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Exercise can Reverse Signs of Aging

Update Date: Apr 18, 2014 11:53 AM EDT

Exercise is great for maintaining overall health. Several studies have found that exercise reduces the risks of several illnesses, such as cardiovascular disease and obesity, which can then help extend life expectancy. In a new study, researchers found that not only does exercise add years to one's life, it can also reverse signs of aging in the skin.

For this study, the researchers from McMaster University in Ontario, Canada examined the process of skin aging due to the passage of time and not from sun damage. The researchers knew that after people reached 40-years-old, the protective, outer layer of the skin known as the stratum corneum starts to thicken while the inner layer, known as the dermis, starts to thin. The thinning process indicates that the skin is losing cells and elasticity, which then leads to saggy skin.

In order to test the effects of exercise on the skin, the researchers recruited 29 men and women between the ages of 20 and 84. Roughly 50 percent of the participants were physically active and exercised at least three hours per week. The other half exercised for less than one hour per week. The researchers then took skin biopsies of the participants' buttock where sun damage would not be a factor. When they aligned the samples, they found that older individuals had thicker outer layers and thinner inner layers in comparison to younger people.

When the researchers accounted for exercise in participants older than 40, they discovered that the skin of people who exercised frequently did not age as fast in comparison to the skin of sedentary people of similar age. More active adults had thinner and healthier stratum corneums and thicker dermis layers. Even though the active participants were older than 40-years-old, their skin samples were much closer to people in their 20s and 30s in terms of composition.

After concluding that lifestyle factors can greatly affect skin, the researchers instructed the sedentary participants to start exercising. These participants were aged 65 or older. They were started on an endurance-training program that involved working out two times a week. At the end of the training, the researchers collected skin biopsies. This time, they found that the skin showed signs of reverse aging. The researchers are not sure how exercise helps reverse skin aging. However, the evidence suggests that people who want to look younger should start exercising.

"I don't want to over-hype the results, but, really, it was pretty remarkable to see," Dr. Mark Tarnopolsky, a professor of pediatrics and exercise science at McMaster who oversaw the study, said according to the New York Times.

The findings were presented at the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine annual meeting in New Orleans, LA.

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