Is Exercise Ageing You More Quickly?

| May 30, 2013 | 2 Comments

 

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For the most part, exercise is an elixir for health. Apart from keeping you lean, fit and healthy, it can prevent a host of illnesses, from diabetes to osteoporosis and even cancer. It can ward of wrinkles and keep your skin younger, longer, but you have to know your limits.

“If you want to look young, don’t become a marathon runner,” says cosmetic physician Dr Van Park. “One marathon (or Tough Mudder or triathlon) every now and then is OK, but long term excessive exercise can hasten ageing,” she explains. “Just look at the faces of regular marathon runners.”

This can be the knock-on effect of putting your body under extreme stress by doing high-level exercise. “Cortisol is released when we’re highly stressed and high levels can lead to depression, memory loss, abdominal weight gain, insomnia and premature ageing,” Dr Park says. “We are not 100 per cent sure of the effects on collagen, but we suspect increased cortisol breaks down collagen and elastin which fast tracks ageing.

“Add to that free radical damage, ongoing sun exposure and a high-protein diet which often goes with excessive exercise, and men and women who exercise intensely over a long period do age faster.

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“In addition, it’s well documented high stress levels cause symptoms of hypothyroidism, and critical neurotransmitters such as glutamine, dopamine and 5-HTP are effected and can cause depression and even chronic fatigue, none of which is great news for your skin, body or face.”

That said, it’s all a question of balance and working up to your goals.

“Currently we know of no other ‘medicine’ with greater benefits for slowing or even reversing the effects of ageing on the body than physical exercise,” says Rob Newton, foundation professor of exercise and sports science at Edith Cowan University.

“The most significant benefit is in extending life by preventing the progression of chronic diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes and Alzheimer’s. Exercise is also critical for maintaining muscle mass and helping to maintain a healthy level of body fat and this plays a major role in our immune function and metabolic health.”

Dr Park agrees that controlled exercise also significantly slows the ageing process. “Oxygenation occurs during exercise which, in turn, helps skin regenerate collagen. In addition, it lowers chronic inflammation throughout the body and aids weight loss – all of which keeps you looking young.”

As well as this, research indicates that muscle mass can regulate hormones and keep us looking young.

“Muscle is also a major moderator of chronic low-level inflammation in the body,” Professor Newton explains. “This chronic low-level inflammation, present in people who are sedentary – whether they are overweight or not, is one of the main ageing mechanisms and the main driver for our current chronic disease epidemic as it causes cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s and even macular degeneration.”

The key to extracting all the anti-ageing goodness out of exercise is starting early.

“It is definitely the best strategy to adopt the exercise habit as a child and continue this lifestyle throughout life,” Ms Livingstone says. But the good news is, it’s never too late to start.

“Extensive clinical research evidence demonstrates that you are never too old to start,” Professor Newton says. “In our clinic we have hundreds of men and women in their 60s 70s and 80s commencing structured exercise for the first time  and they experience enormous benefits…

“In many ways they are turning back the ageing process and our tests indicate that many are regaining the bodies with equivalent structure and function to people in their 30s and 40s.”

American orthopaedic surgeon and author, Vonda Wright, who also studies ageing athletes, says it is a myth that frailty and mental decline are inevitable in old age.

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/lifestyle/diet-and-fitness/is-exercise-ageing-you-20130527-2n6x7.html#ixzz2UlCTnj00

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