Fitness First: Slowing the Aging Process

By Friends & Neighbors September 15, 2013 16:44

Krista-Howell-fitness-column-winter2012-199x300[1]How many “miles” we get out of life – and the quality of those miles – can be compared to the life of our car tires.

The average tire gets 35,000 miles, and the American life expectancy is now 78 years (75.3 years for U.S. men and 80.93 years for women).

We can significantly increase or decrease these numbers by the care we take and the choices we make. Just as a bumpy road with lots of wild curves puts extra wear on tires, a bumpy life with extra curves can shorten lives. Personally, I’d like to get extra miles on both.

Our genetic makeup and how we live influences the way we age. The human body is made of trillions of cells, which are constantly regenerating. This regenerative process slows over time, as evidenced by those visible signs of aging we all know and don’t necessarily love.

The best way to slow that ticking clock? I’m not a fan of surgery and so-called miracle creams. Instead, focus on making lifestyle choices proven to promote health by working to reduce “cellular inflammation” – the newest buzz phrase in the health field.

Cellular inflammation is our body’s natural response to stress. It’s linked to Alzheimer’s, coronary artery disease, arthritis, diabetes, hypertension, stroke and cancer. And it’s dramatically affected by what you decide to eat, drink and do.

Consuming lots of fat, sugar and caffeine increases inflammation. So does dehydration, lack of sleep and lack of physical activity. All will burn up years faster than your biological clock. The good news is that you can reduce inflammation by exercising more, eating healthfully and reducing stress.

Exercise tops my list of solutions because of its profound benefits in slowing the aging process. Physical activity improves muscle tone and strength, endurance, immune system response and bone density. It improves sleep. It helps control weight, can ease depression, and reduces risk of dementia, cancer and cardiovascular or respiratory diseases.

I strongly believe that you’ll be more successful in starting and continuing a fitness program by exercising with a group. So take advantage of some of the many exercise programs offered throughout the foothills.

My top three healthy aging tips:


Do 30 minutes a day of moderate, steady aerobic exercise such as walking, biking, hiking, swimming or chair aerobics. Combine this with strength-conditioning exercises – for example, working out with dumbbells or resistive bands for 15 minutes twice a week.


A healthy diet can also delay the aging process. Aim for a diet high in fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Purple foods are high in the antioxidant resveratrol. The skins of grapes have the highest level of this antioxidant, but other foods such as berries, peanuts and pistachios have it as well. Drink plenty of water, the best anti-aging nutrient for your skin. Aim for eight glasses (64 ounces total) a day.


Studies have shown that social connections help us delay the aging process. Being engaged with family, friends, hobbies, animals and recreational activities are all ways to increase positive emotions.

Socialization can reduce stress, help increase your activity level and keep your mind youthful. Research suggests that an inactive mind can dramatically age people. Double your anti-aging benefits by joining an exercise group.

Exercise physiologist Krista Howell works with cardiac rehab patients and teaches senior fitness.

Copyright© 2013 Friends and Neighbors Magazine


By Friends & Neighbors September 15, 2013 16:44
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