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Can Exercise Reverse Aging? Studies Say “Yes”

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.

The More You Move, the Younger You’ll Feel

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.

The Benefits Of Exercise Can Be Enjoyed By Everyone

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.

Balance Is The Key

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

Show 6 References

  1. Medical Note: exercising helps to strengthen bone in addition to muscle. Working out and using your muscles makes tendons pull on bone – when a tendon pulls on its bony insertion, it causes a chain reaction of events that increases bone remodeling.
  2. Kravitz, L. Yes, Resistance Training Can Reverse the Aging Process. May 15, 2013.
  3. Exercise and aging: Can you walk away from Father Time?. Harvard Health Publication. May 15, 2013.
  4. Exercise and aging: Can you walk away from Father Time?. Harvard Health Publication. May 15, 2013.
  5. Exercise Reverses Aging in Muscle. Arthritis Foundation. May 15, 2013.
  6. Exercise and aging: Can you walk away from Father Time?. Harvard Health Publication. May 15, 2013.


  • Jody says:

    Fantastic, Caroline! As I am now on the slow slide into 50, I've become more aware that exercise is not just about how I look but about how I feel as well. As usual, excellent perspective from an informed journalist.

  • uncadonego says:

    I lost 110 lbs. on Marc's program. Now that I've lost the fat, I'm currently pushing harder on a bulking phase, carefully enough that even though I have some fat gain, my smallest size jeans still fit. I feel younger heading into 51 than I felt at 41. People who haven't seen me for a while are stunned and joke about me being my younger brother. Ha! Ha! Whole-heartedly have to agree with this article!

  • Hank says:

    Absolutely exercise helps keep you feeling younger and less fatigued. Unfortunately, it becomes harder to face the rigors of continuing to work out with increased time commitments. Therefore the choice to not exercise is the easy way out. After doing
    the program for 8 weeks and continuing twice weekly for the last 3 years I know that
    the effort is worth it thank you Marc and Hippocrates was right.

  • Stephen Vajda says:

    Of course keeping active keeps one young but too much running can be counter-productive because it can over-stress your body. Also, most trainers will tell you that the squat is much better for you than leg presses and extensions.

  • sabah says:

    I like it but I have always tried to move but in vain.I always get tired very quickly and I feel ashamed when I run though I am not obese.

  • Todd says:

    The book, "Younger Next Year" says work out 6 days a week for one hour...hard work. I agree.

  • Jairo Molina says:

    Thank you Caroline Young for this great article for this great site.

  • Seb says:

    Makes sense because, your muscles will be bigger and stuff if you excercise

  • Nick says:

    I'm in my 50s and have followed builtlean for almost a year and have been motivated by all your articals I feel great I exercise 4 times a week thanks for all your help and advice keep it coming .this artical will help keep me motivated I feel 10 years younger.Thanks again

  • Neels says:

    Great article Caroline.
    I can fully confirm every statement you make from my personal experience. I do bodyweight resistance training every morning (6 times a week) and follow a clean paleo diet. Two months ago I increased the intensity of my workouts and picked up 10 pounds in muscle weight while maintaining body fat of under 10%.
    I am 54 years young and feel exactly the same as in my thirties in terms of strength, endurance and energy. In fact, I now sport a six pack which i did not have back then...
    This really is the answer to slowing down (and reversing) the aging process. I feel so good that it motivates me to continue this lifestyle for as long as I am able to breathe and move.