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Exercise to prevent aging

November 21st, 2012

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Exercise to prevent aging

We notice that people who exercise regularly look younger than their peers of the same age. It’s even more obvious in those who have been exercising habitually for a long time. However, there is no hard evidence to measure that exercise really makes you look younger.

Birth, aging, sickness and death are natural, so it is impossible to “prevent” aging. The best you can do is to “delay” it. But how do we measure how much exactly we’ve aged?

Exercising, when done correctly, can help maintain healthy weight and strength. Exercise can also help battle depression. There are also other benefits that cannot be seen or felt, such as healthier cholesterol level, blood pressure, heart and brain.

As for aging, there is a research done on people age over 65 year. They received strength training exercise for an hour, twice a week, for six months. After that, their muscles were checked to compare with their muscles before the exercise regimen.

It was found that the post-workout muscles had changes in the genetic level, especially the aging-genes, which were suppressed after training. For a better picture, think of a car that is 20-30 years old with engines that perform like a few-years-old car – stronger and more effective. The aging genes, in this metaphor, are like the smoke and grease that make the engine perform not as well as it should. Without them, the engine becomes young again.

Also, after the training, these people “feel” younger, healthier, stronger and more energetic in their daily life.

Speaking of exercise, many doctors have different opinions. Many doctors don’t even exercise. Most patients are recommended to do moderate aerobic exercise 30 minutes per session, five sessions per week. Those who are fit can increase to heavier exercise, such as jogging and tennis, but not to the extreme level, for 20 minutes and do that three times a week.

Frequent moderate exercise can increase pulse and trigger sweating (not soaking sweat). You should still be able to talk during moderate exercise. Some people would mix moderate exercise (twice a week) with heavier exercise (once or twice a week).

However, don’t forget two other types of exercise. The first is muscle training exercise which will increase muscle strength. The second is stretching to prevent injury and increase flexibility.

If you want to exercise to delay aging, don’t forget to consider safety measures. If you are over 60 years old and have chronic diseases such as joint problems, obesity and diabetes, start slowly and go from there. Make sure you consult your doctor first if you do not normally exercise.

You can divide your exercise regime into small parts during the day, such as 10 minutes three times a day. This will fit better into busy schedules and makes the “I have no time to exercise” excuse not applicable.

Exercise is recommended for those who work at the desk all day. Doing housework every day, such as gardening, car wash and floor mopping, if done 10 minutes without pause, will give the same benefits as exercising lightly.

To lose weight, the duration of exercise (or doing housework, if you prefer) has to increase to 60-90 minutes, and don’t forget to limit your food intake.

People older than 60 years old should also do weight training or resistant exercise such as lifting light weights two or three times a week. Younger people can also do that. It is better to see physical trainer or doctor to recommend the right movements to prevent injury. People aged over 50 years old need stretching to stretch the muscles after workout.

Balance training is also highly recommended in older people, but it is best to consult doctor. Correct exercise should not leave your body sore and too exhausted. If you experience those discomforts, ask your doctor.

My last tip would be to try various kinds of exercise in order to avoid getting bored. It’s also good to exercise with friends or family members. Any exercise at all is better than no exercise. This is where the rule of karma applies – you get what you give.

Prof Nithi Mahanonda is consultant cardiologist and interventionist, Perfect Heart Institute.

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