The other day I was at the gym and I happened to catch a few minutes of a news story on The Today Show. It was fitting that I saw it while doing fitness training because the story was about exercise.
The anchors were discussing a new study that showed that people in their 70’s who have exercised regularly for decades have the heart, lung and muscle health of people in their 40’s. How cool is that?!
Check out this article written about the study- 70 Is the New 40
This should come as an encouragement to all of us who want to age slower, age better and maintain our health and fitness across our lifespan. I’m guessing that you are interested in that, right?
If you are, I believe it will be helpful for you to understand the aging process. That way you can better understand why exercise is such a “fountain of youth.”
The first important thing to understand is that each organ in your body (your brain, heart, liver, kidneys, muscles, bones, skin, etc) is comprised of billions of tiny components called cells. Each cell has a somewhat short lifespan.
Most blood cells for instance live for only a few days or a few months depending on what type they are. Skin cells live for about a month or less and lung cells may not live for more than two weeks.
So given that our body is nothing more than a collection of individual organs and our organs are nothing more than collections of individual cells and individual cells don’t live for very long, how is it that our body as a whole can live for so long? It is because of cellular turnover.
Cellular turnover is your body saying goodbye to one cell and saying hello to another. It is happening in each of us right now and it has been happening everyday of our lives.
For instance, when you were a baby, your cellular turnover is what caused you to grow. At that stage of your life you were still losing cells, but you were birthing more new cells than you were losing. Maybe for every 1 you lost, you put back an average of 1.1 (not exact numbers).
This meant that over time, as you packed more cells into your organs, they grew. This in turn made your whole body grow. This growth continued until somewhere around age 25, then the scales became balanced.
Scientists say that around our mid twenties, we started to birth only as many cells as we lost. This caused the ratio to go to 1:1, thereby causing us to stop growing the same way we used to. That’s when the “aging process” officially began.
From that point on, your body has been gradually losing more cells than it has put back. This is why our body declines in its function as we get older. However, what is very important to understand is that this decline can be sped up or slowed down, depending on what we do or don’t do.
The reason why exercise slows down aging, is because it stimulates the various cells in your body in a very substantial way. Your muscles, bones, lungs, heart, brain, blood, and so many of your other organs get stimulated when you exercise and this causes the individual cells within them to live longer. It also causes these organs to birth more new cells, thereby reducing the cellular deficit.
This is good news!!!
That means that you can make the scales more balanced and lose fewer cells each day, each week and each month. This will allow you protect what you have and age much slower and more gracefully.
So let me ask you this. Is there some level of strength, balance, flexibility, heart health, brain health, bone health and muscle health that you would like MAINTAIN from this point on? If so, keep this in mind. When we’re aging, maintenance of health and fitness is actually improvement of health and fitness. When the normal process is to get worse over time, you staying the same actually means that you got better. Right?
So that being the case, don’t feel bad if your not one who has exercised for decades like those in the study. Yes, you may have missed out on being more fit than you are now, but it is not too late to begin exercising (or exercising more) to maintain what you’ve got. If you do that then you will have actually made great progress.
If you’re curious what the current scientific guidelines are for optimal amounts of exercise, check out the Center for Disease Control’s latest recommendations by clicking here- Physical Activity Guidelines.
I hope you found this helpful. Please forward it to anyone who you care about that would benefit.
P.S. If you feel nervous or confused about how to do this, call or email me and we can discuss it. I specialize in helping people find and perform the best possible exercise plan for their body and their goals. I also specialize in helping those with a history of orthopedic problems use exercise to help them recover faster and function better. If either of those things are of interest to you, I’m happy to help.