Get moving, especially if you’re middle-aged

As busy as my schedule can be, I make exercise a priority – even if 15 minutes of morning yoga is all I can fit in. For me, exercise isn’t simply something I do to stay physically fit; it’s also for my mental health. At the end of a hectic day, sometimes all it takes is a spin class to provide some stress relief.

There are numerous studies that show the various benefits of exercise, but did you know exercise can also slow the aging process? New research shows that nearly any amount of type of physical activity can reduce the effects of aging, and middle age is an important time to get started.

Let’s face it – as we get older, many of us start dreading our birthdays and hitting the 50, 60 or 70 milestone. The thought of old age can be downright scary for anyone, me included! Seeing our aging parents face illness and other health issues can be a startling wake-up call that we, too, one day will reach that age.

While reading a study in the New York Times, I learned about the factors that can impact the aging process of our cells.

Each cell has telomeres, tiny caps that cover the ends of DNA strands – like the plastic tips on the ends of shoelaces – which protect the DNA from damage when cells divide and replicate. When a cell ages, its telomeres become shorter. The research shows that obesity, smoking, diabetes and insomnia may cause your cells to age prematurely.

woman exercising with light weights

Participants in the study ranged from age 20 to 84. Those who engaged in two types of exercise during the previous month are 24 percent less likely to have short telomeres, and people who reported three types of exercise are 29 percent less likely. Looking at the statistic in reverse, the percentage of participants with shortened telomeres continue to decrease as the number of activities go up.

The data shows these statistics link most strongly with participants between 40 to 65. According to the study’s co-author Paul Loprinzi, this means that middle age can be a crucial time to start or continue exercising to prevent telomeres from getting smaller.

When it comes to aging, the problem is that many of us struggle against the inevitable and suffer because of it. We have to find another way to look at the whole process of growing old and reframe our perspective to feel empowered rather than fearful.

Remember, you have control over how you age. Now it’s time to do your part and get moving!


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