Importance of Diet and Exercise in Anti-aging

Aging is the process of growing older, which involves reducing strength, endurance, speed of reaction, agility, metabolism, sexual activity, and hearing acuity. Also, the skin becomes dry and less elastic. Aging gracefully is not about looking like a 20, but it is about living the best life and having physical and mental health. Similar to the bottle of wine, which gets better with age with the right care.1,2

In an earlier life, living a healthy lifestyle will have a better chance of staying healthy and active as you get older. It also has beneficial effects on the aging of cells. The degradation of telomeres is one of the well-documented phenomena that occur with cellular aging. Telomeres are unique structures found at the ends of the chromosomes. While a healthy lifestyle can slow down this process.3,4

Some of the healthy lifestyle measures are - 4

  • Staying physically active or Exercise
  • Diet
  • Lower your stress
  • Quit smoking and decrease alcohol consumption
  • Get enough sleep
  • See a doctor regularly

As per the studies conducted, these lifestyle changes can affect the way you age. Of all these, eating healthy and exercising can lengthen your telomeres.5

Exercise and Aging

Regular exercise significantly reduces the risk of diseases, such as heart disease and cancer, helps lower stress, and improves sleep, skin and bone health, and mood. Though exercise is difficult to do, it pays.2,6

Evidence shows that two exercise methods, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and endurance training, can slow the aging process by preventing cellular aging. In 2009, a study found that sustained exercise in young and middle-aged athletes increases telomerase activity, increases expression of telomere-stabilizing proteins, and longer telomeres compared to sedentary people. Unlike resistance exercises, endurance exercises such as running, brisk walking, or swimming effectively keep longer telomeres and delay cellular aging. But, it does mean that resistance exercises are not helpful for healthy aging. They increase overall fitness, which is one of the most important signs of longevity. 4,6

Thus, with sustained exercise, the process of cellular aging can be slowed down. Also, it is never too late to start exercising, as exercise has beneficial effects on aging. Individuals who have exercised regularly have defied the aging process, having a young person's immunity, muscle mass, and cholesterol levels.4,6,7

Exercises recommended for adults by the Department of Health & Human Services are -

  • Moderate-intensity exercise 2.5 to 5 hours/week
  • Vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise 1.25 to 2.5 hours/week
  • Combination of the above
  • Muscle-strengthening activities of moderate intensity or greater - involve all major muscle groups >2 days/week

Some of the aerobic exercises are -

  • Walking
  • Swimming
  • Dancing
  • Cycling

Muscle- and bone-strengthening exercises can be done using weights or resistance bands. Older adults should do balance training along with aerobic and muscle strengthening exercises.2

Diet and Aging

How we eat is the start of beautiful and glowing skin. Eating fruits and vegetables is the safest and healthiest way to combat dull complexions and fine lines.8,

Some of the studies have suggested that fruit and vegetable consumption is associated with longer telomeres. A positive association was also observed with the Mediterranean diet. While, a negative association was observed between certain food groups such as grains, processed meats, sugary drinks, fats, and oils with the length of telomeres. 4

The Dietary Guidelines recommend that one should eat:

  • Fruits and vegetables, either fresh, frozen, or canned
  • Lean protein, such as fish and beans
  • At least 3 ounces of whole-grain cereals, bread, rice, or pasta every day
  • 3 servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy (milk, yogurt, or cheese) fortified with vitamin d
  • Healthy fats2

Some of the best anti-aging foods to nourish the body for a glow are -

1. Watercress

This nutrient-dense hydrating leafy green is full of calcium, potassium, manganese, phosphorus, and vitamins. It acts as an internal skin antiseptic and increases the minerals in all body cells resulting in enhanced oxygenation of the skin. It also neutralizes harmful free radicals that help keep the fine lines and wrinkles away. 8,9

2. Green tea

Green tea is high in antioxidants, which can help fight free radicals that damage your cells if they're present at high levels. It reduces the risk of premature aging and external skin aging from environmental stressors such as the sun and pollution. Most skin care products contain green tea extract for its antioxidant and anti-ageing properties.

3. Dark chocolate or cocoa

Dark chocolate is a rich source of polyphenols that act as antioxidants in the body. It has helped protect the skin from sun damage and slow skin aging. A study reported that individuals who consumed a flavanol-rich cocoa beverage experienced significant improvements in skin elasticity and facial wrinkles compared with those who did not. 8,9

4. Fruits such as – Papaya, Blueberries, Pomegranates, etc

  • Papaya

It is rich in a variety of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that help fight free radical damage and delay signs of aging. It helps improve skin elasticity and minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It contains enzyme papain that provides additional anti-aging benefits. Adding papaya to our diet would help the body shed dead skin cells, leaving you with glowing, vibrant skin!

