We often associate exercise with weight loss or muscle building. And while a good diet and regular exercise can help you lose weight or gain muscle mass, did you know it can help you look and feel younger too? When you go out for a run, or attend a yoga class, you aren’t only maintaining a healthy weight but you are also helping your body look and feel younger!
Mark Tarnopolsky, a professor of pediatrics and exercise science at McMaster, led a team of researchers that determined people over the age of 40 who exercise regularly have healthier skin. In fact, the study showed their skin to be closer in composition to that of 20- and 30-year-olds.
“I don’t want to over-hype the results, but, really, it was pretty remarkable to see,” said Dr. Tarnopolsky. “Under a microscope, the volunteers’ skin looked like that of a much younger person, and all that they had done differently was exercise.”
The scientists examined 29 male and female volunteers ages 20 to 84. About half of the participants were active, performing at least three hours of moderate or vigorous physical activity every week, while the others were resolutely sedentary, exercising for less than one hour per week. They found that after age 40, the men and women who exercised frequently had markedly thinner, healthier stratum corneum (outer) layers and thicker dermis (inner) layers in their skin. Their skin was much closer in composition to that of the 20- and 30-year-olds than to that of others of their age, even if they were past age 65.
This study was born from an earlier one done with mice. Tarnopolsky and his team examined mice that were bred to age prematurely – they split the mice into two groups and provided one group with exercise wheels. The mice that remained sedentary rapidly grew frail, ill and greying or bald. But the mice that were given access to running wheels maintained healthy brains, hearts, muscles and reproductive organs. Their fur remained intact far longer than their sedentary labmates and didn’t even turn grey.
It’s important to remember there are other factors that go into aging that you should also take into consideration. Invest in proven ingredients for your skin care routine, avoid sugars in your diet that break down the skin through glycation, and invest in bed sheets that work for your skin and not against it.
But what good is looking younger if we don’t FEEL younger? Well, exercise can help with that. And we don’t just mean by toning your abs, and flattening your stomach.
Shorter telomeres are related to many age-related diseases, including cancer, stroke and cardiovascular disease. In a study led by exercise science professor Larry Tucker from Brigham Young University, telomere length was compared to levels of physical activity. His findings showed significant differences between those who did regular, vigorous exercise and those who did not.
“Just because you’re 40, doesn’t mean you’re 40 years old biologically,” he said in a statement. “We all know people that seem younger than their actual age. The more physically active we are, the less biological aging takes place in our bodies.”
He discovered adults with a high level of physical activity had a “biological aging advantage” of nine years compared to sedentary adults. When compared with those who did a moderate amount of exercise, the difference for highly active adults was seven years. A high level of physical activity was defined as running between 30 and 40 minutes per day, at least five days per week.
“Overall, physical activity was significantly and meaningfully associated with telomere length in U.S. men and women,” he wrote. “Evidently, adults who participate in high levels of physical activity tend to have longer telomeres, accounting for years of reduced cellular aging compared to their more sedentary counterparts.”
Not only can exercise help us look and feel younger, it can also help us think younger! One of the biggest health problems plaguing people as they age is dementia, of which Alzheimer’s disease is most common. But science says that exercise can help!
Neuroscientist Art Kramer, who directs the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois, says that exercise is the best thing you can do for your brain!
Kramer did a study in which he scanned the brains of 120 older adults, half of whom started a program of moderate aerobic exercise — just 45 minutes, three days a week, mostly walking. After a year, the MRI scans showed that for the aerobic group, the volume of their brains actually increased. Individuals in the control group lost about 1.5 percent of their brain volume, adding up to a 3.5 percent difference between individuals who took part in aerobic exercise and those who did not. Further tests showed that increased brain volume translated into better memory function.
“It’s simply not predestined for all human beings,” Bryan James, an epidemiologist at the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center in Chicago, says. “Lots of people live into their 90s and even 100s with no symptoms of dementia.”