Exercise can slow down the aging process, even at the cellular level, according to researchers. If you need another reason to include workouts as part of your daily routine, physical activity can reduce the risk of physical, mental, and cognitive decline that have been associated with aging. And it’s never too late to start exercising.
The Five Types of Aging
Before we consider the ways exercise can slow down the progression of aging, let’s take a look at the different categories of age.
According to the American Council of Exercise, the aging process can be characterized by five different types: chronological, biological, functional, physical, and social.
Chronological Age: This refers to the number of years you have been alive, independent of any other factors, such as exercise, nutrition, or genetics.
Biological Age: In contrast, biological age refers to how our body ages, taking into account the impact of lifestyle.
Functional Age: This figure refers to a person’s functional fitness level, compared to others of the same chronological age and sex. Measurements include ability to carry out everyday activities.
Psychological Age: This description deals with mental or cognitive functioning, including factors such as memory, learning, and self-esteem. A person’s psychological age also reflects how old he or she “feels.”
Social Age: Sociologists refer to social aging as the changes in roles and relationships, as well as the way society views aging.
How Exercise Changes the Way We Experience Age
While we can’t change chronological age, maintaining an active lifestyle throughout life can influence our biological age or the health of our bodies, as well as functional and psychological age. Regular exercise can also influence social age, as activity can affect self-esteem and how we see ourselves as we age.
Biological and Functional Age
Both biological and functional age can be impacted by exercise because exercise not only boosts muscle and bone mass, but also improves our ability to climb stairs, walk, and perform other tasks as we age.
Low impact strength training that uses your body weight, light dumbbells, or resistance bands helps to stabilize the joints by strengthening the surrounding muscles. These exercises also minimize bone loss, improve muscle strength and flexibility.
According to a 10-year study published in the journal Circulation, people who either were more active at the beginning of the study or who had increased their exercise by the study’s end experienced lower levels of inflammation than those who were more sedentary. Inflammation increases risk of developing many chronic diseases, including heart disease, type-2 diabetes, and even Alzheimer’s.
Core exercises like yoga or Pilates help to improve balance, which reduces risk of falls. Over 90 percent of hip fractures in people over 70 are due to falls. Aerobic or cardio exercises such as walking or dancing can improve heart health and keep off extra weight, which puts pressure on the hips and knees. Stretching exercises like yoga or tai chi relieve stiff joints and restore flexibility.
Psychological and Social Age
Participating in a group class can increase socialization, which prevents isolation and loneliness as we age. In addition, exercising can boost mental health, mood, and confidence. When people feel fit and able to perform more activities without help, they are more likely to be perceived as youthful and active than those who are sedentary.
Regular workouts increase energy and also help to promote the ability to fall asleep more quickly and also to experience deeper sleep. A lack of deep sleep can contribute to depression, anxiety, and lack of energy. Exercise also protects cognitive function.
How Much Exercise Do You Need?
According to Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines, adults should perform at least 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity exercise, or an equivalent combination of the two. Aerobic or cardiovascular activity should be performed in intervals of at least 10 minutes.
Adults should also do strength-training activities that work all major muscle groups at least 2 days per week.
The Amazing Benefits of HIIT
High intensity interval training is a popular workout that alternates periods of high-intensity exercise with low-intensity recovery periods. Doing short bursts of cardiovascular exercise burns more calories and increases fitness more than longer periods of running or other activities.
And for people 65 and up, the benefits are even more pronounced. A study published in Cell Metabolism found that a group of exercisers aged 65 and up who were performing a HIIT routine experienced the greatest benefits of reversing signs of aging within the cells, with a dramatic 69 percent increase in the ability of the cells to take in oxygen and to produce energy, compared to a 49% increase in exercisers under-30.
The Bottom Line
Developing a consistent exercise routine at any age is an effective way to delay the effects of aging, as well as to support overall health. To meet recommended guidelines, try to break workouts into 20- to 30-minute sessions each day. Interval training is especially effective at delaying signs of aging at the cellular level.
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