If I was to tell you that exercise is the fountain of youth, would you believe it? There was a time that most of our jobs entailed physical exertion in order to accomplish them. Today, however, the number of jobs requiring exercise or even movement has been significantly reduced and will continue to do so. Technology and machinery are not only enabling us to perform multiple tasks at once but are also reducing the physical exhaustion, that we once had incurred. The positive side to this is that we are, of course, more productive while using less energy and manpower. The negative side is that our sedentary lifestyles are reducing our ability to get enough movement or exercise to tap into and profit from the ever-famous quote “Exercise Is The Fountain Of Youth”.
Whether you believe that the above quote is true or not, one would not negate the good feeling that exercise creates. So let's break this down a little further. When we begin to move our body, it increases the blood flow to our skeletal muscles. As a result, our adrenaline causes our heart rate to beat faster increasing our overall blood flow. Our respiration rate increases so the intercostal muscles between the rib cage expand while our diaphragms pull in and up as the respiration rate gets faster and deeper. As all of this is occurring our body temperature rises as the millions of sweat glands work to cool the body with moisture. Then the muscles in your extremities pump the blood back to your heart and this continues as you continue exercising. Furthermore, the diameter of blood vessels increases. This includes the small capillaries found in one of the largest organs of our body the skin and is easily forgotten. Although this may cause redness which is particularly bothersome in the face, it has benefits that include circulation, heat, and moisture which helps to prevent and reduce the signs of aging. There then lies the body's natural moisturizers which are created simply during exercise.
If the above paragraph hasn’t shifted your thinking of exercise and youth then continue reading and remember, you can start or restart at any age and still receive some extraordinary benefits. The brain which has not even been mentioned yet has such a responsive way of interacting with the body when it comes to exercise. First of all, the increase in blood flow and oxygen to the brain not only helps with staying alert and more focused throughout the day, but it also has a way of keeping us calmer and level-headed as our day progresses. How so, one may ask? Having an outlet like exercise lowers the stress hormone cortisol controlled by the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and adrenal gland. This cortisol is released by the sympathetic nervous system during what is known as the fight or flight response. The short-term release of cortisol does have benefits to protect us when needed, but in excess can cause: high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, weight gain, lack of energy, sleep difficulties, impaired immune response, other chronic conditions, and in rare instances Cushing's syndrome. All of these will add to the aging processes of both the mind and body.
Let’s dive deeper into how exercise actually benefits our brain, the control system of our entire bodies. First, there are the feel-good hormones or neurotransmitters that are released as a result of exercising. One of these feel-good chemicals released during exercise is endorphins. These interact with receptors in the brain that reduces the perception of pain and has a positive feeling in the body like morphine. Interesting when you look at how our bodies naturally produce this and how pharmaceutical companies replicated this in morphine. Dopamine may not be as well known as endorphins but plays an imperative role in the reward system in our brains. Dopamine can not only motivate and inspire us to push on with many endeavors in life but also plays a role in so many bodily functions that help us stay healthy and young like blood flow, digestion, heart, and kidney function, pleasure, and reward-seeking behavior, sleep and many more. Dopamine does fluctuate and reduces with time so why not tap into ways to keep dopamine functioning optimally along with the other neurotransmitter teammates like serotonin, oxytocin, adrenaline, and the already mentioned endorphins. Serotonin is commonly known as the happiness neurotransmitter, just as oxytocin is known as the love hormone but balancing and stabilizing our moods and emotions doesn’t really separate one from the other. What is most interesting to note is that tapping into these wonderful messengers is attainable but requires a little understanding of how to do so and yes some exercise!
You must begin safely at any age and a physical as well as a simple EKG is suggested and could be a lifesaver. After all the function of the heart is to pump the oxygen back and forth, so verifying the function just makes sense. Building endurance takes time, effort, and patience especially if you are working toward any major fitness goals. Figuring out your fitness level as well as your target heart rate is a great way to monitor yourself. Today’s technologies have made it easier with wristband devices. While longer bouts of exercise for approximately 75 minutes or more have been known for their benefits, high-intensity exercises or what or what we now know as HIIT workouts can be substituted when time and circumstances don’t permit longer workouts. Ulrik Wisloff the head researcher of HIT at the Norwegian School of Science and Technology stated in Time Magazine that it is the lack of oxygen to muscles that creates a molecular response. These long bouts of exercise switch our genes on and increase our mitochondria or energy cells. If you are still a nonbeliever of the anti-aging capabilities of exercise then the following should do the trick. At the ends of our DNA, we have what is called telomeres that are like end caps that keep our DNA intact. You may be wondering why these telomeres are so important in the fountain of youth idea? The answer is a relatively simple one. Exercises of this nature, increase the telomerase enzyme preventing the unraveling of these end caps and preserves the length of telomeres, a marker of age, and overall all health.
Exercise undoubtedly has tremendous benefits. This is evident as science and research continue to reveal more about the effects of movement, mind, body, and the aging process. Although the higher intensity exercises may be what you believe is the most important, ease of motion and fluidity will be what will allow you to continue to do so. Working on incorporating breath work, stretching, and conditioning are fantastic additions that help with any physical achievements. Finding ways to make your workouts more enjoyable by coupling them with music, audiobooks, or podcasts will enhance your experience. Varying your workouts to include cardio, pilates, yoga, dance, and activities that challenge the mind along with the body makes fitness regimens challenging and exciting. More information may be provided in future articles. For now, a quick sum up the beneficial components obtained through exercise; increase in blood flow and overall circulation (benefiting heart, muscles, lungs, brain, and more), moisture and heat to the skin (serving as a natural moisturizer), calming the amygdala (utilizing cortisol when necessary for fight or flight), overall disease prevention, removal of toxins (by moving them out of liver during movement), boosting beneficial neurotransmitters ( or feel-good hormones), increasing energy, keeping telomeres intact (end caps of DNA). We have learned that boosting our immune systems is truly paramount. With exercise playing such a significant role in how we look, feel, interact and even respond to one another it is no wonder that “Exercise Is The Foutain Of Youth For The Mind and Body”!