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Running will make us look younger

March 27, 2011 Reviewed by Marta 11 Comments

I’ve never been much of a long distance runner and I prefer short sharp sprints and interval training to endurance sports. The name just seems to sum it up: endurance. Hours of repetitive movements. Treadmill, hamster wheel, what’s the difference. But I might have to rethink my biases because I just found out that endurance exercise makes you look younger.

A recent study from Tel Aviv University has found that endurance exercises rejuvenates our muscles and keeps us youthful. That doesn’t seem shockingly new, but the breakthrough that the scientists made was to explain how. It seems that exercise unlocks the stem cells of our muscles.

When we age, we experience sarcopenia, a decline in mass and function of muscles, and osteopenia, which is bone loss.  That double whammy explains why, as we get older, we are more likely to fall over. Personally, I can imagine nothing worse. Leaving aside the risk of injury, it is downright embarrassing.

What’s exciting about this new research is that it suggests that muscle deterioration can be reversed. Comparing the performance of rats of different ages and sexes, they found that the number of satellite cells increased after rats ran on a treadmill for 20 minutes a day for a 13-week period. The younger rats showed a 20 per cent to 35 per cent increase in the average number of stem cells per muscle fiber retained – and older rats benefited even more significantly, exhibiting a 33 per cent to 47 per cent increase in stem cells.

Now because the researchers only gave the rats a treadmill, we don’t know if the same wouldn’t apply to any exercise including interval or weight training.  I’m willing to bet that all exercise, not just endurance, will get those muscle stem cells going. However, I will hedge my bets and make sure I incorporate some jogging and rowing (machine) into my routine.

Especially as I read that endurance exercise also improved the levels of “spontaneous locomotion” of old rats. That’s what scientists call that feeling which tells our bodies to just get up and dance. This aging rat could do with getting in touch with her inner party girl again.

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  • May 16, 2017

    by Kim

    I have been an outdoor runner for 21 years (I'm 39 now). I take very good care of my skin. I slather on a 60 spf daily rain or shine, and I use Retin A for wrinkle control. I eat a LOT of fruit and drink lots of water. My face looks prettier than it did in my 20s and my body is fit, all thanks to running. It's not genes, you should see my mother, yikes!

  • December 22, 2012

    by pradip jadhav

    if u people really want to look young then try this simple tips:-1) wake up early in the dawn.2 hour before the sunrise.sit for 3 minutes for meditation or deep smooth breathing.2) eat 3 gooseberries in a day. 3) go to sleep before 10:30 pm.
    do these tips & u shall see results in 1 month. All the best.

  • December 2, 2012

    by tom

    the reason why joggers have an aging face is because of the sun. stay away from the sun as much as you can and jog indoors and you will look young.

  • May 12, 2011

    by The benefits of exercising outdoors | Truth in Slimming

    [...] being said, we had some readers comment about how runners (who often run outdoors) tended to look old for their age. Sun and wind damage was a major reason [...]

  • April 24, 2011

    by Will running make you look older | Truth in Slimming

    [...] Marta’s article concerning running’s ability to make us look younger stirred up some controversy a couple weeks back. People argued that running actually had the opposite effect, making people look far older than they actually are, which had us scratching our heads. Could it be true? The simple answer is yes and no. [...]

  • March 29, 2011

    by patrice

    25 years ago a friend and I decided to join a 'womens' running club'. I jogged down my hill, stopped, decided it was not for me and went back up the hill never to run again. She continued. To this day she still runs, rain, sleet or snow. Her skin today is gaunt, red, parched and wrinkled. She is very thin and osteopenic; has trouble with her feet and is constantly going to the chiropractor/podiatrist for treatments.. Her knees are shot and is considering knee replacements. Me? is great; no knee replacements, nor foot problems. So what was the benefit I ask? She likes the high she gets from running.

  • March 29, 2011

    by Zoe

    I'm guessing that the saggy skin and gauntness are connected and are due in part to the loss of fat underneath the skin, which should be reason enough for older women to steer clear of crash diets. Also, you are outside all the time, and sweating; I'm guessing that many of these women don't reapply sunscreen during the course of a workout, or else like the sun-kissed look and don't use sunscreen at all. I think these factors are probably much more important and they are, thankfully, easier to watch out for.

  • March 28, 2011

    by marta

    Hi Joan, there are many experts that would agree with you and advise against running arguing that it increases sagging/wrinkles.

  • March 28, 2011

    by Joan

    This posting leaves me ambivalent.

    I absolutely believe that exercise rejuvenates our muscles, our circulatory system, etc ... resulting in a younger, healthier looking body, my experience with my female "runner" friends is that they look 5-10+ years older than their real age.

    Most of them have the bodies of teenage girls (and in some cases, teenage boys) but all that running doesn't translate as well on their faces. I suspect the constant gravitational pounding is the reason they have gaunt, sagging faces.

    I stopped running in my mid-30's after taking a hard look at the faces of my female runner friends. They dress to show off their figures - which are amazing - but their faces tell a different story. I switched to low impact cardio and almost 15 years later, feel like my face is better for it.

    So, I'm not anti-endurance or anti-cardio ... I just wonder if running is a girl's best friend.

    This is just my opinion and have no facts to back it up. It's only an observation. Anyone else know what I mean?

  • March 27, 2011

    by Julie Kay

    I joined the Y last October. It was a desperate move to combat what the prior year(+)'s crises had thrust not only my spirit but my body. As luck (mine) would have it one of my worse physical nemises came back in November, BPV- eg. vertigo. It doesn't take much for me to procrastinate from exercise: I've had decades experience doing it- procrasinate. I finally got back to it this month and am trying hard this time to keep it up. I can't see myself running on the treadmill, but I do walk fast. And I do a full circuit of strength builders. Reading this is a Motivating Concept! Thank YOU, Marta! ~ jk

  • March 27, 2011

    by Barrie

    "This aging rat could do with getting in touch with her inner party girl again."
    Aw c'mon it couldn't be that bad!!!!

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