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The Age Reversal Benefits of Exercise

Staying fit and healthy can be more than that. It’s time to start sweating off the years.

We’re all well versed on the health benefits of exercise when it comes to fitness and weight control, but did you know that exercise is actually one of the most potent anti-aging treatments out there, no overpriced skin creams necessary? Now, we’re all for celebrating each day and candle and cherishing smile lines that speak to years of living, however, we’re also about healthy living and doing what we can to stay well. And if that also extends to exercising to keep you fighting fit – as well as looking great – we’re all for it.

Dr Vicky Dondos, who is praised as one the UK’s best face-perfecting doctors and is known of her emphasis on subtlety and long-term rather than short-term solutions, has a new book out - The Positive Ageing Plan – which is packed to the rafters with helpful information and is somewhat a bible for how to care for your skin at every age. Released earlier this year, within it she explains: “exercise is such a powerful full-body anti-ager, including your skin. Studies repeatedly show that exercise reverses ageing at a cellular level, helping genes work as they did when you were younger.”

What’s more, one study of 65 year-plus volunteers exercising over a six-month period showed not only a 50% increase in strength in their thigh muscles, but also many positive genetic changes linked to ageing.

Of course, the sooner you begin and the longer you remain physically active the better, but physical activity at any age can work wonders, from eliminating nasty toxins to reducing fine lines and wrinkles. Can you think of a better reason to renew your gym membership?

Exercise gives you a healthy glow

“Regular exercise maintains healthy skin, and it’s more than just a temporary glow,” says Dr Liz Lehman, founder of Aluminate Life. “By increasing blood circulation to the skin, there’s increased oxygen and nutrients to our skin cells, and improved removal of cellular debris and free radicals away from them. It basically cleanses our skin from the inside.” Exercise also increases lung capacity which means a better delivery of nutrients and oxygen to cells and skin, all which can be credited for that plump, youthful appearance.

Woman with very clear skin

It lowers blood sugar levels 

“Exercise definitely helps with blood sugar control – those with type 2 diabetes are highly encouraged to exercise,” explains Dr Nicky Keay, CMO of Forth and Honorary Clinical Lecturer UCL. “The increased metabolic rate that comes from exercise helps with insulin sensitivity and, in turn, blood glucose control. This is particularly true of strength training which increases metabolically active tissue.” Lower blood sugar levels = less skin caramelisation, which can help stop the sugar sag, or the ageing effect excess sugar has on your skin, in its tracks.

Blood sugar level monitor being used

Exercise builds muscle strength 

It’s a fact of life – as people age, they lose muscle mass and strength. The good news? Scientists say that resistance training is one of the best ways to slow that decline. Not only does it maintain muscle strength and power, it increases your metabolism to help fight off those extra pounds while reversing your biological age by up to a decade. Don’t mind if we do.

Mature man stretching in the gym

It improves the quality of your zzzs… 

Penelope Cruz apparently gets anything up to 14-hours a night, while Renee Zellweger and Catherine Zeta Jones swear it keeps them beautiful. Sleep is the most powerful rejuvenating treatment of them all, and that’s where your exercise regime comes in. Up to 15 per cent of all adults suffer from chronic insomnia, but with as little as four weeks of regular exercise, you could fall asleep up to 14-minutes faster and stay asleep 18-minutes longer,” says Dr Lehman. “Researchers have found that exercise is as effective as hypnotic drugs in relieving insomnia, and even if you don’t have trouble falling asleep, the endorphin release that occurs with exercise will still improve the quality of your shut eye.” Dr Keay agrees, adding: As long as you don’t leave it until late in the day, exercise can hugely improve sleep quality.”

Woman enjoying a peaceful sleep

Exercise slows cell ageing 

“The length of your telomeres (the cap on the ends of DNA strands) decreases with ageing, and shorter telomeres are linked to a number of chronic diseases, especially high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease,” says Dr Lehman. “Several studies have found that higher levels of physical activity are associated with longer telomeres compared to sedentary people.” While it’s likely that multiple factors affect telomere length, in general, longer telomeres are believed to be a plus for reducing risk of age-related diseases, with one recent study from the University Clinic of the Saarland in Germany showing that a single 45-minute jog spiked telomerase activity in exercisers for several hours after.

Mature couple riding their bikes on a sunlit forest path

Exercise improves posture  

“Exercises that strengthen your core – the abdominal and back muscles that support the spine and pelvis, also improve your posture,” says Dr Lehman. “Lifting weights improves posture and diminishes lower back pain by strengthening these core stabilising muscles, while increasing bone density and decreasing the risk of osteoporosis.” Still sitting comfortably? Good. Not only that, good posture helps you look younger, thinner and more powerful, too - barre classes are one of the best ways to get that lithe ballet-dancer poise.

Mature woman sat in a cross-legged yoga meditation pose

It sweats out nasty toxins 

Apart from your liver, the skin is your body’s biggest detoxifying agent, and your daily sweat session can help remove toxins that will not only increase energy levels but will rejuvenate both your body and your skin all at the same time. “Recent studies suggest that sweating from exercise helps in eliminating toxins like phthalates, BPA and heavy metals, all of which can cause damage to the liver, kidneys, lungs and reproductive system,” says Dr Lehman.

Smiling mature man with sweated shirt following exercise

Written by Naomi Chadderton