Exercise and Aging: A Qualitative Correlation

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In 1523 the Spanish conquistador Ponce de Leon made an extensive voyage to a new world in search of the legendary Fountain of Youth. He never found it. Although many years have passed since Ponce de Leon made his infamous trip, the idea of mythical youth is still very much alive in our culture. We desire to actually act and feel youthful. Physical exercise is the only action a person can take to not only feel young but to physiologically slow the aging process.

This paper will present studies indicating the affect exercise has on the human body and how it is useful in keeping us at our optimum physical and mental health. For now, aging is inevitable. Physiologically, we age because individual cells are preprogrammed to overwork and then self-destruct. The process becomes apparent in a comparison of old and young skin cells. Although both types contain the same array of genes, in older cells the genes work overtime under the direction of a master gene. The master gene forces the others to produce abnormal amounts of protein, which slows down replication and other vital cellular activity. These factors eventually cause organ degeneration and aging.

To prevent or delay aging a way must be found to control overactive genes, say Dr. Samuel Goldstein of the University of Arkansas and Anna McCormick, Ph.D. of the National Institute on Aging. The ultimate anti-aging discovery would be a drug that could suppress the master gene, stopping cells from beginning their destructive course. Until this discovery (and well after) our anti-aging bullet can be exercise. Exercise is the closest thing to an anti-aging pill there is, says Alex Leif, M.D., a professor at the Harvard Medical School of Gerontology. "Regular daily physical activity has been a way of life for virtually ever person who has reached the age of 100 in sound condition." Studies at the National Institute of Aging have repeatedly shown that regular exercise and strength training can have a profound effect on the rate of human aging, and may forestall the disability and diseases we are used to thinking of as the unavoidable price of growing old.

One method of exercise is called strength raining attained by muscle resistance movements such as those provide by the simple use of free weights. Dr. Evans, of the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, conducted an unorthodox study tha...

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