In the movie, Death Becomes Her, Madeline Ashton’s (Meryl Streep) lamentation on the inevitable decline of her youth, “Wrinkled wrinkled little star, hope they never see the scars” probably hits a little closer to home than most of us would like to admit. For thousands of years people have dreamt of, written about and searched for the ever elusive “Fountain of Youth.” From early Greek and Roman mythology to modern day (think, websites devoted to botched plastic surgery) we have always been obsessed with trying to fend off the ravishes of aging. But before you make an appointment with that Beverly Hills surgeon, or a deal with the Devil, consider this, there are several ways in which exercise can help keep you young!
Because after about age 35 we start to lose 5% of our muscle every 10 years, it’s important to do some strength training. Losing all that muscle can lead to a slower metabolism, meaning it will be much harder to keep telling yourself that a pint of Ben & Jerry’s is a “single serving” and that you don’t need to go shopping for larger sized clothes. Maintaining more of your muscle as you age will help keep that scenario from becoming a frightening new reality.
Not only can exercise help you stay younger physically, it can also improve cognitive function. What does that mean? Hot and smart! There is research that shows that exercise can reverse the decline of the hippocampus, the part of your brain that controls memory. So now you will be able to remember ALL the crazy things you did for many more years to come. Perhaps whether you want to or not.
Bone strength and posture are two other aspects of aging that exercise can have a positive impact on. As we get older (and especially in women) our bones begin to deteriorate, which can make us more susceptible to fractures and osteoporosis. Strength training has been shown to reverse that by stimulating bone growth and improving density. Also, as we lose bone density, core strength and muscle mass in general, our posture suffers. We begin to take on the stereotypical “hunched over old lady” look. More importantly though, bad posture isn’t just an image thing, it can also affect your balance and cause pain and stiffness. One of the best ways to keep you standing up straight and tall is to hit the weights, and pay attention to those exercises that emphasize the core as well.
Now, if all those weren’t good enough reasons to convince you that exercise is important as we age, let me leave you with this, as we age our libido tends to decrease. Guess what, exercise improves your sex drive! And depending on how vigorous you are in the bedroom (and for how long) sex might even be able to be considered cardio. At the very least, sex has been shown to improve mood, give your immune system a boost and relieve stress. Just like a heart pounding cardio session can.
As the saying goes, “You’re only as old as you feel!” By integrating some exercise in your life now, while you’ve got the energy and motivation, you spare yourself an uphill battle later on down the road. Forget about potions and miracle products. You’ve got everything you need within yourself.