Sometimes we need a greater incentive to consistently live an active lifestyle.
While it may be our temptation to solely workout for the way we look, it is crucial we keep more important reasons are the core of our intentions.
The long term reasons to maintain a consistent workout routine involve anti-aging. Again, we’re not talking “anti-aging” regarding how we look, but how we feel.
Exercise is such a make or break to our longevity and vitality. It is essential to wellness and a healthy, happy life, so I thought we would cover some of the most incredible benefits here today.
One thing you shouldn’t take from this post is the need to exhaust yourself in the gym 7 days a week.
You can see incredible results and gain remarkable benefits with three to five 45 minute gym sessions a week, every week.
So with that being said, let’s move onto the ways activity prolongs longevity. We’ll conclude with a few easy, practical ways to maintain an enjoyable, lifelong, consistent fitness journey.
DNA Protection & Telomeres
One of the reasons we age is due to cellular deterioration. Which explains why doctors and scientists are placing a greater focus on cellular protection and preservation.
One of the greatest, most effective (and free) ways to protect our DNA is, you guessed it, active living.
Why is this? An active lifestyle improves your gut health (dramatically), which essentially impacts every other system, including DNA protection.
Because a healthy gut microbiome (essentially, the collection of organisms in your gut) contributes to stronger telomeres (aka. better protected DNA).
How, exactly, does exercise strengthen telomeres? Maybe the wonderful cellular effects of exercise, including less inflammation and oxidative stress, are good for telomeres. Or maybe exercise is good for telomeres because it prevents stress from causing some of its usual damage… But no matter how the exercise-telomere connection works, what’s most significant is that exercise is essential for your telomeres. To keep your telomeres healthy, you need to work them out.Elizabeth Blackburn, PHD. Elissa Epel, PHD. The Telomere Effect; Living Younger, Healthier and Longer
The weakening/shortening of telomeres can have devastating impacts in regards to aging, disease prevention, and lifespan*.
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Other than DNA deterioration, the primary reason our muscles grow weaker and weaker as we age is due to lack of use.
Of course, exercise is the way to combat this. So when creating a workout routine, it is important that we incorporate some level of resistance and/or strength training.
While we may assume we “build” muscle in the gym as we train our muscles, we actually break them down.
When we challenge our strength through workouts, our muscles being to burn (as I’m sure you’re familiar with). This is the build-up of lactic acid in our muscles. Our individual, microscopic muscle fibers are breaking down.
When we break down our muscle fibers, our body begins repairing them. In the recovery period, these muscle fibers build up with extra oxygen pockets, which enlarges and strengthens each fiber (explaining why it can take so long to see results in the gym).
Anyways, when our muscles aren’t in a consistent process of use and growth, they slowly deteriorate.
One of the most obvious and sought-after benefits of exercise is that it increases bone density. When we strengthen our muscles, we strengthen our bones. A combination of strength training and low-impact activities like walking can help offset the decline of bone density, preventing osteoporosis. It also reduces back pain, especially when it comes to lower back.Lisa Mosconi, PHD, The XX Brain
Of course, this process requires some level of healthy eating and proper protein consumption, but muscle training is one of the first steps.
As I mentioned, we want to incorporate some level of strength/resistance training into our workout routine. But what’s the other aspect of a proper workout routine? Cardio.
The importance of a proper cardio/strength training ratio we’ll emphasize next.
Related: Hike Your Way to Health; Benefits for the Mind, Body, and Spirit
Our heart is a muscle, which, which at this point, is not revolutionary news.
But briefly moving back to our previous point, we have to strengthen and train our muscles to avoid deterioration. Not only can exercise prevent this heart-deterioration, but it is actually shown to produce new heart muscle cells, allowing you to heal from previous trauma (such as a heart attack)*.
But how do you train your heart? This is where we implement cardio into your weekly workout routine. As mentioned previously, we need a healthy balance between cardio and resistance/strength training (aerobic & anaerobic exercise to use technical terms).
Cardiovascular training can be separated into two categories. HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) and LISS (Low Intensity Steady State).
To learn more about each style and their benefits, click here. But for now, just know consistent training and strengthening of our cardiovascular system prevents deterioration, disease, and aging.
Click to Read: HIIT vs LISS; Which is Best for Fat Loss?
Exercise can reduce your chances of dementia up to 30%. Studies confirm that those who don’t perform daily activity experience more brain shrinkage later in life. The part of the brain that is responsible for memory, the hippocampus, seems to shrink slower in those who practice daily aerobic exercise.
Some studies lead us to believe daily LISS cardio can even stop or reduce mental/cognitive decline.
Regular exercise also dramatically reduces your risk of Alzheimer’s Disease. A study from 2018 showed that women who were physically fit at middle age were a whopping 90 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease even decades later.Steven R. Gundry, MD, The Longevity Paradox
I’ve written a couple of more specific posts that cover the mental benefits (reduced depression, anxiety, and stress) of exercises such as hiking and yoga.
Related: Exploring the Science Behind Yoga; Are There Real Benefits?
The How To
Okay, so now the how to.
Sustaining an exercise regime can be quite difficult. Boredom can occur quite quickly.
Which is why it is crucial you try new things and make it a lifestyle. Always remember activity isn’t defined by how long you stay at the gym.
Go for a hike and get your daily dose of nature, quality time with friends/family, and activity all at once.
If you’re on vacation, take full advantage of the pool, ocean, or lake. Swimming is such an unbelievably underrated form of exercise. (Try it for ½ hour and you’ll be depleted).
Boxing is a great option if you’re sick of your current regime. You get in your cardio, resistance, and your “feel like a badass training” all at once in a short period of time (beware: like HIIT; train for too long and it loses effectiveness).
Tired of weightlifting? Try pilates. Tired of pilates? Try yoga. Tired of yoga? Try running. Tired of running? Try crossfit. Don’t want to go to crossfit? Try dance.
Not much for group classes? Help your niece or nephew practice soccer. Challenge your competitive brother to a game of tennis. Never played before? It doesn’t matter.
If you struggle with activity, get someone else involved and make it fun (or a competition).
If you want to use exercise for anti-aging it has to be a lifestyle. And for it to be a lifestyle, it has to be fun on some level.
Is it an investment? Yes. Can it be challenging? Yes. Will there be days where you must invoke some discipline even when you couldn’t think of anything more repulsing? Probably, a most definite yes.
But is it worth it? Definitely. Are you willing to put in the effort now so you can still feel like a 20-year-old even when you’re 60? Are you willing to invest at least 30 minutes of your daily routine for a healthier future, longevity, and vitality?