The Anti-Aging Benefits of Exercise, According to Research

Plus, the two types of workouts that offer the most anti-aging benefits.

By: Rebecca Jacobs

We all know that regular physical activity is a critical part of living a healthy lifestyle. However, recent research has made a significant contribution to the field of anti-aging and exercise science, proving just how beneficial physical activity can be for the aging process we all go through. 

Ahead, learn about the powerful anti-aging benefits of exercise, how exercise can support healthy aging at a cellular level, and find out which two types of exercise provide the most anti-aging benefits. 

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10 Anti-Aging Benefits of Exercise 

Couple jogging together, showing the benefits of exercise for anti-aging.

Before delving into the latest research on exercise and aging, here are some of the benefits of including exercise in our daily routine, no matter how old you are. 

  • Improved Cardiovascular Health: Regular exercise supports cardiovascular health, reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke, helping keep the heart and blood vessels healthy.
  • Enhanced Muscle Strength: Exercise maintains muscle mass and strength, which tend to decrease with age.
  • Better Bone Density: Weight-bearing exercises help in maintaining bone density, reducing the risk of osteoporosis.
  • Increased Brain Health: Physical activity boosts brain function and can slow the cognitive decline associated with aging.
  • Improved Metabolic Function: Regular exercise helps in maintaining a healthy metabolism, which is crucial for avoiding metabolic disorders like type 2 diabetes.
  • Stress Reduction: Exercise is known to reduce stress and anxiety, which can accelerate aging.
  • Enhanced Telomere Length: Exercise helps maintain telomere length, protecting cells from the aging process. Read more below on what new research shows about telomere length and exercise. 
  • Better Sleep Quality: Regular physical activity can improve sleep quality, which is essential for overall health and aging well.
  • Improved Immune Function: Exercise can boost the immune system, helping the body fight off infections and diseases more effectively.
  • Skin Health: By improving blood flow, exercise can contribute to healthier, more youthful-looking skin.

New Research Uncovers More Anti-Aging Benefits of Exercise 

Woman doing a HIIT workout.

Recent research published in the “Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews” journal, titled “Exercise as a Therapy to Maintain Telomere Function and Prevent Cellular Senescence,” explores the relationship between physical activity and cellular aging​​. 

The researchers found that exercise transiently influences the expression, regulation, and activity of TERT/telomerase, which are crucial for maintaining the length and integrity of telomeres. 

What are Telomeres, and Why Are They Important When it Comes to Aging?

Graphic of the aging process and the telomeres progressively shortening.

Telomeres can be thought of as the protective caps at the ends of our chromosomes. Telomeres protect our chromosomes — which contain our DNA — from damage. Every time a cell divides, its telomeres become a bit shorter. Over time, as we age, telomeres become too short to do their job effectively, leading to cell aging, and, eventually, cell death.  

This is why telomeres are often associated with aging. Maintaining the length and health of telomeres is believed to help slow down the aging process at a cellular level.

This recent study highlights that by safeguarding these telomeres and the overall genome, telomerase actively promotes cellular survival and hinders the process of cellular aging. This effect essentially increases cellular resiliency, thereby supporting healthy aging through regular physical activity​.

Exercise Slows Aging at a Cellular Level 

Older man jogging showcasing the anti-aging benefits of physical activity.

This study gives us another reason to regularly exercise. Regular physical activity can help maintain youthfulness at the most fundamental biological level. This research offers new insights into how exercise can be strategically used to enhance longevity and improve overall health and wellness.

What Type of Exercise Offers The Most Anti-Aging Benefits?

While any type of movement is better than no movement at all, some research has shown that certain types of exercise offer more anti-aging benefits than others. 

A study published in the European Heart Journal found that both HIIT and endurance training, but not resistance training, increased telomerase activity and telomere length, resulting in an anti-aging effect. 

Another study published in Cell Metabolism found that HIIT, in particular, was noted for its significant impact on mitochondrial function and reversing cellular aging, especially in older adults. For instance, participants over 65 experienced a 69% increase in mitochondrial respiration, a key process in cellular energy production​.

Exercise For Improved Quality of Life & Longevity 

A person engaging in HIIT workout, showcasing HIIT workouts for anti-aging benefits.

The aging process is something we all go through, and it doesn’t matter how old you are — choosing to incorporate more physical activity into your daily routine is something that can impact your quality of life and overall health now and in the future. 

To get the most anti-aging benefits out of exercise, consider balancing your workout routine with endurance workouts (such as walking or jogging), in addition to HIIT, and strength training. And, don’t forget about the other foundational aspects of a healthy lifestyle. Get enough sleep, reduce stress, and eat well! All of these are essential components of any anti-aging strategy and can help you age well and feel your best.

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