How Regular Exercise Can Improve Your Life
The antidote, “Use it, or lose it” sums up what happens to our bodies when we abstain from physical activity. Our bodies are living machines, and just like letting a car sit for years, its performance will deteriorate if neglected.
While exercise won’t actually make you immortal, it will definitely increase not only the length of your life but perhaps more importantly, the QUALITY of life. Here are the top reasons men need to exercise as they age.
Cognitive Health and Brain Function
During exercise, neural networks associated with central command and skeletal muscle are in charge of increasing blood flow to the brain. This means that increased blood flow comes from an elevation of cardiac output AND changes in brain metabolism to supply increased neural activation.
This increased neural activation prevents cognitive decline and improves cognitive function as we age. Studies consistently show that adherence to exercise programs that consist of 45–60 min of moderate-intensity can increase the cognitive function of adults older than 50 REGARDLESS of their current level of function. This means that exercise could improve the cognitive function of everybody.
Exercise has even been shown to improve the conditions of those suffering from neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s. Further, exercise has “clearly” shown it’s effective in preventing Alzheimer’s AND slowing its progression to those afflicted already.
Being involved in a consistent training program may be the best natural neuroprotector we have for the prevention and treatment of cognitive function and neurological disorders.
Increased Testosterone Levels And Male Health Issues
As we age, our natural testosterone levels will drop. You don’t want that.
The good thing is that simply engaging in resistance training and aerobic exercise will help maintain healthy hormone levels, including the primary male sex hormone testosterone. Having increased levels of testosterone will prolong your youthfulness and result in:
Maintaining muscle mass
Healthier weight and body composition
Higher sex drive and libido
The benefit goes much farther than just increased hormones as physically active men have a much better anabolic environment AND healthier sperm.
And there’s more. Physical activity can also help with the prevention and treatment of erectile dysfunction. It plays a role through several mechanisms:
Increases nitric oxide synthase
Strengthens endothelial function
Acute rises in testosterone
Decreases stress and anxiety
Improves body image
Mitigates Muscle Loss
As we age, our muscles go through a process known as Sarcopenia which is generally defined as muscle loss due to aging. Sarcopenia differs from muscle atrophy as it involves both a decrease in muscle fiber size (atrophy) and the number of fibers (hyperplasia). This means that not only does your existing muscle shrink, you actually lose muscle fibers.
Sarcopenia occurs due to numerous physiological processes and is progressive in nature. This a biological process that will happen and can begin to occur relatively early at the age of 40 with dramatic effects being seen over the age of 60 with an average loss of 30% of muscle mass.
If not addressed, it can lead to the loss of independence and the ability to perform basic tasks. The best treatment for sarcopenia is to be involved in a progressive resistance training program. Not only can this put on extra mass and delay the time of onset, but it can also slow the process once it starts.
The best form of resistance exercise to combat sarcopenia is full-body exercises. Loads as light as 50% of a 1 rep max have been found to be effective but if possible, higher loads of 80% are most effective.
Improves Bone Health
Similar to our muscles wasting away, our bones also become weaker as we age. If unchecked, this results in the disorder known as osteoporosis which is characterized by weak bones and susceptibility to broken bones and fractures. About 15% of adults over the age of 50 are shown to have osteoporosis with increasing numbers as we age.
However, also similar to our muscles, our bones can grow in a similar response to resistance training. Our bones are always being remodeled from bone cells called osteoblasts. When we place heavy loads on our bones, it triggers a process where osteoblasts will rush to stressed parts of the bone to strengthen it. This means that bones can grow stronger AND bigger, just like muscles.
To do this, you need to use “load-bearing” exercises. These are exercises that direct force in parallel to the bones. Exercises such as squats, deadlifts, and leg press are great for the lower body while bench press and shoulder press work amazing for the upper body.
Decreases Inflammation and Prevents Chronic Diseases
Regular exercise helps you live longer. Period.
A large portion of chronic diseases that cause early mortality, many of which men are prone to, are caused by chronic inflammation. This includes:
Regular exercise eliminates abdominal adiposity (stomach fat) and releases anti-inflammatory peptides known as myokines. This creates an anti-inflammatory environment that keeps these diseases away and keeps you living longer.
Exercise: The Real Elixir of Life
Exercise is the closest we have to a “Fountain of Youth”. Yes, it extends our life but more importantly, it gives us the health to actually LIVE life instead of just existing. If you’re not sure where to start, check out our article for some ideas.