Torres column: Exercise can slow down the process of aging
I started lifting weight when I was 19 years old. I remember going to work all excited about my workout and telling my co-workers about my weight lifting achievements that day or week (back then I worked in a restaurant as a server).
Many of them were at least 30. Of course, they were out of shape. They would usually tell me that I was very young with lots of energy, which was why I could achieve my goals, but that when I hit my 30s I would go downhill and start feeling pain and exhaustion and life would be more difficult.
I’m 35 years of age now, and I don’t feel pain; I’m stronger, more energetic, healthier and better than ever. Their prophesy did not come true. Now I hear many people say that I’m in my peak, and when I hit my 40s life will go downhill. Seems like prophesies repeat themselves.
When Michael Jordan left his career as a basketball player for the first time and came back years later, people thought he would not make it. He proved everyone wrong. He came back stronger and better than before.
Why do some people age faster than others? According to research, humans start aging after turning 26: We lose muscle and bone mass, take longer to heal and have decreased stroke volume making us less efficient at oxygen and nutrient extraction, among other declinations.
There is no way to stop this process. Nevertheless, there are many actions we can take to slow down the process. For example, doing strength training increases bone and muscle mass, and doing cardiovascular training helps the heart hypertrophy and be more efficient with stroke volume, affecting oxygen and nutrient extraction in a positive way. In other words, the body gets old but exercise rejuvenates it by adding what it’s losing.
So what keeps me young is that I exercise, challenging my body, while many others don’t challenge their body. This is the difference between my ex co-workers and me. They are aging, and I’m maintaining my biological age.
Exercise can be defined as chewing gum, walking, squatting, running, hiking … any movement can be categorized as exercise. Nevertheless, real exercise should be challenging enough for the body to adapt to the level of challenge into which we are subjecting it, and when it adapts, we need to follow the same process.
I know exercising is painful, and this is the reason many people don’t exercise. But getting old is also painful — to be unable to get off the couch, or pick up the dropped coin, or be independent or walk. I prefer burning muscles, lung discomfort, lack of oxygen and exertion for an hour than suffering the consequences of aging every hour of my day.
It is true that death is the destination that we all share. But living a high quality of life is our responsibility. It is never too late to.
Sandro Torres is owner of Custom Body Fitness in Carbondale and Glenwood Springs and author of the book “Lose Weight Permanently.” His column appears on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month in Body & More.