All of us at some time in our lives have wondered what it would be like to live forever, to never grow old. While we know this is not realistic, we would all love to at least slow the effects of aging. So we press on at all costs, looking for that fountain of youth, that one magic pill that will erase all our aging woes even though reality tells us it doesn’t exist. or does it?
There is no magic pill, but science dictates that we can slow down the effects of time with the right type of exercise.
Health Exercise Blog Summary:
Research on the myriad benefits of exercise as it pertains to our aging bodies is now irrefutable. Just to name a few benefits, proper exercise has been shown to:
Retard biological aging
Reduce cholesterol, high blood pressure, stress levels, insulin levels and osteoporosis risk
Keep us from losing vital hormones
Increase oxygen utilization and our self-esteem. In fact, masters athletes – a class of athletes still competitive in sports well past middle age – can often resemble the biological age of someone much younger. Even though a masters athlete may be 60 or older, his or her cardiovascular health, muscle strength and coordination can often be similar to someone in their twenties or thirties. So even though the vehicle may look like a collector’s item, inside the engine is still purring.
Dr. Miriam E. Nelson and colleagues at The Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University were among the first to discover the potential for the elderly of weight-resistance exercise – that’s right, lifting dumbbells or even cans of soup, or using those elastic bands and even opting for plain old push ups.
These early pioneers proved that two of the top biomarkers of aging – loss of lean body mass and muscle strength – could not only be stopped over a relatively short period of time but actually reversed by performing proper resistance exercise. In a 1990 ground-breaking study presented in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association, muscle strength was greatly improved in as little as eight weeks of resistance training, even in 90-year-old subjects, further proving Dr. Nelson’s theory.
The fact remains that many individuals don’t exercise enough, exercise with improper form, over exercise, or push themselves too hard when their bodies aren’t used to that kind of stimuli. These are the people we call Weekend Warriors.
Anabolic or catabolic exercise?
When athletes are training hard and succeeding at their goals they are predominantly in an anabolic environment, meaning they are repairing their bodies faster than they are tearing them down. Anabolic metabolism spells success for any athlete as well as any other person interested in health extension. The athlete who remains anabolic also shares many similarities of youth. In youth, we are highly anabolic and able to repair ourselves at an astonishing rate. One doesn’t have to look any further than how fast a child heals from a cut or an injury.
On the other side of the coin however, is the athlete who pushes himself or herself even a little beyond what the body is ready for will experience “the overtraining spiral,” or what sports medicine/rehabilitation physician at UCLA, Dr. Karlis Ullis calls; “The Critical Point.”
The Critical Point is a catabolic state (the breakdown phase) experienced by the majority of elite athletes (and Weekend Warriors alike) at one time or another, which closely approximates the physiology of an aged person. Some of the traits experienced by these catabolic athletes are:
Depressed immunity (including flu-like symptoms as well as susceptibility to viruses and infections)
Fatigue-related disorders (such as chronic fatigue), aches and pains, accompanied by
Increased inflammation (not unlike fibromyalgia and arthritic conditions), depression (due to low neurotransmitter levels) and sleep disturbances (due to inadequate serotonin, melatonin and growth hormone levels).
Doesn’t this sound like what we have come to expect through advanced age?
In my next blog, I will discuss the immune enhancing effects of proper exercise and how to best combine exercises for the greatest fat-burning effect.