As human beings, aging is obviously a part of our natural life cycle, but there are several influences that affect when and how we age.
Factors like food, environment, and healthy or unhealthy habits, all play a role in the aging process. However, there is another key component to aging gracefully (or not) – exercise. In fact, many studies prove exercise can reverse aging in people both young and old.
Normally, the aging process begins around age 40, when muscular strength starts to decrease, and progressively worsens.
One study reveals older people who participate in resistance training can actually create changes in gene expressions related to muscle aging, and therefore, reverse the aging process all together. 1 In the study, both younger and older people underwent a 6-month program of strength training twice a week. By the end of the time period, the older groups’ gene expression had a similar one to that of the younger group. Plus, impairment of mitochondria—the powerhouse of energy cells — also reversed during the training program. In other words, it helped to replenish muscle tissue in the older group.2
Although exercises’ age-reversing results have recently been discovered, it solidifies the theories of historical scientists philosophers, including Dr. William Buchan, an 18th-century Scottish physician. He said, “Of all the causes which conspire to rend the life of a man short and miserable, none have greater influence than the want of proper exercise.”3 Nearly 2,400 years ago, Hippocrates said, “That which is used develops; that which is not wastes away.”
In other words, the more you move your body, the more youthful it will be.
You don’t have to become a bodybuilder, marathon runner, or a yoga expert, to reap the age reversal effects exercise brings. It’s up to you to choose one or several activities most enjoyable and comfortable to you, and develop a regimen that works for you.
Endurance exercises, like running, walking, cycling and swimming, play a large role in fending off psychological and neurological changes of aging, as well as boosting the HDL (good) cholesterol while lowering the LDL (bad) cholesterol. It improves cardiovascular health because it lowers the resting heart rate and increases the heart’s ability to send oxygen-filled blood to body tissue. It can also help avoid aging effects on the metabolism because it lowers blood sugar levels and decreases body fat. Additionally, endurance exercises can even help improve reflex time and fight off memory loss.4 Interval training can also offer these same benefits, but in less training time.
Resistance training and deep stretching or yoga are also proven to reverse aging.
Exercises like the chest and leg press, leg extension, shoulder press, lat pull-down, seated row, calf raise, back extension, biceps curl, and triceps extension, have all been included in research studies proving age reversal. Resistance training enhances muscle mass and preserves bone calcium.
Even several months after a resistance training program was completed, not all of the older participants continued going to a gym, but found ways to incorporate resistance training into daily life at home. Activities included using resistance bands and lifting soup cans, and proved to be effective at maintaining the same level of muscle strength gained during the study.5
If practiced consistently over time, certain stretches and yoga postures are also shown to reverse some signs and effects of aging, like sagging skin, loss of muscle strength, slow metabolism, and weak digestive system. Balancing yoga postures in particular can help older people avoid injuries and prevent falling accidents.
A solid exercise program works to its best benefit when balanced with other measures to slow the aging process. Other important aspects include a balanced diet focused on whole foods. It is also important to receive regular medical care, keep the mind active and stimulated, and keep healthy social relationships. Starting and maintaining all of these habits will lead to a longer, fuller, and more energetic lifetime.6