It is no secret that exercise is an absolute must for those of us looking to enjoy not only an increased quantity of life, but more importantly, quality of life. Regardless of your age, gender, schedule, or any other component of your day-to-day routine, devoting adequate time to physical activity that gets your body moving is vital.
While it is certainly true that exercising provides an increased quality of life for individuals of every age, as we reach our later years the need for physical fitness becomes even more necessary. In this article, we will discuss 5 key reasons why consistent physical activity is mandatory to enjoy as much functionality as possible throughout the aging process.
- Supporting Skeletal Health
The strength of the skeleton is usually measured by a parameter known as bone mineral density (BMD). This basically describes the overall resiliency and strength of the tissue comprising our bones.
Unfortunately, this value begins to decline as we age, starting as early as 40 years old! Women tend to experience an even more rapid decline in bone mineral density due to hormonal changes inherent to menopause. Estrogen is a key hormone involved in maintaining bone strength, and the significant drop in estrogen that occurs during menopause directly affects BMD. However, consistent exercise is an effective way to mitigate this process for both men and women.
- Avoiding Excessive Cognitive Decline
As unfortunate as it may be, our cognitive ability experiences a somewhat progressive decline as we age. While this process isn’t nearly as rapid as popular opinion may have led you to believe, the process itself is real. Specific cognitive abilities such as memory and processing speed tend to show the most significant deterioration with age.
Numerous studies have supported the theory that exercise has a direct correlation with the rate of cognitive decline throughout the aging process. Older individuals who exercise regularly experience a drastic increase in cognitive function when compared to their sedentary peers.
- Improving Balance
One of the biggest detriments to function in the elderly population is falling. Serious injuries such as broken bones are a setback to physical activity at any age. However, the decreased rate and extent of healing that occurs with aging cause these injuries to be even more catastrophic. Fortunately, exercise is a great way to improve and maintain balance and body awareness. Given that most forms of exercise involve moving the body through difficult ranges and motions against resistance, navigating through everyday life becomes much more effortless.
- Maintaining Strength Reserves
Another biological process associated with aging is the decrease in overall strength and muscle mass throughout the entire muscular system. There is a various array of specific mechanisms responsible for this decline such as down regulation of anabolic hormones like testosterone and HGH.
Similar to the previous misfortunes pertaining to aging, this process is anything but a fixed rate decline. Exercise is obviously beneficial to increasing muscle mass and strength, therefore individuals who maintain a consistent workout routine hold on to far more of these attributes than those who do not engage in any form of resistance training.
- Slowing The Aging Process At The Cellular Level
Without getting overly specific, exercise literally has the ability to slow down the aging process of our individual cells! Every cell has what are known as telomeres. These are basically loose ends attached to strands of DNA that become shorter and shorter each time the cell divides.
After a specific amount of divisions, telomeres are shortened to the point of non-existence and the individual cell actually dies. Regular exercise has been proven to induce genetic alterations that limit the amount of telomere shortening that occurs with each cell division.