Exercise: The Real Fountain of Youth
Ageing is the progressive decline of metabolic and physiological functions ultimately leading to the loss of function and increased risk of developing diseases. Some changes begin as early as 30- 35 years of age and can include loss of bone mineral density, increased stiffness of blood vessels, decreased muscle mass and declines in cognitive function. The biological features of ageing vary considerably among individuals due to a multitude of genetic and environmental factors. Although aging is inevitable, if there was one thing that even comes close to a real-life fountain of youth, it would be exercise. So how does exercise help keep you young?
After the age of 35, we lose about 5% of our muscle mass every 10 years. By the age of 65, we lose about 25% of peak force production. This loss of strength progressively inhibits the ability to perform activities of daily living and increases the risk of falls. Additionally, this loss of overall muscle mass severely affects metabolic health.
Strength training can increase muscle mass and strength in as little as 8 weeks even in 90-year-old subjects. Stronger, bigger muscle enhances metabolism, stabilise joints, reduce the risk of falls and can decrease shortness of breath with physical activity.
Peak bone mass is typically reached at the age of 25-30 and declines by 0.25-0.75% per year and accelerates as we continue to age. This places older adults at greater risk of bone breaks and fractures, which significantly limits mobility, independence and lifespan.
Weight-bearing exercise and strength training are essential for maintaining bone health throughout the lifespan. Much like a muscle, bone is a tissue that responds and adapts to the forces placed upon them. When you exercise the bone adapts by increasing in density at the points where loading is at its greatest.
With aging the stiffness blood vessels increases leading to increased blood pressure and increased risk of cardiovascular diseases. Exercise has been shown to protect the inner lining of blood vessels from age-related changes improving their function and elasticity helping to regulate blood flow and blood pressure better. Exercise also helps to prevent the accumulation of fatty plaques from forming which decrease blood flow and can lead to blood clots and blockages of the coronary arteries.
Aging decreases mental efficiency with the deterioration of memory being the number one cognitive complaint of older adults. Emerging research is now showing that regular exercise can curb the cognitive decline in older adults by increasing the size of key parts of the brain responsible for reasoning, problem solving, memory and learning.