  • Blueberries

Blueberries are rich in vitamins and an age-defying antioxidant called anthocyanin that would help protect skin from damage due to the sun, stress, and pollution by moderating the inflammatory response and preventing collagen loss.

  • Pomegranates

They are rich in fiber, potassium, vitamin K, and antioxidants, such as flavonols, tannins, phenolic acids, and lignans. Some studies suggest that the antioxidants in pomegranates might help with healthy skin aging, protect the skin's existing collagen and promote the skin to make new collagen. It also helps with skin repair and protects the skin against sun-related damage. 8,9

5. Vegetables

Most vegetables are rich in nutrients, low in calories, and contain antioxidants. Many vegetables are also rich in carotenoids, like beta carotene and lycopene. These carotenoids could protect the skin against the UV rays that are the leading cause of premature skin aging. They are also rich in vitamin C, a potent antioxidant vital in collagen production. Collagen is a crucial building block of the skin whose production decline after 25 years.

One should aim to have at least two vegetables at each meal as it helps protect the skin from sun damage and support healthy skin renewal. A few examples are -8,9

  • Red bell pepper

Red bell peppers are rich in antioxidants that have an important role in anti-aging, and it also has a high content of vitamin C, which is good for collagen production. They have anti-inflammatory properties and may help protect skin from sun damage, pollution, and environmental toxins.

  • Spinach

Spinach is super hydrating and packed with antioxidants that improve collagen production to keep skin firm and smooth. But that's not all. Vitamin A may promote strong, shiny hair, while vitamin K has been shown to help reduce inflammation in cells.

  • Avocado

Avocados are high in inflammation-fighting fatty acids that promote smooth, supple skin. They also contain a variety of essential nutrients that may prevent the negative effects of aging. They are also rich in vitamin A, which helps shed dead skin cells, leaving us with gorgeous, glowing skin. It also benefits from sun damage and protects against skin cancers.

6. Flax seeds

Flax seeds have antioxidant effects and are rich in omega-3 fatty acids that support a healthy skin membrane by helping your skin stay hydrated and plump. A study reported that women who consumed flax seeds or flax oil for 12 weeks showed increased hydration and smoother skin.

7. Nuts

Many nuts help repair skin tissue, retain skin moisture, and protect skin from damaging UV rays. Walnuts contain anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids that help strengthen skin cell membranes, protect against sun damage and give skin a beautiful glow by preserving its natural oil barrier.8,9

In conclusion, Aging gracefully is more about being healthy and happy and maintaining a healthy lifestyle and doing things that we enjoy is important. It is natural to worry about the challenges of aging, but don't hesitate to speak to someone about these concerns. Regular exercise and a healthy diet help in slowing down the aging process.

References:

  1. Singh S, Mishra S, Aging and Nutrition: A Review Article, Journal of Nursing and Health Science. May – Jun. 2013; 1(4):43-47.
  2. How to Live Your Best Life as You Age, https://www.healthline.com/health/aging-gracefully, last accessed on 28th January 2022.
  3. Healthy and active ageing, https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/servicesandsupport/healthy-and-active-ageing, last access on 28th January 2022.
  4. Anti-Aging Effect of a Healthy Lifestyle, https://myheart.net/articles/anti-aging-effect-of-a-healthy-lifestyle/, last access on 28th January 2022.
  5. Khan A, Diet and Exercise May Reverse Cellular Aging, Study Says, https://www.everydayhealth.com/longevity/diet-and-exercise-may-reverse-cellular-aging-study-says.aspx, last access on 28th January 2022.
  6. The most effective anti-aging workout, backed by science, https://www.mdlinx.com/article/the-most-effective-anti-aging-workout-backed-by-science/5jPVnxfJp2PyZyN7KFlpEF, last access on 28th January 2022.
  7. A lifetime of regular exercise slows down aging, study finds, https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/03/180308143123.htm, last access on 28th January 2022.
  8. 10 Anti-Aging Foods to Support Your 40s-and-Beyond Body, https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/anti-aging-foods, last access on 28th January 2022.
  9. 10 Foods That Support Healthy Aging, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/foods-that-support-healthy-aging, last access on 28th January 2022.

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