It seems that everyone is looking for the fountain of youth and the latest way to turn back the clock on aging. According to research from Global Industry Analysts, Americans will spend more than $114 billion on anti-aging products in 2015 alone – up from $80 billion in 2011.
Though many of these products claim to reduce the appearance of aging, most do nothing to promote health, wellness or longevity.
Are we looking in the right direction for health and wellness?
In actuality, some of the most significant anti-aging effects do not come from a pill or expensive cream, but rather from something completely free and available to anyone at any time: exercise. An active lifestyle has long been touted for its ability to maintain a healthy weight and protect the body against disease.
But now, research from Professor Mark Tarnopolsky and Canada’s McMaster University is showing the profound anti-aging benefits of exercise and how it may be the most powerful tool humans have for slowing the aging process.
’Endurance exercise’ may delay aging and prevent premature death
Professor Tarnopolsky led a study of mice, some of which were genetically engineered to age prematurely. Of those that were altered, some were placed on an exercise regimen that forced them to jog on a treadmill for 45 minutes three times per week. The remaining mice were left to a sedentary lifestyle that required no exercise at all.
Researchers monitored the mice for several months, paying close attention to any changes in the fur, organs, and each mouse’s energy levels. According to Tarnopolsky, the modified mice that did not exercise regularly were slow-moving and began showing hair loss, graying fur and muscle atrophy.
On the other hand, genetically engineered mice that were given an exercise routine were active, healthy, and did not show the same signs of aging. In fact, the exercising mice looked and acted exactly the same as mice that had not been genetically modified after a period of several months.
Don’t disregard the health benefits of exercise
Aging occurs as a result of changes in the mitochondria, which produce less and less energy for the body’s cells over time. Damaged mitochondria in genetically modified mice were expected to worsen over time. Instead, exercise seemed to reverse mitochondrial damage, causing the mitochondria in the exercise group to appear healthy like those of the normal mice.
Like mice, Tarnopolsky notes that humans age as a result of mitochondrial damage. Over time, the mitochondria produce less energy for the body’s cells, leading to a progressive deterioration of the body’s tissues. Exercise, however, seems to provide a tremendous protection against aging – both internally and externally. People who exercise can expect to live longer, look better, and feel greater energy than those who lead sedentary lifestyles.
Dr. Tarnopolsky notes that it is never too late to enjoy the health benefits of exercise and adopt a more active lifestyle. In fact, older adults who were once sedentary can still benefit from a combination of regular endurance exercise and resistance strength training. His research concludes that those who do engage in frequent exercise will enjoy a better quality of life and add up to five years to their lives.