Moving Benefits

The time for the summer beach body might have already passed, but don't quit the gym just yet. There are so many other benefits of exercise. Even if you have spent the first half of your life on the couch, it is never too late to start. Research has shown that even seniors who start exercising later in life increase their odds of healthy aging as much as seven times. Here are some other surprising benefits to motivate you to get moving.

Youthful Skin
Skip the botox and the face lift, scientists are discovering that exercise doesn't just make your skin appear more youthful but actually reverses skin aging. This was first seen in rat studies where sedentary rats actually went gray or bald in comparison with their active counterparts. As we age our skin composition changes which is why it begins to wrinkle and sag. When the skin compositions of active and inactive men and women over the age of 40 were compared, the active participates had a composition of 20- and 30-year-olds even if they were older than 65! In a follow up study, the skin composition of seniors after following a moderate 3 month endurance program was shown to be that of 20-40 year olds.

Brain Gains
Just taking regular walks can be enough to slow down brain aging. For example, it was shown in a study involving 120 people between the age of 60 and 80 that walking briskly for 30 to 40 minutes a day three times a week was sufficient to re-grow the structures of the brain linked with cognitive decline in later life. This was the equivalent to stopping the aging clock by one or two years. Researchers have concluded that 6 months to a year of regular activity can increase the size of important brain regions for higher cognitive function and memory. Even with children, studies have shown that regular aerobic activity is associated with better cognition, academic achievement, behavior, and psychosocial functioning.

Gut Health
You are probably already taking probiotics and eating fermented foods (especially if you are one of my patients), but you might want to add exercise for improved intestinal health. British researchers published their finding in the Journal Gut that exercise can increase the diversity of beneficial gut bacteria, possibly boosting the immune system and improving long-term health. Specifically physically active people were shown to have more of a species of bacteria linked to reduced rates of obesity. Healthy gut flora is important not just for digestion but skin, immunity, prevention of autoimmune conditions, and even mood.

Move over Meds
Being active has been shown to be as effective as many medications in treating some of the leading causes of death. Researchers in the British Medical Journal reported that there was no detectable difference between exercise and some drugs for patients with coronary disease. In fact, exercise was found to be more effective than anticoagulants and antiplatelet medicines in the prevention of stroke. Another study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine concluded that an aerobic exercise program was effective as an SSRI in easing depression and actually had a longer lasting effect. Patients who exercised were less likely to relapse into depression and exercise was considered a suitable alternative for patients wishing to avoid antidepressants. Although exercise is as effective as medications in most cases, stopping a medication should only be done under the care of a licensed medical professional.