Staying Young Through Physical Activity - Introduction

Physical activity on a regular basis prevents the onset of all major chronic diseases, improves the immune system, and slows down age-related changes in the body.

Aging affects everyone

Aging is a physiological and biological process that affects everyone, and is characterized by a progressive and continuous reduction of an individual's ability to adapt to the environment. During the aging process, a series of irreversible physical and psychological changes occur that are not due to illness, and result in an increased likelihood to develop certain diseases.

Physical activity promotes healthy aging

If done regularly, physical activity can facilitate aging by helping maintain the individual's health status. Several studies analyzing the relationship between the risk of early mortality and physical activity have found a decreased risk among active people with respect to sedentary people. The effects of exercise can be seen at any age, meaning that there’s always time to begin adopting an active lifestyle.

Regular activity prevents diseases

Regular physical activity helps reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, such as hypertension, diabetes mellitus, heart disease, and stroke; it also improves the immune system and optimizes age-related changes in body composition.

Aging can be classified into three types:

  • Type 1 or disease-related aging. In the presence of chronic diseases, such as diabetes or hypertension, aging occurs more quickly, thus resulting in a more rapid loss of function.
  • Type 2 or common aging. This is characterized by normal age-dependent physiological changes.
  • Type 3 or successful aging. This is where the physical and mental performance of the individual is comparable to younger adults.

How aging affects the body

With age, the cardiovascular system becomes less efficient because the heart's ability to contract and generate strength is reduced, with greater effort being required. The tissues that form the arteries lose their elasticity, thus resulting in stiffness and increased blood pressure, with a corresponding increased risk of suffering a stroke or heart attack.

The bone and muscle mass shrinks. In elderly people, especially women, bone strength decreases. As does muscle mass. This means that older people find it more difficult to perform activities, and are at greater risk of falls and fractures.

Aging also reduces cognitive functions, thus resulting in memory loss, a shorter attention span, and decreased psychomotor skills, which likewise contribute to a person’s loss of independence.

 

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