We are all looking for that silver bullet that is going to keep us feeling young and healthy even into our later years. The truth? Exercise is it.
Here are some of the most important reasons why you should join that local soccer league your coworker is always bugging you about.
In regards to your physical vitality, exercise prevents injuries due to weak and tightened muscles especially back injuries, which can seriously hamper your lifestyle because of pain and immobility.
A large portion of injuries, especially back injuries, come either because the individual continued to exert themselves long after their muscles had fatigued, or because the muscles and tendons simply were not strong enough to withstand the strain placed on them.
Injuries from both causes can be avoided as you age if you take the time to keep your muscles strong and flexible through weight training or some similar form of resistance exercise.
Exercise also keeps the body awake and energized by boosting your metabolism. A single hour of exercise can keep your metabolism ramped for up to six hours, with the added benefit of keeping your bodyweight under control.
It can also help you sleep better by regulating your daily hormone cycles (known as circadian rhythms), and by getting you just tired enough to want a full night's sleep. Don't overdo it though, or it will have the opposite effect. Start off slow, especially if you have not exercised regularly for over a six weeks. 30 minutes a day with just enough exertion to sweat is a great rule of thumb to follow.
In regards to mental stamina and health, there are few remedies that work as well as exercise. For one thing, exercise causes a natural let down of dopamine in the brain, causing a feeling of euphoria that many people call "the runner's high" that lasts up to several hours at a time.
The physical rhythm of most exercise activities helps tear the mind away from any pressing concerns of the day, helping to reduce stress, depression, and anxiety,Â and augmenting capacities for attention and focus.
If you are naturally high strung and particularly susceptible to anxiety and depression, exercise can be your over-the-counter version of Prozac, and it has the added perk of being totally free!Â Running or weight lifting is also ideal just before sitting down to work on an intense project that is going to require lots of attention.
One the best mental benefits that comes from exercise is that it helps to avoid Alzheimer's disease by reducing blood sugar and blood insulin levels. If you couple exercise with a slow carb or low carb diet, it increases this preventative effect even more (Van der Auwera et al. 2005) and can even improve age-related memory loss (Krikorian et al. 2012).
In addition, exercise provides an excellent excuse to meet up with friends for an activity and to establish and maintain social relationships, which lead to increased happiness and mental stability.
Finally, exercise leads to an increased feeling of self-confidence, giving you the mental fortitude you need to go out and achieve your goals, which is extremely important as most people in their later years have even more time on their hands and an increased sense of confusion about how to spend it.
From better rest, more energy, and a sharper mind, exercise is your golden ticket to making sure your senior years are just as golden. So go out there, find an activity you love that requires you to move, and start living young!