That is, if you don’t count the cost of a gym membership.
Preliminary findings out of McMaster University shows that exercise can prevent and even reverse the effects of aging in the skin.
“It shows is that exercise is something we should be doing not just for our hearts and our brains and to lower cancer risk,” said Dr. Mark Tarnopolsky, a professor of pediatrics and exercise science at McMaster, “but also it’s going to make our skin healthier.”
What Tarnopolsky sees may be a bit different than when you see. When he said the skin looks 20-30 years younger, he’s looking at it at a microscopic level.
“The dermis thins, so it gives skin a wrinkly, so of sloppy appearance,” explained Tarnopolsky. “And then the outer coating, the stratum corneum which is the outer part of the epidermis, it thickens which gives you a flakey skin as you get older as well.”
What exercise does is prevent the dermis from thinning and the stratum corneum from thickening, making skin look decades younger at a microscopic level.
He made the discovery when studying the effects of exercise on mice genetically modified to age faster. Comparing sedentary mice to those who exercise on a wheel three times a week, he found “massive systematic benefits.”
“One of our most striking findings was the skin,” said Tarnopolsky. “It was dramatically abnormal in the aging mouse and completely protected with exercise.”
To test the theory further, he looked at skin biopsies of humans, taking samples from the upper buttocks, an area that wouldn’t be exposed to damage from the sun.
“I think a lot of people wouldn’t even think that exercise helps your skin because if you look at a runner like me we have a lot of wrinkles on our face because we spend so much time in the sun,” said Tarnopolsky.
“So the photo aging kind of counters the benefits of exercise [to the skin], so in order to see the effects we have to look at an area that isn’t bombarded by sun.”
Taking it a step further, Tarnopolsky tried to show if exercise could reverse the effects of aging. Looking at people aged 65 and older, he studied what would happen if he introduced exercise at the late age. What he found was that the skin would appear 20 to 30 years younger under the microscope after three months.
And it didn’t take much — participants exercised for 30 minutes three times a week on a stationary bike.
Tarnopolsky said he’s now turning his research to what processes at a protein level are reversing the effects of aging, but also looking to see what specific benefits we have from healthier skin.
“Do we actually have long-term protection from sun associated cancers?” Tarnopolsky asked.
We’ll have to wait to find out.