What my degree in IPE didn't teach me about baking, DIY, fitness, and life…
It turns out that’s a solid yes. Remember the What’s Your Reason post? Well, here’s one more giant reason to start and keep exercising! Studies are showing that exercise slows almost all signs of aging- including the ones you might guess like muscle loss, weight gain and artery hardening, but also some you might not expect, like glaucoma and macular degeneration. Though scientists aren’t yet sure how it works, they are convinced that aerobic exercise seriously reduces the risk of a whole plethora of diseases associated with aging.
Not yet convinced to go lace up your sneakers?… In addition to reducing the risk of disease, exercise also helps slow aging at the cellular level. Alex Hutchinson, in his excellent book Which Comes First, Cardio or Weights? suggests that one of the most important benefits of exercise is longer telomeres. What’s a telomere and why do I want mine to be longer I hear you asking…
Well, telomeres are the short bits of DNA at the end of a chromosome that protect against errors in DNA reproduction. They serve as protective caps that keep the delicate edges of the chromosome from getting lost or torn when it duplicates. As you age your telomeres get shorter and shorter, until they get so short that they can no longer perform their protective function and the cell dies. Many scientists now believe that the primary driver in aging is telomere shortening. But there’s good news – vigorous aerobic exercise can make your telomeres look decades younger than they are!
Researchers from the University of Colorado took 4 groups: young (18-32 years old) & fit, young & sedentary, old (55-72) & fit, and old & sedentary and measured the lengths of their telomeres. (Fit was defined by doing at least 45 minutes of vigorous activity 5 times a week). The results: The two young groups had roughly the same length telomeres. The old & fit group had only slightly shorter telomeres than the young ones. But the old & sedentary group had SIGNIFICANTLY shorter telomeres. Conclusion – exercising kept the old group young!
Staying at the cellular level, exercise seems to have even further benefits. Our cells are in a constant state of regeneration. Your taste buds renew themselves every few hours, your muscles about every 3 months, even your brain cells die and are reborn. But the time frame for renewal isn’t fixed. It changes depending on what you do and how you feel. Surprise surprise, one of the biggest signals that tells your cells whether to decay or grow is movement. An active lifestyle hastens cell renewal for both body and brain, while a sedentary lifestyle hastens cell decay. Positivity also hastens cell renewal (For more see Barbara Fredricksons’s book Positivity).
So turn that frown upside down (corny I know =p), get your sneakers, and start moving. Anything over 10 minutes counts! The trick is to keep doing it for the next 40, 50, 60 maybe even 70 years – that it seems is secret to the fountain of youth =D
If you want more reasons to get off the couch and lace up your sneakers, check out these awesome series of inspiring stories on Healthy Tipping Point. Spoiler alert, Bakemasters 6k adventure made the cut =p