I have written numerous articles on the benefits of exercise and how important it is to overall wellbeing no matter what your age, but particularly as you age. It would seem that exercise is becoming the new elixir of youth benefiting our mind and body and protecting us from the process of wear and tear. 

A new study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, found that older people who spent less time sitting and more time moving had fewer signs of heart disease.

The study involved 1,600 British volunteers aged between 60 to 64. They were given heart-rate sensors to wear for five days. They analyzed the participants’ activity levels and compared them to indicators of heart disease such as cholesterol precursors and a substance called interleukin-6. Overall, the participants who moved more more had lower levels of all of the negative biomarkers.

The scientists also noted the effects on the participants’ activity in 10-minute chunks. Every 10 minutes spent doing some kind of movement i.e. walking, playing tennis, or gardening there were measurable improvements in at least one type of biomarker related to heart health.

On the opposite side of the coin, every 10 minutes spent sitting was tied to worse biomarker results.

These results are pretty typical of many other studies and are adding to a growing body of evidence that suggests physical activity can lower the risk of heart disease.

“It’s important to replace time spent sedentary with any intensity level of activity,” said Ahmed Elhakeem, the study’s author and a professor of epidemiology at the University of Bristol.

In particular there are two forms of exercise that seem to have the best anti-aging benefits. The first is aerobic or cardio exercise which is any type of exercise that gets your heart pumping and increases your breathing. The other is strength training which can be applied to training with weights or body weight, in fact any type of resistance training. The left chamber of the heart, which plays a key role in supplying the body with freshly oxygenated blood, is especially susceptible to age-related damage so encouraging this type of work keeps the left chamber working efficiently.

A recent study published in January in the journal Circulation found that adults who practiced supervised exercise four to five days a week saw significant improvements in their heart’s performance over two years when compared with a control group that did only basic stretching and balancing moves. Those results suggest that some stiffening in the heart can be prevented or even reversed with regular aerobic exercise.

“Based on a series of studies performed by our team over the past five years, this ‘dose’ of exercise has become my prescription for life,”said Benjamin Levine, the author of the study and a professor of internal medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern.

This theory of regular movement throughout the day also has been proven to provide benefits for the aging brain as well.

Nearly 100 studies published in the journal Neurology: Clinical Practice found that older people who committed to approximately 40 minutes of exercise three times a week showed significant cognitive advantages to people who did less or no exercise at all.

Those benefits included better processing speed and superior performance on tests that measure skills like time management and the ability to pay attention.

According to the study’s author Joyce Gomes-Osman, a rehabilitation scientist at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine, the intensity of a workout matters less than moving regularly. She says “This is evidence that you can actually turn back the clock of aging in your brain by adopting a regular exercise regimen.”

Whilst cardio and strength training were given the highest priority let us not forget that mobility is often dependent on the range of movement of our joints.  A regular flexibility program is key to allow you to move efficiently and without stiffness and pain.