How Exercise Keeps Us Young
In this article:
- Exercise has health benefits. Many are related to keeping us young.
- Physical activity supports brain, muscle, bone, heart, and other areas of health.
- Lark can help you establish healthy habits that support weight loss and improved health.
Exercise has amazing benefits for physical and mental health. It may also be one of your tickets to feeling and looking younger. Here are seven ways exercise can keep us younger.
If you're ready to start exercising or change your activity schedule, be sure to check with your doctor and use Lark for personalized coaching! Then you can be on your way to getting the recommended amount of physical activity of at least 150 minutes per week!
1. Keeps Weight Off
Adults gain on average 0.5 to 1 lb per year, according to research published in Comparative Effectiveness Reviews. But exercise can help fight the effects of time on your weight.
While Mayo Clinic says diet is more important than exercise for losing weight, physical activity may be more important in preventing weight gain. It burns calories and keeps you more in tune with your body. Someone who weighs 160 lb and walks briskly for an hour can burn about 300 calories.
2. Lowers Blood Sugar
Risk for high blood sugar increases with age. The National Diabetes Statistics Report says that 1 in 3 Americans aged 18 to 44 years have prediabetes. That means blood sugar is higher than normal, but lower than in diabetes. That number increases to nearly 1 in 2 adults over 65 years.
Similarly, 1 in 20 adults aged 18 to 44 have diabetes, while nearly 1 in 3 adults over 65 years have diabetes.
Exercise lowers blood sugar. Participants in a Diabetes Prevention Program, or DPP, who achieve at least 150 minutes per week and lose 5% of body weight, can lower risk for diabetes by over 50%. And if you have diabetes, exercising is one of the fastest ways to lower blood sugar. Just be sure to talk to your doctor and take proper precautions.
3. Lowers Blood Pressure
In the US, high blood pressure is the second leading preventable cause of cardiovascular disease after smoking. Risk increases with age, but physical activity can help lower blood pressure.
In their Treatment Guidelines, the American Heart Association (AHA) and American College of Cardiology (ACC) say that systolic blood pressure can be reduced by 5 to 8 mm Hg with aerobic activity, and it can reduce by another 5 or more points with resistance, or strength training, activities.
4. Promotes Bone Strength
Your bones gain mineral mass through about 30 years of age. Then, they slowly lose mass. The goal is to slow the rate of bone loss as you age so that you do not develop osteoporosis, or low bone mineral density and high risk of fractures.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says physical activity promotes bone health. Exercise helps promote bone strength by maintaining mineral mass in the bones. Weight-bearing activities, such as walking and resistance training, place healthy stress on the bones to help them become stronger.
5. Supports Brain Health
Cognitive decline, or reduction in mental function, is common with age. There are genetic factors, but you can lower your risk and support better brain health with exercise. Harvard Health Publishing explains that exercise helps the brain because it:
- Increases blood flow to the brain.
- Improves sleep.
- Promotes growth factors, such as brain-derived neurotrophic factor, that help you think and learn.
6. Maintains Muscle Mass
You start to lose muscle mass around 35 years of age, according to Harvard Health Publishing. The rate is 1 to 2% per year for most people, and can increase to 3% annually after age 60. Muscles have a high metabolic activity, which means they burn a lot of calories. That can help with weight control. Strong muscles can also help with balance and prevent falls and injuries.
You can slow the rate of muscle mass dramatically by doing strength or resistance training. Aim to hit all muscle groups at least twice a week. Each set you do should fatigue the muscle(s) you are working. Ask your doctor before strength training, but know that you can go to the gym or try home exercises. Body weight, resistance bands, dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, and cables are just a few options.
7. Lowers Stress
If you have ever experienced overwhelming stress, you know first-hand that it makes you feel old. Well, it's not just a feeling! Chronic stress that is unmanaged has effects similar to those of aging. Hormonal changes related to stress can increase blood sugar and interfere with memory and concentration. And stress may lead to cellular changes that show up as aging.
Exercise can help you manage stress and reduce the negative effects of chronic stress. Do activities that you enjoy, and you might want to go with a friend sometimes for additional benefits. Other ways to manage stress include avoiding or limiting exposures when you can, meditating, talking about it, and performing deep breathing or visualization exercises.
Getting physically active is one of the most impactful choices you can make to manage weight and lower your risk of chronic conditions, such as type 2 diabetes and hypertension. It can be challenging to hit exercise recommendations or be consistent with a program, but having Lark in your pocket can help.
Lark offers personalized coaching designed to help you make choices that are known to lower the risk for diabetes. The program can help you achieve physical activity goals by providing information, reminders, and feedback when you log your activity or other health information. Lark is available 24/7 through your smartphone to help you succeed.
You may be eligible to join Lark at no cost to you if your health insurer offers it as a covered benefit. Just click here to get started in finding out!