Exercise and Growing Old

"We do not stop exercising because we grow old – we grow old because we stop exercising." ~ Dr. Kenneth Cooper

9Dr. Cooper is one of the key figures in the development and proliferation of exercise in the United States. He strongly pushed the health related benefits of exercise and created exercise tests designed to assess fitness level. This particular quote from him highlights a very important concept as it relates to aging.

Aging Perceptions

The common perception of aging is that as you age, you simply cannot do the same things you did when you were younger; therefore, you are old. However, there are plenty of news stories in local media talking about how someone over the age of 80 just completed a marathon or some other astonishing sports feat. How is this even possible? They are old, they shouldn’t be able to do that sort of thing…….. or should they?

Aging Process

As you age, your body naturally produces less of your sex related hormones, namely testosterone in males and estrogen in females. Over the course of the years, you also accumulate small injuries and gain weight. All of these provides barriers to the process of exercise and all of them can cause you to feel old.

How is it even possible to not feel old when all these things are going on?

Surprise, surprise, exercise has an answer.

aging-and-exerciseExercise to Prevent Aging

While your body naturally produces fewer sex hormones, you can naturally boost sex hormone production through exercise in the form of resistance training. This will keep your hormone levels at much higher levels compared to people of your same age who don’t exercise, thus you stay feeling younger. If you were to stop exercising, you lose this benefit and can begin to feel older.

Aching body parts shouldn’t deter you from working out either. After being cleared by a doctor, you can try to find exercises that either strengthen the aching body part (for example, if you had sprained an ankle) or find suitable exercises that don’t aggravate the body part (for example, if you have knee arthritis). If your able to strengthen the body part or lose the weight you gained from being inactive, you feel more capable and will have improved mobility. This leads to feeling younger.

Going back to Cooper’s quote, if you stop exercising for any reason, you will no longer get the benefits associated with exercise. Exercise must be done daily for it to give you its benefits. If you don’t exercise, your body becomes weaker, you lose stamina, small injuries don’t fuller recovery, you gain weight, and your hormone levels decrease. This makes it even harder to exercise, and thus, "you get old when you stop exercising".

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