Of all the anti-ageing tools available to mankind, there is one that stands heads and heels above the rest. That one is proper exercise. Not just any exercise, but the kind that produces strong, healthy, toned muscles.
Let's face it, muscular weakness or strength is indelibly tied to our quality of life. It not only affects the way we currently look and feel, but it affects our life expectancy as well.
Unfortunately, as we age, muscle disappears because of natural hormonal changes, unnatural sedentary lifestyles, poor diets, stress and even substance abuse.
In fact, after the age of 30, about 1.3-2.2kg of muscle disappears every decade. Because this happens gradually, you may not notice until you wind up with age-related sarcopenia.
Ongoing studies prove that a self-healing, well-functioning body starts with good muscle tone and good muscle tone is the result of proper exercise. It is proper strength training/resistance training of some sort that is key to activating our muscles back to life again and turning on our anti-ageing hormones.
Healthy muscles are mandatory when it comes to healthy hormone production as well (the key to enjoying healthy longevity). As the body ages, the production of anti-ageing hormones decreases naturally, and this lack of hormone production is what fuels and promotes premature ageing.
The situation is compounded, and production is slowed even more if our muscles are not given their needed workload (what they were created to do).
When it comes to increasing muscle insulin sensitivity (insulin is likely the most important hormone when it comes to how long we live and how well we age) or reinvigorating the body's glucose tolerance, strength training is critical.
This is important because it lowers the risk of diabetes (a serious worldwide problem). In other words, strength training exercise improves the body's ability to control blood sugar levels and respond to insulin (uses up excess blood glucose every minute of the day and night).
It also helps lower body fat and improves composition (muscle to fat ratio) to a healthier level.
The non-negotiable truth is, healthy, strong muscles contribute to our health and longevity, while weak, sagging muscles steal our energy and shorten our life spans. There is no shortcut. The only way to get strong, healthy muscles is to put them to work and use them as they were created to be used.
We receive many benefits from strength training beyond getting a healthy hormonal boost. As muscles firm up, appearance does as well. A fitter, more toned and flexible body not only improves endurance, stamina, strength and energy, but it knocks years off our age, giving us a more youthful appearance.
Proper exercise also provides us with detoxification – the process of forcing out potentially destructive poisons and excess waste that has accumulated from the chemicals (environmental pollutants, harmful bacteria, medications, parasites and food waste) and found their way into our bodies and into our cells.
As our cells are cleansed, they automatically become more active and "alive". The result is, they do their job better and we feel less sluggish and look more vibrant, energised and youthful.
Although the body detoxifies naturally, we can support and enhance this process with certain lifestyle habits and exercise heads the list. Exercise gets us moving, increases blood circulation and oxygen intake and this in turn, enhances and promotes the body's detoxification process.
A healthy diet, a restful night's sleep and lots of fresh clean drinking water along with proper exercise are other lifestyle habits that help promote healthy detoxification.
If you are looking to boost HGH (human growth hormone) levels, building and maintaining healthy new muscle tissue is what gets the job done.
Proper, challenging exercise alone can up HGH levels 352 per cent, skyrocketing self-healing and decreasing the risk of death from the big three – heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
Challenging exercise is very stimulating. It is this stimulation that puts the body into regeneration and self-healing mode, as it breaks down the cellular tissue during every workout.
Individuals that perform strength-training exercise regularly appear 10 years younger than those that do not. There is simply no procedure, cream, pill or potion that will ever replace what strength training offers when it comes to boosting health, youthfulness, independence, self-esteem, longevity and happiness.
In the end, it is proper exercise (ideally compound exercises that engage multiple muscles at once), the kind that gets the blood pumping and the hormones humming that is empowered to make us feel better and stronger physically, mentally and emotionally.
It enriches our lives in every way possible allowing us to do and enjoy more of what life offers, and, just a couple of sessions weekly using the right programme is all that's needed to be effective.
• Carolyn Hansen is co-owner of Anytime Fitness.