Physical activity tones up muscles, protects bones, burn calories and puts a happy bounce in your step, but recently researchers uncovered a new bonus benefit: Exercise acts as a powerful vaccine against the aging process itself.
In a study done by the University of Florida exercise physiologists put healthy people ages 60 to 85 on weight-training programs for six months, then tested for signs of free radical damage. By the end of the study , low-intensity exercisers had a drop in free radical damage, while high-intensity exercisers had a slight increase, and the control group of non-exercisers had a whopping 13 percent rise in free radial damage.
In another study by the University of Florida researchers found that fitting in an hour of activity a day for just three days per week raised levels of an important free radial-fighting compound called superoxide dismutase, produced by muscle cells throughout the body, including the heart.
The scientist suspect that aerobic activities like walking and swimming help heart muscle better defend itself against the cascade of events that lead to a heart attack.
Of course that isn’t the only reason to take a walk. Try a few easy strength-training moves, or add extra bursts of movement to your day because studies show movement can:
Even if you hated gym class and never exercised before, it’s not too late to start. “People who go from no exercise to some exercise receive the biggest benefits,” Dr. Nied notes. Adding some strength-training moves can have big benefits too, he says. “Muscle strength declines by 15 percent per decade after age 50 and by 30 percent per decade after age 70.” He notes. “However, resistance training can result in 25 to 100 percent strength gains or more.”
“There are so many wonderful benefits to the power of physical activity. It is good to know that you don’t have to sweat through a long, tough workout or run a marathon or hit the gym at 5 am to get them. The kind of physical activity that really helps is whatever kind you enjoy and that you do consistently – whether it’s swimming, working in the garden, walking with your friends, taking an easy exercise class or trying something new like tai chi or yoga. You don’t even have to do it for long periods of time. Getting 10 minutes in the morning, 10 minutes in the afternoon, and 10 minutes in the evening is all you need.” Says geriatrician Sonia Sehgal, MD, an assistant professor in the department of internal medicine at the University of California, Irvine.
Sticking with a moderate, doable routine will give you the most anti-aging benefits. Like a flu vaccine that switches on your body’s natural defenses, exercise actually works by unleashing a helpful amount of free radicals in your body. They’re produced naturally by little energy-generating “machines” in your cells called mitochondria. Your body responds to this surge by pumping out more antioxidants and enzymes to mop up these villains. But if you exercise to the point of exhaustion, the burst of free radicals simply overwhelms your defenses.
“When exercise is repeated regularly, the body promptly adjusts so that oxidative stress is eliminated or reduced,” notes Sandra T. Davidge, PhD, of the University of Michigan. “A regular exercise habit seems to have an antioxidant effect.”
The American College of Sports Medicine reports that exercise can dramatically age proof your body: While non-exercisers see a 1 to 2 percent decline per year in all sorts of body functions after age 30, exercisers reduced that decline by 75 percent. “At 90 years old, a non-exerciser will have lost 70 percent of his or her functional ability, while an exerciser will have lost only 30 percent of functional ability- retaining 70 percent of his strength!” the American College of Sports Medicine notes.
I know for me this is powerful information and a sure fire wakeup-call. What kind of activity do you like to do? Swimming? Walking your dog? Working in your garden? It all qualifies and with a bit of activity each day you can reap so many benefits!
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