Not only does exercise make you smarter and happier, but studies prove it makes you younger as well. Regardless of how old you are, glistening skin and red cheeks after a good workout says "youth" and "health", wouldn't you agree? But now, research shows that it's more than just that afterglow that makes you seemingly younger, because exercise literally keeps you younger at a cellular level - and we now have molecular proof. Before you jump off the computer and go to the gym, read on to learn how it keeps you young -- because it's fascinating, not just for the science-brains.
Ever heard of a telomere? It is the the DNA that literally bookends the chromosomes and protect the ends from damage. Similar to the plastic tips on the ends of shoelaces that keep the laces from fraying, telomeres protect the chromosomes that carry genes, during cell division.
Telomeres speak the truth about the age of your cells.
Scientists received a Nobel Prize for discovering the nature of telomeres and the enzyme telomerase. Basically, when telomeres shorten, you age -- this is essentially like reading the biological clock of your body. Bring in cardiovascular exercise and you slow the process of the telomere shortening because it ignites the enzyme telomerase which in turn, stabilizes the telomere.
Here's what the recent research on athletes engaged in running showed:
Intensive exercise prevented shortening of telomeres, a protective effect against aging of the cardiovascular system, according to research reported in the December 2009 issue of Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association. Not surprisingly, the athletes also had lower resting heart rates, lower blood pressure, and less body fat.
The Wow Factor.
According to the study, people who engaged in the most exercise had telomeres of similar length to inactive people up to 10 years younger.
"This is the first time it has been shown at the molecular level that exercising has an antiaging effect on the cardiovascular system," Laufs says, MD, of Homburg, Germany's Saarland University.
American Heart Association spokesman Barry Franklin, PhD, calls the new research "phenomenal."
Now this study was conducted on professional athletes, but it would be correct to assume that exercise makes you younger not just because of the effect on your telomeres, but for a variety of reasons. The benefits of exercise are endless and here are my top 5 reasons for exercising 30-45 minutes everyday:
1. Increases your sex drive for both men and women
2. Lowers your body fat composition and increases lean tissue (muscle)
3. Improves circulation, which improves heart health
4. Reduces the risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer
5. Increases your confidence, mental and emotional well-being
If you are female and trying to conceive, be cautious not to overexercise because research from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology has shown it reduces fertility in women. Simply put, the body may not have enough energy to support both hard workouts and getting pregnant. The good news is that negative affects of overtraining do not appear to be long-term in the study.
If you currently don't exercise, then here's an article with tips on how to start simple:
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