David Kaufmann: Adding years to life


Published: Wednesday, May 22, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, May 20, 2013 at 5:04 p.m.

History records that in the early 1500's, a Spanish explorer named Ponce de Leon came to Florida in search of a Fountain of Youth that would reverse the aging process and keep one youthful. Of course he didn't discover it, because it does not exist. The aging process is hereditary and inevitable to all humans. It cannot be reversed; it only can be only be decelerated by proper lifestyle actions. The one lifestyle action that can help to diminish the rate of aging is: regular physical exercise. Regular physical exercise can add years to life, i.e., increase longevity and add life to years, i.e., increase the quality of living.

The reason regular physical exercise slows down the effects of the aging process is because of a physiological rule called the overload principle. The four steps of the overload principle are:

1. The application of a load (stress) acts as a stimulus for biochemical activity.

2. This results in destruction of the biochemical environment and the cell structure which is called catabolism.

3. After exercise, one acquires nutrition and rest.

4. The final result is an overcompensating restoration of the biochemical cellular environment and the quality and quantity of cell structure, which is called anabolism.

As we age the following variables decrease: basal metabolic rate, maximal heart rate and cardiac output, muscle strength, bone mineral mass, vital capacity and oxygen uptake. Likewise as we age, body weight, fat weight and systolic and diastolic blood pressure increases. Regular physical exercise is the antidote for these harmful trends of aging.

A simple exercise prescription consists of medical clearance from your doctor plus following the rule of progression: find your safe starting point and slowly increase the quality and quantity of the exercise bouts.

It also includes FIT, which stands for frequency of bouts per week, intensity of load per exercise and time of exercise or workout.

A comprehensive exercise program would include stretching (flexibility), aerobics (puffing and sweating) and weight training (machines or free weights). Two adjuncts to this program would be weight training with special emphasis on the core muscles of the abdomen, back and gluteal muscles and a few bouts of peak interval training where one raises the exercise heart rate up to 220 minus your age.

The consequences of a sedentary lifestyle are:

1. Your tissues (cells, fibers, matrix) will shrink.

2. Your metabolism will switch from burning calories to storing calories.

3. Get ready to visit your doctor for allopathic remedies like cut (surgery), burn (radiation) and poison (prescription drugs).

The author maintains that regular physical exercise is the closest thing to “the fountain of youth.” We should drink from it daily! It can maintain your healthy energy levels and can retard the acquisition of many degenerative and infectious diseases! It can add years to life and life to years! Go for it!

David A. Kaufmann is a retired professor of applied physiology/kinesiology at the University of Florida and lives in Gainesville.

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