You’ve heard that regular exercising helps make you look younger and may even extend your lifespan and improve the physical quality of your life. But how? What are the variables you can control or at least heavily influence in the healthiest direction?
Research at the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (HNRCA) shows that people can reverse many of the physiological declines associated with aging through regular aerobics, flexibility and strength training exercise. By making positive changes in you own “biomarkers” you can prolong vitality and prevent development of “sarcopenia”—weakening of the body’s muscles, loss of balance, reduced mobility and frailty
Nine biomarkers you can change are:
1. Muscle Mass. No matter what your age, you can increase the strength and mass of your muscles through resistance training. Otherwise, muscle mass will decline, accelerating at an alarming rate after age 45.
2. Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). BMR is the rate of your metabolism sitting still or resting. BMR declines starting kicking in at age 20. Every decade reduces the number of calories needed daily to maintain a constant body weight by roughly 100 calories. Since most people continue to eat the same amount of food (if not more) this is one of the reasoWeight_Lifting_-_Cartoon_4ns they get fat. Aerobic exercise will speed up your BMR. Do enough of it and you can eat like a 20-year-old!
3. Body Fat Percentage. Just as people with a greater ratio of muscle to fat enjoy a higher metabolism, the opposite is true. The fatter you get, the less efficient your ability to burn off calories. The best way to attack excess body fat is a combination of exercise and moderate calorie restriction. In other words: exercise more and eat less.
4. Aerobic Capacity. For healthy lungs, a strong heart and an effective vascular network, you need good aerobic capacity, which is the amount of oxygen your body can process within a given time. This capacity typically declines by 30-40% by age 65. Regular exercise can increase your aerobic capacity, but the positive change in older people comes almost entirely in the ability of muscles to utilize oxygen (“oxidative capacity”). Thus, you need strengthening exercises as well as aerobic exercises. When you build muscles you create more muscle cells to consume oxygen. The more your body demands oxygen, the greater you utilize it and the higher your aerobic capacity.
5. Blood-Sugar Tolerance. By age 70, some 30% of women and 20% of men have an abnormal glucose-tolerance curve, increasing their risk for Type II diabetes (if they don’t already have this). Factors related to glucose metabolism that you can control are: (1) Increase in body fat; (2) Diet high in saturated fat; and (3) Inactivity.
6. Total Cholesterol/HDL Ratio. To compute your total cholesterol to HDL ratio, you simply divide the total cholesterol number by the HDL-cholesterol number. Of course, it helps to know these numbers. For middle-aged and older men and women, the ratio goal should be 4.5 or lower.
LDL cholesterol can be lowered by the use of statins such as Atorvastatin or by supplements including niacin and red yeast rice. Or it can be lowered by reducing the amount of saturated fat in your diet. To increase HDL, however, you need to exercise. Aerobic exercise seems to be particularly effective for raising HDL.
7. Blood Pressure. Controlling blood pressure is absolutely vital. Regular, vigorous exercise is one of the best tools for preventing and even treating high blood pressure.
8. Bone Density. On average, a person loses 1% of bone mass per year. When this decline reaches the point where risk of bone fracture is substantial, we call it “osteoporosis.” The effectiveness of calcium supplements to fight this is the subject of much debate; however, the effectiveness of weight-bearing exercise is not. Stress repeatedly placed on your bones through exercise makes them grow. Any number of studies have show that a prolonged span of weight-bearing exercise including walking, running, or bicycling reduces the rate of bone loss. Research at Tufts University indicated that exercise also increases your body’s ability to absorb dietary calcium.
9. Internal Body Temperature. Thermoregulatory ability is one more thing that diminishes with age. You have a harder time cooling off when you’re hot or warming up when you’re cold. The reasons are complex, but include a requirement for a warmer internal body temperature before sweating sets in, dehydration caused by impaired kidneys, and a lower overall amount of sweating. By exercising on a regular basis, you sweat more, increase thirst and total body water content. Remind yourself to drink lots of water.
with a hat tip to Mike Mahler
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