You’ve heard it before – it’s never too late to start exercising to improve your health! Well, now there’s another reason to start exercising – and to do it soon! Recently published research out of Ontario’s McMaster University has shown that it is not entirely inevitable that our skin will deteriorate with age!
Our skin changes as we age – independent of any damage that is done by exposure to the sun. After age forty, the protective outer layer of the epidermis, the stratum corneum, thickens and becomes drier and flakier. This layer, composed mostly of dead skin cells and some collagen, is what we feel when we touch our skin. The layer just below the epidermis, the dermis, begins to lose cells and elasticity, thinning out and sagging after age forty, giving the skin a more translucent appearance.
Previous studies done at McMasters had shown that exercise enabled mice to maintain thick fur that never turned gray longer than could sedentary mice. The scientists wondered if the same would be the case for humans – would exercise forestall, or even reverse, the impact of age.
Examining skin from the buttocks (or areas not exposed to the sun) of 29 male and female volunteers, the researchers found
that the composition of the skin of those participants over the age of 40 who exercised frequently was closer to that of the 20 and 30 year old participants than it was to that of other older participants. This occurred even if these active participants were past age 65.
To test for the possibility that factors other than exercise could have yielded this result, e.g., genetics, diet, or an otherwise healthy lifestyle, the research team had a group of participants who were age 65 or older and who were sedentary undertake a simple endurance training program for three months. At the end of the training program, the team examined the participants’ skin and found that it now looked very much like that of the 20 to 40 year olds’ skin – exercise had reversed the effects of aging.