do is stretch. That’s because the body’s fascia actually starts to grow “fuzz” like a cocoon around your muscles and joints. Most of us have felt that stiffness and/or tightness if we’ve ever spent a day being lazy on the couch. The more movement that you get, every 20 minutes or so, the less you will allow your body to get comfortable (stiff) in that position. Take the initiative to move as often as you can every day, throughout the day.
Exercise can keep your bones stronger.
Got lunges? Weight bearing exercise builds density in our largest bones. This process continues throughout our lives. The more weight bearing activity your bones receive, the more that they will need to adapt to that “stress” by becoming denser. Weight bearing activities, such as squats and lunges, should be part of your exercise routine a few times each week.
Exercise can increase your testosterone.
Not only does testosterone gradually decline as we get older, but it’s also estimated that one in four men have lower than optimal testosterone, no matter what their age is. Strength training can have a dramatic impact on this hormone production and regulation. In fact, studies have shown that a single strength training session can have a positive impact on testosterone levels. This is increasingly important for men, since decreased activity and increased stress can dramatically reduce testosterone production.
Exercise can lower your stress.
It’s a well known fact that stress ages us. Today’s fast-paced and high-stressed lifestyles have left much of the population feeling older than we actually are. Conditions we often associate with aging, such as high blood pressure, achy joints, lower stamina, etc. are actually not age related at all but more symptoms of poorly managed stress or high/low stress hormone (cortisol). Exercise can be a great way to manage stress. Yoga, pilates and steady state cardio are great activities to engage in that can actually help lower cortisol. Many of my clients like to start their day off with exercise because it gets them feeling good first thing in the morning and helps set a healthy tone for the day.
Exercise can help your brain/mental capacity.
The brain can be seen as a muscle that needs exercise just the same way your body does to adapt and stay vital as you get older. There are many specific benefits that exercise offers. Working out for short bouts can help improve your brain’s ability to process and create. This supports the need for a midday workout if you’re feeling a little foggy in those early workday meetings. As your lungs takes in more oxygen, your brain will reap the nourishing benefits as well.
Exercise enhances your mood and emotional resilience.
We all know what it feels like after a good workout on a stressful day. Stress is the quickest aging catalyst around, and exercise is a spot-on antidote. What’s more, exercise can be a great way to excite the brain’s pleasure circuit, kicking in the proverbial “runner’s high.” Be aware, higher intensity exercise on/just after a stressful day may not be the best for your stress response system. On those days, reward yourself with a nonstrenuous yoga class, or get in some low intensity aerobic activity with some dry sauna time afterward.
Exercise offers you better quality sleep--one of the best anti-aging remedies.
Better sleep is one of the most commonly cited (and appreciated) benefits of exercising I hear from my clients when they begin a fitness routine. Sleep really is a general cure-all, and its restorative processes are critical for health, metabolism, and healthy aging. Not getting a quality 6-8 hours of rest can contribute to everything from high blood pressure to weight gain to skin aging. When you exercise, you actually raise your body’s core temperature. Following a bout of exercise, your body temperature actually drops lower than if you hadn’t exercised, and a lower body temperature can help you sleep better.
How have you felt younger as a result of good fitness? Share your thoughts and questions! Thanks for reading today, everyone.
Written by Anika Christ, Senior Program Manager of Life Time Weight Loss
This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.