Aside from maintaining a healthy diet, science says regular exercise is one of the best ways to slow down the natural aging process.
Of course, chronic or obsessive exercise patterns can end up causing more harm to the body than good, so it’s important to find the right balance. Exercise alone can’t fix a lifestyle filled with stress, alcohol, smoking, poor food choices and other unhealthy habits. Generally, however, exercise provides health-boosting effects that affect how your body ages in a multitude of ways, which we will outline below.
Aim to be more physically active in your everyday life and you’ll reap the rewards of a longer, happier life. Exercise isn’t a magic elixir, but it’s one of the single-most important factors in determining your overall health and longevity. A well-balanced exercise plan that includes both cardio and strength training, coupled with a healthy diet, can do wonders to improve your quality of life.
1. Slows Deep Aging In Our Cells
It is believed that our cells’ telomeres — the caps at each end a strand of our DNA, which protect our chromosomes — shorten as we age. They also shorten faster in individuals who lead unhealthy lifestyles, and studies have shown that more physically active people have longer telomeres than their sedentary counterparts. Almost any amount and type of physical activity may slow aging deep within our cells, slowing down the natural process of fraying telomeres. At this point, scientists have yet to agree on a specified amount of exercise to achieve this effect, but the overall consensus is clear: Any form of physical activity is helpful for the health of your cells and decreases their aging process.
2. Decreases Body Fat
Excessive levels of body fat create inflammation and make it harder to function and move on a daily basis. Increased stress on the body from fat deposits, especially around your midsection, can place stress on your vital organs, shortening your lifespan by leaving you vulnerable to disease and illness. Of course, a certain level of fat is crucial for the body’s regulation of important functions, such as hormone production. Too much fat, however, can create an imbalance in hormones, inflammation, and other problems. People who exercise regularly also generally decrease their body fat, which will limit all of these unwanted health risks.
3. Increases Muscle And Bone Density
Exercise, specifically lifting weights or resistance training, increases muscle mass. Lean muscle mass continues to burn calories even when you’re sedentary, giving your metabolism a boost. In addition, more muscle means more stability and less room for injury, which could also contribute to an increased lifespan. Furthermore, lifting weights helps build up bone mass, which is especially important in women who may suffer from low bone density and osteoporosis as they get older.
4. Increases Heart Health
Your heart is a muscle. Just like any other muscle, exercise works your heart, getting it pumping and increasing its functioning over time. Regular physical activity increases your aerobic and anaerobic capacity, making your heart stronger. Your body will become more efficient at pumping blood throughout your body, which is essential for overall health and a longer life expectancy. More than 1.4 million Canadians have heart disease, one of the leading causes of death in Canada. A strong, healthy heart can help ward off longevity-decreasing events such as heart disease, heart attacks and stroke.
5. Decreases Anxiety And Risk Of Depression
We feel great after a solid workout. But why? Exercise produces endorphins, that “feel-good” hormone that makes us feel positive and elated. The effects of a mood boost are undeniable, from reduced stress and anxiety levels to improved sleep. Studies have even suggested that regular physical exercise is one of the best ways to combat symptoms of depression. By breaking a sweat on the regular, you’re warding off stress, anxiety and other mental health issues that affect longevity.