New studies are finding that true full body fitness goes even further than the cellular level, all the way down to the DNA. Here’s the science:
The studies suggest cells may live longer in a thoroughly conditioned body because they don’t have to divide as often as the cells of those who are less fit. Every cell in the body is programmed to divide a certain number of times, and then die. However, when metabolic systems are all in top shape, everything works more efficiently. That includes the systems that feed cells all the nutrients they need to live a long life and to accurately duplicate their genetic material during division.
The problem is that new cells are rarely replicated with total accuracy. With every division, there are mutations, or errors. Scientists are beginning to believe that the gradual build-up of genetic errors are the cause of many illnesses and symptoms of aging.
The conclusion: Staying fit will help you stay younger, longer — even at the basic level of DNA. Naturally, sensible seniors would like to slow down cell division. But many people older than 50 make a big mistake about the symptoms of aging. They blame issues like stiff joints, weak and shrunken muscles, even stubborn fat that won’t go away on age. Those are not symptoms of age. They are signs of atrophy. They are the results of not moving around, never raising your heart rate with vigorous activity. One hour, three times a week may make you fitter, but it won’t make you fit.
Regardless of your fitness routine, ask yourself these three questions: Did your layer of body fat get thicker when you reached the half century mark — or even before? Are you required to spend most of your time in a seated position during the day? Do you watch television?
If you answered “yes” to all three questions, you probably spend most of your day with joints fixed in a seated position. But the systems that lubricate joints are only stimulated to produce lubricating fluids when the joint is in continuous motion; so those mechanisms stopped and dried up long ago. Your muscles have weakened because they spend most of the time relaxed, supported by a chair or by your mattress at night to sleep. They aren’t really used.
You can reverse it all by building up more muscle, which burns fat. Increase muscle tissue with resistance, and increase nutrient feeding by frequently raising your heart rate with vigorous activity that causes blood to flow through vessels faster (check with your doctor that you’re healthy enough for it first).
Remember, you have to walk before you can run. If you’ve been sedentary, walk daily for about a month before increasing the pace to a jog, then a run. Start resistance work with just the movements of the lift before adding light weights. Keeping the process slow will restore joint lubrication, rather than cause inflammation and microtrauma from overuse. Be patient — it may take six months or longer before the fat layer starts to release and melt away, showing the muscles underneath.
You’ll probably never work out at the elite level of an Olympian, but you can still become leaner and look younger outside, while making yourself a whole lot healthier inside.