Does regular exercise slow the aging process? Every health expert, health magazine and health book makes the claim that regular exercise is a major component in helping to slow the aging process. Now don’t get us wrong, we firmly believe this to be the truth, but rather than rely on the word of others we decided to take a look at the evidence as it exists today. Following you will find the information provided by authority experts. We think you will find as we have that exercise may indeed be the true “fountain of youth”.
Interestingly, while there has been general agreement among medical professionals that a balanced diet can increase longevity, those same professionals have long debated whether exercise could also increase longevity. Recently a few high-powered research studies appear to have settled this important question. A recent study, referred to as the Harvard Alumni Study, appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study followed 17,000 middle aged Harvard graduates over 26 years, monitoring a number of variables, including exercise habits. The study concluded that those who exercised vigorously (jogging, swimming, cycling, tennis, etc) had a 25% lower death rate than those whom were more sedentary or who engaged in “non-vigorous” activity such as bowling, golf, and strolling.
Another study, the Framingham Heart Study, found that those who expended 2,000 calories per week had an increased life expectancy of 2 years. This means that a person who walks briskly for about 8 miles a week will live considerably longer than his counterpart with the same lifestyle who doesn’t exercise regularly.
One of the most important roles exercise plays in increasing life span is probably by increasing our body’s ability to neutralize free radicals. This breakdown of healthy cells by oxygen free radicals appears to be a key mechanism in many of the aging processes. These include sun damage to skin, damage to organ systems, and mutations in DNA responsible for cancers. The body, as a consequence of metabolic processes, normally produces free radicals.
Influence of aging:
- Muscle strength usually decreases about 10% per decade after age 45.
- Aerobic capacity (VO2max) declines 8-10% per decade after age 25.
- Skeletal muscle mass generally decreases 10% per decade after the age of 40.
- Immune system function generally begins a modest decline after 40, then falls more rapidly in both men and women by age 55.
Importantly, these losses seem to exactly parallel decreases in the body’s antioxidant defense systems. The two most important tools we have for preventing the increased free radical damage associated with aging are exercise and nutrition. Exercise reduces the normal loss of the body’s free radical fighting antioxidant systems. Additionally, initiating an exercise program after the antioxidant potential of the body has been reduced can actually reverse some of the losses. A balanced nutrition program with high levels of vitamins A, C and E, as well as the hundreds of naturally occurring antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables will also combat the increased free radical damage as people age.
From a disease standpoint, regular exercise has been shown conclusively to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis, and depression. Furthermore, and equally important, it enhances fitness, strength, flexibility and body composition. Exercise contributes greatly to an improved quality of life.
One of the world’s leading authorities on exercise and longevity has thoroughly examined the literature on exercise and lifespan and offers a simple summation: Exercise will most definitely add several years to lifespan. Exercise will reduce the incidence of illness, even reverse certain illnesses such as diabetes, joint stiffness, osteoporosis, heart and lung and circulatory deficiencies.
With conventional exercise methods you can exercise several hours per week and live longer and healthier.
Research into the role of exercise and aging continues today. Based on the current research it is evident that regular exercise even started at an advanced age by people who have already lost much of their health and fitness, will indeed often help to restore some or most of the health and fitness lost, and it helps us to live longer more active and productive lives.