An article on New York Times.com uncovers the idea that the “Fountain of Youth” may in fact not be a fountain at all. The key to staying young forever may be easy as stepping right out your front door… or back door. The key you ask? Exercise. New research just released from the National Academy of Scientists explains that exercise reduces or eliminates almost every detrimental effect of aging in mice. Yes the studies are new and yes they have only been performed on mice, but these mice were injected with a genetic mutation that accelerated their rate of aging. They separated the mice into two groups: one group of mice were forced to exercise daily for 45 minutes while the other group led a sedentary lifestyle (use your imagination for what this would be for a mouse). After one year the mice who led the sedentary lifestyle were dead, and had been showing effects of aging by 8 months (they were bald and frail), whereas the mice (who possessed the same genetic mutation) who exercised daily were still alive and youthful after a year, showing no effects of aging; they weren’t even graying! There have been many studies that have reinforced the idea that exercise helps slow the course of aging but this was the first study to uncover the fact that exercise, “[affects] every tissue and bodily system studied.” Before scientists thought exercise affected just muscle tissue, brain tissue, skin, and hair. And an added bonus: Exercise reduces stress.
(For more in-depth information on this study click the link above to read the full article.)
So what does this mean? We should all get moving, and now. I am currently writing from Steamboat, Colorado where I am visiting my Uncle on vacation. You don’t need special equipment or a gym membership to begin an exercise routine, it is as easy as getting out daily and going for a walk, and perhaps doing some push-ups and sit-ups. As you feel better you can maybe start running and purchase weights from Target or Wal-Mart and add in strength training. Cardio and strength training are the most important.
If you find walking, running, and lifting weights boring, then get back into a sport you used to play (whether in an intramural league or pick-up games) or find a new sport to learn. My Mom started playing tennis when she was 40, and now she plays 8-10 hours a week and my Dad is still playing soccer in a men’s league. Today we went snow-shoeing for a few hours and not only did we get to spend time outside, in the fresh air, looking at beautiful scenery, we worked out our entire body (I am already sore). My parents were able to buy snow-shoes and poles for each other at Christmas for around $150 (give or take $20) from L.L. Bean. They go out every weekend together to snow-shoe and my Mother will go out on her own during the week. What a great investment for the winter.
The bottom line: Even if you don’t have any money for a gym membership or special exercise equipment you can always go for a run or walk a few times a week and do strength training exercises using your own body as resistance — A small effort can keep you young for a very long time.