Use it or lose it: the science of aging and exercise

It’s no secret that regular exercise offers numerous health benefits. Among its many selling points, exercise decreases your risk of Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease and some cancers. It can also ease symptoms of depression and reduce inflammation.

If that’s not enough to convince you, then perhaps the downside of a sedentary lifestyle will. Without exercise, our cells become weaker. A steady trickle of chemicals prod your body to decay, according to Trish Stackhouse, PT, a physical therapist at Indiana University Health Rehabilitation Services

“It’s really your choice,” Stackhouse says. “You can either exercise and have your cells grow stronger, or sit and have them decay.”

No phrase more aptly summarizes the science of aging than “use it or lose it.” Stackhouse says the body can lose up to 40 percent of its maximum strength by the age of 65, by some estimates. Oddly, the greatest areas of loss are muscles we use most frequently.

Despite the obvious advantages of staying young though exercise, it can be more complex than that for at least one part of the population: seniors with health conditions. Elderly people often have a range of health factors, from heart disease and diabetes, to neurological disease and joint pain, all of which can have a profound impact on exercise strategy.

In our next post, Stackhouse shares tips for pursuing exercise, considering your age and your health conditions. For more information about physical therapy and rehabilitation at Indiana University Health, visit us here

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