Exercise to a Longer Life
Routine exercise is not on the top of everyone’s list. In fact, exercise may not be on the list at all. But, a growing number of studies are finding that certain exercise habits can slow the aging process, and that’s good news for older adults.
Health experts say that consistent exercise (with emphasis on the word, “consistent”) keeps your body stay young from the inside out. Staying physically active through exercise helps the circulatory system deliver oxygen and nutrients needed by the muscles, heart, lungs, and other vital organs.
30-minute exercises should be done four to five times a week
What’s more, researchers in one study says that consistent exercise can reverse damage to sedentary hearts and potentially prevent the risk of heart failure—as long as it’s enough exercise and started in time. According to the 2018 study by cardiologists at the University of Texas Southwestern and Texas Health Resources, the exercise regimen should begin by late middle age (before age 65), when the heart apparently retains some plasticity and ability to remodel itself. In addition, 30-minute exercises should be done four to five times a week since a previous study found two to three times a week was not enough.
It goes without saying that exercising has numerous physical and mental health benefits. What’s also good is that people of ages can reap these benefits.
“Regular exercise, started at any age, can dramatically cut the risks of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, chronic pain, depression, dementia, and scores of other health problems,” Dr. Jacob Hascalovici, chief medical officer of the New York-based Clearing health service, told Eat This, Not That!
When it comes to exercising, sometimes images of athletes running long-distance marathons, lifting heavy weights, and getting the maximum “burn” from a spin bike come to mind. While some people may enjoy these types of workouts, others who feel they do not have the ability to perform these workouts may use this as an excuse for not exercising.
It turns out that simple exercises can also have a positive impact on your health. And, what’s even better, you can design your own exercise routine, if you choose not to attend a formal exercise class. Dr. Hascalovici and Dr. Anthony Puopolo, Chief Medical Officer of RexMD, recommend developing these simple exercise habits to slow the aging process:
- Perform low-impact exercises. Low-impact exercises do not add stress to your knees and hips; plus, it helps to improve your mood. Dr. Hascalovici recommends exercises such as swimming, tai chi, cross-country skiing, yoga, biking, and walking. He also suggests watching online videos that offer a variety of options for low-impact exercises.
- Stretch regularly. It goes without saying that with aging comes pain. As a way to lessen physical pain, Dr. Hascalovici recommends developing a regular stretching routine that targets the specific body parts affected.
- Take the stairs whenever possible. It’s tempting to bypass a staircase and head to an elevator or escalator. But, Dr. Puopolo recommends choosing the least favorite option: the stairs, if at all possible. “Climbing stairs, when done safely, provides many of the benefits of weight lifting such as building strength in our calves, quadriceps, and hamstrings, and also having bone density building characteristics,” Dr. Puopolo told Eat This, Not That!
Another way to build up muscles and strengthen bone density is to include weights into your exercise routine. There’s no need to bench press 100 pounds to see improvement, any weight that you can manage will effectively increase upper-body strength when done consistently.
A 2020 study conducted by researchers at Liverpool Hope University in Liverpool, England found improvements (up to 60 percent gains) in muscle strength of 100 adults aged 60 and over after a four-month program of weight-based exercises.
“The improvement of muscular strength noted in this study is crucial for maintaining older adults’ independence, to enable them to carry out activities of daily living such as climbing stairs, walking to the shop and holding grocery bags,” Kate Mooney, the study’s lead researcher, said in a news release. The study’s findings were published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology.
Exercise Improves Brain Function
Much has been said about how exercise improves your physical body, but studies are also showing that consistent physical activity can improve your brain. For example, a study published in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, reported that exercise may slow brain aging of older adults by 10 years.
Researchers from the University of Miami (Florida) and Columbia University reviewed data on 876 people enrolled in the Northern Manhattan Study who were asked how long and how often they exercised during the two weeks prior to that date. About seven years later, each person was given tests of memory and thinking skills and a brain MRI, and five years after that, participants took the memory and thinking tests again.
Participants who did little to no exercise were found to have a decrease in thinking skills of 10 years, compared to participants who did moderate to high intensity exercise, which included activities such as running, aerobics, or calisthenics. The 10-year difference remained after researchers adjusted for other factors that could affect brain health, such as smoking, alcohol use, high blood pressure, and body mass index.
“The number of people over the age of 65 in the United States is on the rise, meaning the public health burden of thinking and memory problems will likely grow,” Dr. Clinton B. Wright, the study’s author and a professor of neurology at the University of Miami, said in a news release. “Our study showed that for older people, getting regular exercise may be protective, helping them keep their cognitive abilities longer.”
The fact of the matter is you can reverse a sedentary lifestyle and potentially improve your overall physical and mental health by exercising consistently.
“Regular exercise can help offset some of the damage aging causes by maintaining cognitive functioning, strengthening bones, and reducing the chances of having a fall,” Dr. Hascalovici said.