If worries of aging have you feeling down, it may be time to get into the cardio groove. Rather than making you look or feel older, exercises like running, swimming and cycling can help prevent or reverse many of the telltale signs of age. While nothing can stop the clock completely, you can count on cardio to help protect your body and mind as the years go by. If you're new to exercise, talk to your doctor before starting an exercise plan.
Think of cardio as a workout for your heart. The activity forces your ticker to pump harder during exercise to deliver precious blood to your muscles. Over time, your heart becomes stronger and more efficient, and you're also less likely to develop high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure and other dangerous conditions that often come with age. One review on exercise and cardiovascular aging published in the "Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine" in 2008 revealed that lack of exercise is responsible for declining heart health over the years, but exercise can help keep you healthy.
If you want to preserve your brain over the years, cardio should be on the agenda. In a study published in "The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness" in 2009, researchers studied the brains of young adults, placing one group in an aerobic training program while the other group did not exercise. Over the course of the study, the non-exercise group lost some of the gray matter in their brains while the exercise group did not. The exercisers also showed improvements on mental health questionnaires, indicating a link between exercise and psychological well-being.
If you thought weight gain was unavoidable with age, think again -- cardio exercise can help you stay slim for the long haul. In a study published in "Obesity" journal in 2013, researchers had overweight and obese people either participate in aerobic exercise five days per week or not exercise at all -- and none of the participants changed their diet. After 10 months, the exercisers lost weight while the control group gained weight.
You have the highest bone mass of your life around age 30, according to MayoClinic.com, and after that you start to slowly lose bone tissue. This is particularly dangerous for women, who are more prone to osteoporosis -- a condition defined by weak and brittle bones -- than men. Weight-bearing activities such as running, walking and climbing stairs place stress on your bones, which encourages mineralization to make them stronger. Non-weight-bearing exercises like swimming and cycling, however, don't help your bones the same way.
- MayoClinic.com: Aerobic Exercise: Top 10 Reasons to Get Physical
- Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine: Cardiovascular Aging and Exercise in Healthy Older Adults
- The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness: Effects of Aerobic Exercise Training on Brain Structure and Psychological Well-Being in Young Adults
- Obesity: Aerobic Exercise Alone Results in Clinically Significant Weight Loss for Men and Women: Midwest Exercise Trial 2
- MayoClinic.com: Bone Health: Tips to Keep your Bones Healthy
Nina K. is a Los Angeles-based journalist who has been published by USAToday.com, Fitday.com, Healthy Living Magazine, Organic Authority and numerous other print and web publications. She has a philosophy degree from the University of Colorado and a journalism certificate from UCLA.