The proverbial fountain of youth can’t be found in a fountain. It’s not hidden in a bottle of expensive face cream or skin serum. It’s not about going ‘under the knife’ for plastic surgery.
But it is out there. It’s in our city parks, on the bicycle paths. It’s in our neighborhoods, on the sidewalks. It’s in our neighborhood fitness centers or community pool. It’s in the tennis courts, athletic fields, and even on our televisions, with the help of DVD players.
Most importantly, the fountain of youth is within ourselves. All we have to do is get up off the couch and start moving. Exercise is the fountain that we can drink from, to keep ourselves young, internally and externally.
Research has shown that exercise is good for our bodies, in so many ways. It’s just as important for our brains. Our physical health and mental health are connected and support each other. What we do to, one affects the other.
Aerobic, also known as ‘cardio’ exercise is one of the options for enhancing our bodies and our minds. According to researchers, it’s one of the best exercise choices we can make for ourselves.
Aerobic Exercise as the Fountain of Youth
Risk factors for cardiovascular disease, which can lead to a shortened life span, include obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol levels and insulin resistance. Research has shown that aerobic exercise can reduce these risk factors in several ways.
• Regular aerobic exercise strengthens our heart and helps it pump blood more efficiently. Our muscles take more oxygen from the blood, which in turn, makes the muscles more fit.
• Regular aerobic exercise, along with eating a healthier diet, helps us lose excess weight. It also reduces our blood pressure and lowers our resting heart rate. Regular aerobic exercise can help reduce our total and ‘bad’ (LDL) cholesterol levels, and conversely, increase the ‘good’ (HDL) cholesterol. It helps manage those of us with diabetes, by improving glucose levels in the blood.
• Regular aerobic exercise increases our endurance and makes us feel stronger. By protecting our immune system, it helps us ward off minor illnesses. It helps control chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
• Finally, regular aerobic exercise increases our overall functional fitness, which leads to a stronger old age. Functional fitness means more mobility, less risk of falling, and more basic body strength.
It’s not only our body that benefits from aerobic exercise. Aerobics leads to enhanced brain function, as well. As our hearts and blood vessels become stronger and more efficient, so does our brain. More oxygen is pumped to our brain and increases the release of certain hormones that help grow brain cells and create more neural connections. Research also shows that aerobic exercise can increase our hippocampus; the part of our brain that plays a major role in our memory and learning functions.
Aerobic exercise also improves our mental health by boosting our mood and lowering stress levels. It can improve sleep quality and reduce anxiety. It creates a confidence in our ability to deal with life stressors as they appear. All these benefits lead to better brain functioning.
Achieving longevity in our lives is not simply about living longer. It’s also about living better, healthier, and stronger. A regular exercise program, particularly aerobics, can lead to that fountain of youth by providing us with a variety of health and wellness benefits for both body and brain.