Since ancient times, humans have been concerned with developing and preserving youthful vigour. Today, there is enough understanding of the ageing process to attempt to delay it. So, the question is, has the modern world finally found the long sought after elixir of youth?
Although many advances towards our understanding of the ageing process have given gerontologists new insights in potential anti-ageing interventions, public demand for these interventions is outpacing our current knowledge. One of the simplest and possibly most effective methods for living a longer and fuller life is actually available NOW! Scientists have found the closest thing to an anti-ageing pill – REGULAR EXERCISE! The evidence is backed by abundant research. Regular exercise and strength training can have a profound effect on the rate of human ageing and may even forestall the disabilities and diseases which were previously thought of as the unavoidable price of growing old. Even if exercise is initiated late in life, it can still delay the effects of ageing. So, out of the rocking chair and into the health clubs we go!
COMMON MYTHS AND MISCONCEPTIONS DEBUNKED
- Ageing is synonymous with debilitating chronic illnesses.
- Older people shouldn’t exercise, because it might hurt them or “use up” what little strength and vitality they have left.
- Even if exercise won’t hurt, it can’t possibly help. By the time someone is 60 or 65, the damage has already been done and can’t be reversed anyway, so why bother?
- Feeling “down” and being depressed is a normal part of aging, and we should expect it from our senior citizens.
WHAT PHYSIOLOGICAL CHANGES CAN ONE ENCOUNTER?
- Exercise enhances blood flow to the brain possibly reducing the risk of stroke. It also improves cognitive processing as shown in the various tests examining skills for reasoning and memory.
- Regular exercise arouses the brain and slows down degeneration of the central nervous system, which begins to perpetuate slower reaction times and poorer coordination.
- Exercise increases strength and size of muscles.
- Exercise improves lung function. Did you know that by age 45, your lung function is down to 82% of its peak, and that by 85 years of age, it is reduced by 50%? Research has shown that 60-year olds who exercise often have higher oxygen uptake levels than sedentary 20-year olds.
- With age, body fat tends to increase with redistribution from the extremities to the abdominal areas, where it can contribute to hypertension and heart disease. Regular exercise can reduce body fat and lower the risk of chronic lifestyle diseases.
- As you age, your body becomes more susceptible to disease and loses its self-repairing abilities. Moderate physical activity can delay the process and possibly increase LONGEVITY. In fact, doctors have begun rethinking the concept of “age–related” disease and many believe that the greatest threat to health is not the aging process itself, but rather inactivity.”
Therefore, exercise can serve as a preventive measure and also as a treatment for many clinical conditions. Mounting evidence suggests that physical exercise can prevent or reverse up to half of the physical decline normally associated with ageing. The level of physical activity needed to produce health benefits is easy to attain with low-intensity activities, such as walking, stationary cycling or swimming, for at least 30 minutes, most days of the week. In addition, regular weight-bearing exercise such as walking, dancing and playing tennis can help to maintain healthy bones and prevent or lessen the chances of developing osteoporosis. Add in two sessions of strength-training and you are well on track to a long, healthy life.
7 GOOD HABITS TO HEALTH AND LONGEVITY
To adopt and maintain a healthy lifestyle, good habits need to be developed. Health and longevity have been found to be strongly correlated to the following 7 good habits:
- Adequate sleep (whilst this varies per person, 7 to 8 hours is the average needed)
- Regular, balanced and healthy meals
- Effective weight control
- Not smoking
- Moderate alcohol consumption
- Regular exercise
- Stress management
What is interesting, is that these habits have more to do with your health and longevity than all the influences of medicine. In many ways, an active lifestyle is like money in the bank since it reduces medical costs, minimises the need for long-term care and eliminates future burdens on family, friends and society. The greatest return is having the vigour, energy and independence to pursue every moment to the fullest.
The over-used adage “Use it or lose it” certainly has relevance here. Humans were not designed for a sedentary lifestyle – follow the 7 habits listed above and you can look forward to a long and healthy life.