Exercise the real fountain of youth

    At 8 a.m. every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I feel terribly guilty as I sit and sip my coffee while visiting with my husband and daughter.
    We have such wonderful conversations. It’s the best time of my day, except for that gnawing guilt.
    The reason for my guilt is that I know I “should” go to the strength training class before my 8:30 a.m. water aerobics class.
    I faithfully attend water aerobics every weekday, and I used to go regularly to the strength training class. Now, I always intend to go. But when it’s time to get ready, my intentions turn to jelly.
    However, since I read an article last month, my guilt is unbearable.
    The article, “Resistance Exercise Reverses Aging in Human Skeletal Muscle,” was published last month in the international online journal PLoS (Public Library of Science) ONE.
    This recent study was co-led by Simon Melov of Buck Institute, Calif. and Mark Tarnopolsky of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont. It was funded by the U.S. National Institute of Health, the Canadian Institute for Health Research, and other organizations.
    This landmark study has rippled around the world. News media reported the results with titles like “Weight training reverses muscle aging,” “Pumping iron good for seniors,” and “Exercise may be ‘fountain of youth.’”
    The study involved 25 healthy older men and women who did twice-weekly one-hour resistance training for six months with trainers.
    Before the exercise training, the older adults (with an average age of 70) were 59 percent weaker than the younger adults (with an average age of 21).
    But after the strength training, the older adults improved so much that they were only 38 percent weaker than the young adults.
    Strength training had helped to dramatically reverse the aging process. And most remarkably, in a four-month follow-up after the study was complete, most of the older adults no longer were doing formal exercise in a gym but most were doing resistance exercises at home—lifting soup cans or using elastic bands.
    “They were still as strong, they still had the same muscle mass,” said Tarnopolsky. “This shows that it’s never too late to start exercising and that you don’t have to spend your life pumping iron in a gym to reap benefits.”
    Imagine that! Even if you’ve been lazy all your life, you can make up for lost time. You can reverse aging just by lifting soup cans or using elastic bands.
    But it is important to begin exercising immediately because research shows that muscle atrophy begins by 30 years of age, with rate of strength loss accelerating each passing decade.
    Muscle loss is seven percent by age 70, and 20 percent by age 80.
    As you’ve always known, exercise boosts circulation, helps your cardiovascular system, builds strength, burns calories, reduces depression, improves insulin sensitivity, and makes you feel better.
    But now you also know that exercise—specifically, resistance training—actually rejuvenates your muscles.
    Melov said this study “gives credence to the value of exercise, not only as a means of improving health, but of reversing the aging process itself.”
    So why wait? If you start adding resistance training to your exercise routine today, your muscles will be “younger” tomorrow.
    Marie Snider is an award-winning health care writer and syndicated columnist. Write her at thisside60@aol.com or visit www.visit-snider.com

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