Improved Cellular Metabolism
Regular endurance exercise improves the body’s metabolism, down to the cellular level, enhancing your ability to produce and use energy efficiently. Cardiorespiratory training improves metabolism by doing the following:
• Increasing the number of capillaries in the muscles. Additional capillaries supply the muscles with more fuel and oxygen and more quickly eliminate waste products. Greater capillary density also helps heal injuries and reduce muscle aches.
• Training muscles to make the most of oxygen and fuel so they work more efficiently.
• Increasing the size and number of mitochondria in muscle and brain cells, thereby increasing the cells’ energy capacity.
• Preventing glycogen depletion and increasing the muscles’ ability to use lactate and fat as fuels.
Regular exercise may also help protect cells from chemical damage caused by agents called free radicals. (See Chapter 8 for details on free radicals and the special enzymes the body uses to fight them.)
Fitness programs that best develop metabolic efficiency include both long-duration, moderately intense endurance
Research has shown that most aspects of physiological functioning peak when people are about 30 years old, then decline at a rate of about 0.5-1.0% per year. This decline in physical capacity shows up in decreases in maximal oxygen consumption, cardiac output, muscular strength, fat-free mass, joint mobility, and other factors. However, regular exercise can substantially alter the rate of decline and promote both longevity and improved quality of life.
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Regular endurance exercise can improve maximal oxygen consumption in older adults by up to 15-30% the same degree of improvement seen in younger adults. In fact, studies have shown that Masters athletes in their seventies have VO2max values equivalent to those of sedentary 20-year-olds. At any age, endurance training can improve cardiorespiratory functioning, cellular metabolism, body composition, and psychological and emotional well-being. Older adults who exercise regularly have better balance and greater bone density and are less likely than their sedentary peers to suffer injuries as a result of falls. Regular endurance training also substantially reduces the risk of many chronic and disabling diseases, including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, and dementia.
Other forms of exercise training are also beneficial for older adults. Resistance training, a safe and effective way to build strength and fat-free mass, helps people remain independent as they age. Lifting weights also benefits older people; improvements in strength appear quickly and are easily applied to everyday tasks such as climbing stairs and carrying groceries. Flexibility exercises can improve the ranges of motion in joints, another aid in helping people maintain functional independence as they age.
It’s never too late to start exercising. Even those over 80 can see improved physical functioning and quality of life after beginning an exercise program. Most older adults can participate in moderate walking and strengthening and stretching exercises, and modified programs can be created for people with chronic conditions
Older Adults and other special health concerns. The wellness benefits of exercise are available to people of all ages and levels of ability. exercise and brief periods of more intense effort. For example, climbing a small hill while jogging or cycling introduces the kind of intense exercise that leads to more efficient use of lactate and fats.
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