We’re all aging. Just a fact and just the way it is.
Here’s my question for you right now ~ what if I told you that there are gobs of scientific evidence showing there’s a way to slow the process down? And no, that slowing down doesn’t have to happen with meditation (although I’d love it if you gave it a serious shot!) but rather by adding in all the pieces you already know how to do. Nothing special, nothing you have to go out and purchase. How come I’m giving this so much attention? Because it matters. Because ultimately the quality of the life we choose to put together will hinge on our overall wellbeing. And while there are some factors we cannot control, there are plenty we can and really ought to give some thought to.
Let’s start by going back in time. In 1966 the good folks at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School ran a seriously interesting study with 5 young men, aged 20. For 3 weeks they literally lay around in bed. At the end of that time they were re-evaluated and found to be in pretty sorry shape.
They had “developed many physiologic characteristics of men twice their age.”
The young men were then put on an 8 week crash exercise course and in nearly all areas of measure they returned to their baseline if not better. Whew! These same men were again tested 30 years later and aging had caught up with them. This time, they were put on a 6 month gradual program to improve their physical health and once again they improved dramatically.
“Endurance exercise is also the best way to protect the body’s metabolism from the effects of age….Studies from Harvard, Norway, and England all confirm the benefits of exercise later in life.” Harvard Men’s Health, December 2005.
Move ahead 10 years and the science moves ahead too. Gretchen Reynolds recently wrote a piece in the New York Times Well column which highlighted a study involving the aging process at the level of our cell structure. Inside our cells are pieces called telomeres, which look a little bit like the plastic bit on the ends of our shoelaces. As we age, so do the telomeres, so that the more frayed and sad looking they are, the less effective they are. They are important in that they protect DNA information from one generation of cell material to the next.
In a massive study with 6,500 participants and published in Medical Science and Sports Exercise in their November 2015 issue, (Movement-Based Behaviors and Leukocyte Telomere Length among US Adults by Loprinzi PD1, Loenneke JP, Blackburn EH) it was found by association that the more exercise a participant engaged in over the course of a day or week the slower the aging process in the telomeres. Aging in telomeres in gauged by measuring: longer telomeres are healthier ones.
Dr. Loprinzi is quoted in the article as stating, “this study is purely associational, so cannot show whether exercise actually causes changes in telomere length, only that people who exercise have longer telomeres.” Did you see that last part? “People who exercise have longer telomeres.” New York Times, October 28, 2015.
When I put this all together as a wellness coach and therapist, I can’t help but ask, “how much more evidence do you need?” I have every confidence in the world that you’ll get where you want to go but my hope for you is to get there sooner rather than later so you’ll have more time to enjoy the results of your hard work!