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This one habit could take years off your appearance

Most everyone wants to maintain their youthful appearance for as long as possible. So much so that the average American woman reportedly spends about $8 per day on facial care products. A variety of natural skin care products do indeed improve your skin’s appearance, but what if there was a cost-free habit that could promote healthier skin?

The visible signs of aging

Anyone who looks in a mirror regularly knows that there are certain signs of aging — wrinkles, crow’s feet, sagging — that appear as the years advance. These changes in the skin’s appearance are due to modifications to the layers of the skin. A thickening of the outer layer (stratum corneum) of the skin combined with a thinning of the deeper layers of the skin (due to collagen and fibrin loss) produce the tell-tale signs of aging.

Fine lines, dark spots, and drooping that occur as a result of aging — independent of sun exposure — have been accepted as inevitable. Potentially harmful plastic surgery was viewed as one of the few viable ways to reverse these age-related skin changes.

Exercise: The ‘Fountain of Youth’

Most studies focus on the benefits of cardiovascular (endurance) exercise to the heart, lungs, overall health, and even mood.  Scientists at McMaster University set out to determine if youthful skin could be maintained — or even reversed — by something as simple as aerobic exercise. The first arm of the study included 29 male and female volunteers aged 20 to 84 that performed at least three hours of moderate to vigorous physical activity every week. These individuals were compared against a group that exercised less than one hour per week.

The second half of the trial focused on sedentary elderly (65 to 86 years old) adults that participated in an acute exercise trial. This arm of the trial was intended to limit factors — nutrition, lifestyles, and genetics — that may skew study results. Elderly participants started with 30 minutes of cycling at 65% of their maximum heart rate (HRmax). The training program progressively increased 5% HRmax every other week until 75% HRmax was achieved, at which point exercise duration was increased 5 minutes every other week, peaking at 75% HRmax and 45 minutes.

Skin samples were taken from the participant’s buttocks in areas not exposed to sun before and at the completion of the training program. After analyzing the skin samples, the scientists observed a decrease in the thickness of the stratum corneum. Indeed, men and women over the age of 40 that exercised frequently had significantly healthier skin that more closely matched the composition of adults in their 20s and 30s. Remarkably, this marked reduction in skin aging (10+ years reduction) held true even for those in their mature years (over age 65).

Get moving to improve your appearance

The results of the study clearly demonstrate that aerobic exercise protects against the visible signs of aging and promotes a more youthful skin composition. You may be thinking about more than calories expended, but how much younger your skin will look, the next time you are on that treadmill at the gym.