As we age we lose muscle mass, rapidly.
Adults reach their peak muscle mass in their late thirties to early forties, meaning that each decade after this can experience as high as 3-5% loss with inactivity. These facts highlight the importance of beginning strength training early and continuing with it as you age. Exercise can literally keep you from dying prematurely. Think about it: if you’re more agile and stronger, you’re less likely to fall. Statistics show that falls are the leading cause of death in individuals over the age of 65 years old. In addition, scientists believe that exercise can slow the progression of degenerative brain diseases like Alzheimer’s. Improving blood flow through physical activity can help remove toxic compounds that cause aging and early death of cells.
While our DNA dictates who we are, there are ways to slow the progression of natural aging and decrease the likelihood of a certain disease. The cells throughout our body endure cycles of dividing, which accelerates the aging process of the cell. Too many cycles of diving lead to cell death, and they stop dividing altogether. Each time a cell divides, our DNA is copied over. Each time this DNA is copied over, the telomeres (which are within the chromosome which carries the DNA), become shorter. As these become shorter, the cell becomes older. As the cell becomes older, we become older. See the connection?
WHY does this matter?
While I know many of you don’t care about the biology lesson, it is important to understand what happens in our bodies at a cellular level. Research has shown that with exercise a compound (NRF1) is released which helps protect the telomere from getting shorter. What does this mean? More health and youth for our cells, leading to improved strength in the muscles and more youth for your body! If our bodies are performing better at a cellular level, the other processes are likely to decline at a slower rate.
While of course our DNA cannot be changed, there are several lifestyle factors such as stress, diet, and sleep that can impact how quickly the cellular processes happen in the body. Paying attention to the modifiable factors in our lifestyle can indeed, as you’ve heard before, improve our long-term health: the healthier your cells, the less impact normal age related changes will have on your body. Live the long health life you envision, aren’t you aiming to enjoy the fourth generation of your family?!