How to Get a Younger Body
By now you know that getting and staying fit should be one of your top priorities. But if you're like most people...well, you find it very easy to blow off your workouts. Part of the reason is that not many people realize how much better they'd feel if they exercised, says Colleen Doyle, RD, nutrition and physical-activity director for the American Cancer Society. "Women have so much power to prevent disease and improve their health now and in the future simply by being active," she says.
In fact, many health bummers that we assume are part of getting older -- everything from a sluggish metabolism to clogged arteries -- are at least partly the result of a sedentary lifestyle. "There is no fountain of youth, but exercise is the closest thing you've got," says Dr. Doyle.
If you're ready to turn back the clock, read our guide. You'll learn some of the stand-out health perks of each component of fitness and how to max out the benefits. (Tip #1: You have to do all four types of exercise to get results.) You'll be inspired to lace up your sneakers immediately!Aerobic Exercise
Age-Erasing Rx: Do moderately intense cardio for 30 minutes, five days a week, or vigorously intense cardio for 20 minutes, three days a week.The Payoff
A healthier heart.
Sure, this is an obvious one. But what's surprising is how dramatically cardio workouts improve your ticker -- and there are even special perks for the ladies. "High triglycerides, low HDL levels, type 2 diabetes, and obesity are stronger risk factors for heart disease in women than in men, and doing aerobic exercise can help you avoid all of them," says Nieca Goldberg, MD, author of Dr. Nieca Goldberg's Complete Guide to Women's Health. Regular sweat sessions can also decrease levels of potentially heart-damaging stress hormones -- yet another boon for women's hearts, which are more vulnerable than guys' to the effects of stress, she adds. Think you're too young to worry about the state of your ticker? Actually, you're a little late: "Heart disease starts to develop around age 20 or even younger," says Dr. Goldberg.
The American Cancer Society states that a sedentary lifestyle, along with a poor diet, is related to about one-third of all cancer deaths. "People have a tremendous opportunity to reduce their risk of developing cancer but many people think it's largely out of their hands," says Dr. Doyle. For example, simple exercises such as walking and biking may offer protection against breast and colon cancer in part by keeping estrogen and insulin levels in check -- two hormones that may stimulate tumor growth. Aerobic exercise may also help shield you from other forms of cancer because it helps you keep your weight down. According to a 2008 study published in the Lancet, being overweight or obese may increase a woman's risk of developing up to 11 different types of cancer. Trying to drop extra pounds? According to the American College of Sports Medicine, you may need to log 60- to 90-minute sessions of physical activity instead of the standard 30 to see results.
A younger body.
A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine last year revealed that doing regular aerobic exercise throughout middle age can delay biological aging by up to 10 years or more. How? It's mostly because regular cardio workouts help maintain your aerobic capacity -- a measure of your body's ability to consume oxygen and use it to generate energy -- which begins to decline in your 20s.
Cardio workouts can help boost your body's defenses against viruses and bacteria. Last fall doctors at McMaster University, in Ontario, Canada, published a review of 17 studies that examined the effects of at least one month of exercise on the immune system. "We discovered that in healthy adults, regular aerobic exercise appears to boost the immune system and reduce chronic inflammation," says lead author Derek Haaland, MD.