Regardless of what season of life you are currently experiencing; exercise simply must be a part of your routine. As human beings, we are literally created to move and are designed to do so in a variety of incredible ways. In fact, without challenging the body from a physical standpoint, things begin to break down much more quickly than they would otherwise!
While it is true that regular exercise will undoubtedly improve your quality of life at every age, making time to engage in physical activity becomes even more imperative as you age.
Whether we like it or not, there are some unavoidable changes that take place in the body as we age. However, maintaining a consistent exercise routine is a proven way to mitigate some of this decline, in some cases to the point of changes not being noticeable.
In this article, we are going to break down a few age-related changes to the body and discuss how regular exercise is the antidote for these unwanted side effects.
Breakdown Of Skeletal Integrity
One of the most common causes of hospital admissions and loss of independence in the older population are fractured and broken bones. All too often we see elderly people suffer this type of injury and never fully recover. One of the primary reasons behind this misfortune is a natural change in the skeletal system that takes place as we age.
Around forty years of age, both men and women begin to experience a significant decrease in what is known as bone mineral density (BMD). This measurement basically provides an account of the hard minerals present in an area of bone, thus determining the overall strength of the skeleton.
This decrease continues to magnify each year after onset. Women tend to experience a more drastic decrease in BMD than men due to hormonal changes that take place during menopause.
Although these age-related changes cannot currently be stopped completely, exercise has been proven time and time again to greatly mitigate bone loss. One of many great examples is an article published in “Age” entitled “Exercise effects on bone mineral density in older adults: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials” (Marques, et al.) in which researchers concluded that repetitive stress to the skeletal system during exercise stimulated new bone growth and slowed BMD loss in older adults.
Another unfortunate aspect of the aging process is a gradual decline in cognitive skills. While this effects varies greatly from person to person, the brain invariably goes through changes later in life that affect functions such as decision-making, reaction time and short-term memory. More severe examples of age-related cognitive changes include common disorders such as dementia.
Once again, exercise is thought to serve as a valuable asset in slowing cognitive decline with age.
A study published in the “Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease” compared the amount of white matter, the portion of the brain mostly responsible for carrying information to other areas, in the brains of 55 older adults. Researchers then recorded the VO2 max of each subject. VO2 max, for the sake of this discussion, is a really good indication of an individual’s overall fitness level.
What they found was that the subjects who measured higher V02 maxes had a significantly higher percentage of white matter in their brains compared to their less fit cohorts.
Becoming A Victim To A Slower Metabolism
We have all heard of this little misfortune that comes with aging. For most of us, one of the beautiful aspects of youth was the ability to eat absurd amounts of calories without packing on few, if any extra body fat. While decreased metabolism is also best measured on an individual basis, the trend is universal pertaining to aging for everyone.
Exercise is a great way to burn extra calories and prevent gaining unwanted body fat no matter how old you are. However, as your body becomes more and more stubborn to let go of its precious calories later in life, physical activity to force the issue is a must.
Ding, K., Tarumi, T., Zhu, D. C., Tseng, B. Y., Thomas, B. P., Turner, M., … Zhang, R. (2017). Cardiorespiratory Fitness and White Matter Neuronal Fiber Integrity in Mild Cognitive Impairment. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 61(2), 729–739. doi: 10.3233/jad-170415
Marques, E. A., Mota, J., & Carvalho, J. (2011). Exercise effects on bone mineral density in older adults: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Age, 34(6), 1493–1515. doi: 10.1007/s11357-011-9311-8