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By Monika Lenkei • May 13, 2013 • No Comments
Now we know how exercise reduces stress, let’s find out how it keeps us looking and feeling young inside and out. We have known for a long time that exercise tightens our skin, tones our muscles and decreases our waistline, making us look better, improving our self esteem and confidence. This may sound superficial, but it is an important factor for people who gain self-esteem from their physical appearance.
Exercise has also been proven to increase neurogenesis, the development of new brain cells in humans. In an article titled “Move Your Feet, Grow New Neurons?” Brenda Patoine highlights a study conducted at Columbia University that provided researchers with evidence that structured exercise increases the production of new nerve cells in middle aged humans, mainly in the area of the brain that is responsible for memory, learning and planning. There is also increasing evidence that physical activity may be protecting our brain against degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s as well as against stroke and spinal cord injury (The Dana Foundation). This suggests that people suffering from age related ailments have some control over the rate their disease progresses.
Increasingly, researchers are focusing their attention on how energy-producing tiny organelles called mitochondria affect aging. Mitochondria are our cell’s power plants with their own DNA. They produce energy, and over time they mutate and eventually malfunction which causes the death of the cell they power, ultimately causing aging. Mitochondria have their own repair mechanism to correct these mutations. In a study by the McMaster University, Dr. John Tarnopolsky lead a study on effects of exercise on mice that were genetically engineered to grow old fast due to a defect in their mitochondrial repair mechanism. The study found that
“premature aging in nearly every organ in the body was completely prevented in mice that ran … three times a week for five months” (par. 3).
Exercise also helps reduce the risk of many diseases. Cardiovascular fitness is vital in reducing blood pressure and the risk of heart attack and stroke by slowing the process of hardening of the arteries. It reduces the risk of diabetes and “bad” LDL cholesterol and increases “good” HDL cholesterol. Exercise helps regulate blood sugar and it is an important factor in fighting obesity, the top cause of preventable death in the United States. Some studies have shown that exercise also plays a significant role in combating certain forms of cancer. Sedentary people have a greater chance of developing chronic diseases than their active counterparts. Dr. Gordon Blackburn writes in his article titled “More Evidence that Exercise is Important” about a study conducted years ago in Dallas. Five, physically active twenty year old men spent three weeks on bed rest. Their cardiovascular health was assessed prior to and after the bed rest period. Researchers found that there was a significant decline in their muscle mass, blood pressure and heart rate. After an eight week training program, they regained and surpassed their original levels of fitness. Thirty years later the same participants were located, and their heart health was assessed. As expected, due to their age, all of them experienced a decline in their cardiovascular capacity. After they completed a six month endurance training, researchers found that
“[o]ne hundred percent of the age-related decline in aerobic power … occurring over 30 years was reversed…” (par. 5).
Physical activity gets everything moving in your body – the blood, the oxygen, the nutrients, and it also helps eliminate toxins through sweating. Putting all of this together, it is evident that exercise is extremely beneficial, if not essential to the human body.
With this, we have compelling evidence that exercise is one of the most important factors in keeping us looking and feeling younger, longer.
In our next segment we are going to take a look at how our lifestyle affects our state of health and vitality
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