Whilst we wait with bated breath for pharmaceutical companies to create a magic pill to combat all of our ageing concerns, could it be that the solution to some of those problems is as simple as working out? Can regular exercise really help to keep us looking younger for longer?
The answer is yes, it really can! As we get older, three significant things happen to us; it becomes harder to loose weight and easier to loose bone strength and lean muscle mass, otherwise known as sarcopenia which translates as ‘poverty of the flesh’ or rather more literally into flabby arms and sagging bottoms. The truth is, without an active lifestyle that incorporates some form of regular exercise, over the course of time our bodies will absolutely fall victim to the syndrome of ‘use it or lose it.’
The health benefits of exercise include improved metabolism, increased muscle and bone strength, more efficient cardiovascular (heart and blood vessel) function, larger lung capacity, tension reduction, improved sleep and yes, firmer looking skin, glowing complexions and brighter eyes.
And the even better news is that in order to reap the age reversing benefits of exercise, you don’t have to become a body builder, marathon runner or a yoga expert. Simply choose one or several activities that you enjoy and that can easily be developed into part of your normal daily activities and every so often, mix it up a little – variety will not only keep your muscles fresh but it will keep you from getting bored.
Try to include: aerobic exercise which involves the large muscles of the body, particularly the legs e.g. brisk walking, jogging, swimming or bike riding, all of which help to lower the resting heart rate whilst increasing the heart’s ability to send oxygen-filled blood to body tissue as well as lowering blood sugar levels and decreasing body fat.
In addition to maintaining your strength, co-ordination and motor skills, gaining more muscle through resistance exercises or weight training is another good way to loose excess fat as well as help to maintain healthy bone mass and prevent skeletal muscle decline (sarcopenia). Don’t be afraid of developing man-size muscles – which can really only be achieved if you’re serious about competitive weight-lifting and body-building – weight training provides a stress to the muscles that causes them to adapt and get stronger, similar to the way aerobic conditioning strengthens your heart. It can be performed with free weights, such as barbells and dumbbells or weight machines; other types of resistance exercises, such as using your own body weight or resistance bands, work just as well. You only need to include two or three 20 to 30 minute sessions a week, to see a significant improvement and meet the activity recommendations for healthy adults.
If you haven’t exercised for a long time, see your GP who can help tailor an appropriate and safe programme for you, otherwise consider getting instruction or joining a health club. Remember– it’s never too early or too late to start enjoying the benefits of a healthy body.