Younger skin with exercise

According to a new study, physical exercise not only slows down skin aging, but can even turn back the clock and rejuvenate you if you start exercising at an older age.

As everyone notices over the years, human skin wrinkles and sags as we age. All these processes are normal and are due to changes in the skin layers. For example, after 40 years of age, thickening of the uppermost surface layer of the skin begins to be observed. This happens in what is called the stratum corneum – the topmost layer of skin that we can all actually see. This layer of skin is mostly made up of dead cells and collagen, but with age it tends to harden and dry out. At the same time, the layer of skin that is located under the epidermis begins to thin, loses elasticity and gives the skin a more transparent appearance.

These changes are not related in any way to sunlight and are the result of natural aging processes alone.

But recently, scientists at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, set out to find out if these changes are inevitable. Not long ago, McMaster University conducted similar studies with mice, and the results showed that aging in the animals was significantly slowed down and even rejuvenated under a certain training regimen. When the same mice led a stagnant and unexercising lifestyle, they quickly began to look weak, sickly and aged, losing fur or at least scrawny. However, if the same mice were given the opportunity to run on spinning wheels and maintain high levels of activity, the result was unequivocal – they aged much more slowly, retaining their minds and muscles for a much longer time. In the same time that the active mice did not even walk around, the inactive rodents became withered and bald.

Of course, we haven’t had fur for a long time, but if this works with fur, it will have the same effect with human skin, scientists conclude.

To test their theory, scientists selected 29 men and women aged 20 to 84. About half of the participants were active and performed about 3 or more hours of moderate or vigorous physical activity per week. The other half of the volunteers were still people with a sedentary lifestyle and physical activity of less than one hour per week. The scientists chose to study the impact of sports on the skin of the thigh.

“Our goal was to abstract ourselves from the influence of the sun’s rays and choose a part of the human body that is relatively rarely exposed to sunlight.” says Dr. Mark Tarnopolsky, professor of pediatrics and exercise science at McMaster University. Earlier this year, he presented his research to the American Sports Medicine Association during the association’s annual meeting in New Orleans.

Scientists biopsied the skin of all participants and compared them by age. As expected, the elderly had a thick and hardened outer layer of skin, while the inner layer was thinner.

When they broke down the results by habit, however, what was revealed was simply amazing. It turned out that people over 40 years of age who regularly play sports and maintain high levels of physical activity had skin very similar in quality to 20- and 30-year-olds. The results were remarkable even in people aged 65 who actively exercised.

Of course, the scientists emphasize that the study did not take into account other factors such as a genetic predisposition to slower aging or a healthy diet.

This naturally led to the second stage of the study. Only people with a sedentary lifestyle participated in it. The scientists used as a basis the samples from the thighs that were taken earlier.

The volunteers were aged around 65 years and over and their results were initially normal for their age. They had to follow a strictly defined motor regime with endurance training. Initially, they were supposed to include 2 times a week jogging or cycling at a moderate pace. They had to develop at least 65 percent of their maximum aerobic capacity for a period of 30 minutes. The study lasted 3 months. At the end of the period, the scientists biopsied the volunteers again.

This time the results were amazing! The skin of the elderly bears a striking resemblance to that of young people under 40 years of age. “I don’t want to exaggerate the results of the study, but they were truly remarkable and must be seen!” – says Professor Tarnopolski, who himself is an active middle-aged person. “The results of the exercises are such that one would think that the skin is that of a much younger person,” he adds.

In order to understand exactly how playing sports affected the skin, the scientists analyzed the results in detail and discovered that when the physical work of the muscles increases, a substance called myokine is released. During physical exercises, the level of the so-called myokine IL-15 changed most significantly. The volunteers who started exercising had practically twice as much myokin in their skin compared to before engaging in regular exercise.

However, the doctor believes that myokine works its magic in combination with other substances during exercise and that most likely pills, injections or creams would not have the same effect.

On the other hand, exercise is unlikely to have a particular effect on wrinkles that we have accumulated from prolonged exposure to the sun. Finally, Professor Tarnopolski concludes by saying: “Still, it’s amazing to see how exercise changes our bodies and skin!”

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