Staying healthy and vigorous is a goal most of us would say we possess. So if you could stop or slow some of the health effects of aging would you not want to do so? Well, physical exercise is the closest thing there is to gaining the effects of the proverbial fountain of youth than any other single thing we can do.
From our hair to our skin, bones, vascular system, mobility, flexibility, strength, nails, joints; all of these things can be kept younger and healthier through regular exercise. And people who exercise regularly develop fewer health problems. Thousands of people develop chronic health conditions like diabetes and heart disease every year. In fact, many early deaths are attributed to chronic health conditions, many of which can be ameliorated through exercise. Approximately 250,000 premature deaths per year in the United States are due to a lack of regular physical activity. The bottom line is physical exercise results in a much healthier and chronologically younger body.
Anybody can start an exercise program. And you must. According to a Harvard University Medical School research paper, Exercise and aging: Can you walk away from Father Time?, the negative effects of aging start as early as your 20s. After age 25-30, for example, the average man’s maximum attainable heart rate declines by about one beat per minute per year.
In other words, without exercise, a young man of 25 can pump 2.5 quarts of oxygen a minute, but a man who has reached the age of 65 can’t get higher than 1.5 quarts of oxygen per minute. This dramatic age-related decline in cardio health produces fatigue and breathlessness, even with everyday tasks.
By starting an exercise program at any age, you can dramatically improve your health and vigor. In fact, the male participants in the Harvard study, who began the study at 20 years old, and many of whom had been sedentary in the intervening years, responded so well at 50 to a six-month endurance training program that many reached the heart health and capability that they had measured at age 20. “All in all, exercise training reversed 100 % of the 30-year age-related decline in aerobic power.”
Heart and circulation
The negative effects of aging of the heart includes increases in your blood pressure, resting heart rate, heart muscle stiffness, blood vessel stiffness as well as decreases in your maximum heart rate and blood pumping capacity. To minimize or reverse these natural effects of the aging heart, endurance-based exercise is absolutely necessary to your well-being.
Swimming, jogging, aerobics, brisk walking or any other exercise that amps up your heart rate and keeps it elevated for at least 30 minutes six days a week will significantly improve your heart function if you are new to exercise. For those more experienced in endurance training, it is important to ensure your exercise program is challenging enough maintain your heart at its healthiest capacity.
The whole body reaps the rewards from regular physical activity. In addition to the heart, regular physical activity results in better lung function, a better, sharper nervous system, enhanced metabolic rate, more stable blood sugar, and muscle mass and strength are maintained and bone calcium content remains high. All positive things that keep us healthier and more energetic.
How do I benefit the most?
The research points to cardio or endurance training as perhaps the single most important factor in staying healthy and chronologically younger. Even if you have never exercised in your life, by starting an exercise program, you will improve heart health, gain a stronger body and make yourself less susceptible to chronic diseases that could lead to early death. In a study published in the American Journal of Physiology, it was found that even previously sedentary men and women could substantially and significantly improve their heart function and related chronological age by vigorous aerobic-endurance exercise.
Endurance or cardio training for your heart is a must part of the fitness and youth equation: run, walk briskly, swim, ride a bike, dance. Any activity that uses your own body weight and raises your heart rate and keeps it elevated is endurance training. In addition, you need resistance training, flexibility exercise, and balance training.
Pilates, yoga and strength training with light weights or resistance bands are all good options as part of an overall plan to exercise your way to your best and healthiest you.
So what are you waiting for? Get moving! It keeps a body young and healthy at any age!
Ramona Fortanbary is a Northern Virginia-based freelance writer and editor. Ramona has served as a writer in many industries. She has been a newspaper editor, corporate communications manager and public affairs specialist and senior writer-editor for the U.S. government. Ramona has studied at Chapman and Harvard universities. Her interests include fitness, reading, traveling and volunteer work. Ramona currently serves on the board of Heart Marks Art Therapy, a 501(c)(3) organization offering free art therapy sessions to at risk segments of our society.
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