What Is the Relationship between Exercise and Aging?

It has been well documented that there is a positive correlation between exercise and aging, with exercise one of the most widely recommended habits for slowing or even reversing the aging process. Exercise has been shown to improve cardiovascular health, reduce the risk of disease, aid in the maintenance of bone density, improve joint health and ease arthritis symptoms. People who regularly exercise also enjoy increased strength, as well as better flexibility and coordination, and even improved mental functioning. Individuals who follow a regular exercise routine consisting of cardiovascular exercise, strength training, and stretching have been shown to age more slowly as well as regain a sense of feeling younger than they are. They also are less likely to experience the same health risks as those who do not exercise.

Experts say that exercise and aging must go hand in hand if one is to reduce his risk of ailments like heart disease. Regular exercise has been demonstrated to lower blood pressure, increase HDL or, good cholesterol, and lower triglycerides, or fats, in the bloodstream. By contributing to healthy blood vessels with fewer blockages, it also reduces the risk of stroke. Exercise has even been shown to lower cancer risk and help in the management or elimination of diabetes. As these diseases are some of the biggest killers, particularly in Western countries, taking notice of the relationship between exercise and aging can help reduce the prevalence of preventable deaths.

The relationship between exercise and aging also extends to the body’s bones, muscles, and joints. Regularly engaging in weight-bearing exercise, as in walking, climbing, and lifting weights, can help prevent the loss of bone mass and thus lower the risk of osteoporosis. Similarly, exercise is said to promote joint health, as it encourages circulation to the joints as well as joint mobility and as such can help ease arthritis symptoms. While high-impact exercise like running can negatively affect joint health over time, low-impact movements like stair climbing can be substituted and will provide the same benefits.

Muscles are another benefactor of the relationship between exercise and aging. By incorporating strength-training exercises into one’s workout routine, muscle mass lost with age can be regained, which is a boost not only to strength but to one’s metabolism. Depending on the exercises selected, strength training can also improve a person’s balance, coordination, and flexibility, all of which contribute to more functional movement and a sense of youthfulness.

A less well known benefit of exercise is that it can improve mental function. Recent studies have shown that more brain cells are activated during exercise than during any other activity. Not only do those who exercise show improved cognitive function, but exercise has been shown to improve the health of brain tissues — even increasing the volume and density of brain matter. As such, participating in regular exercise as one ages is considered essential to the mental, as well as physical, aspects of the aging process.


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