The exercise that also strengthens your skin!

If you needed an extra incentive to head to the gym this winter, then for skincare enthusiasts this could be a big one.

A new study suggests resistance training doesn’t just strengthen your muscles, but can strengthen the skin too, reducing the signs of aging.

Researchers at Ritsumeikan University and the Frontier Research Center in Japan reported that while both aerobic and resistance exercise have a positive impact on skin elasticity (meaning your skin keeps its bounce and structure) – resistance training in particular increases dermal thickness.

Having thicker skin essentially means fewer wrinkles and less sagging, improved skin texture and moisture and it makes the skin less susceptible to external pollutants and UV radiation.

Turning back the clock on our skin

The researchers found resistance exercise caused the skin to behave more youthfully at a cellular level, including increased collagen production.

The most pronounced effects were seen in people who lifted weights.

Both skin elasticity and upper dermal structure deteriorate due not only to internal and external factors.

Internally it’s thought the ageing process in our skin is affected by changing hormone levels and increased levels of inflammatory cytokines (small proteins that affect the activity of our cells).

External factors include sun exposure and air pollution.

Changes through both are linked to a decrease in dermal ECMs (the extracellular matrix of our skin) made up of collagens and proteins.

Exercise training alters the circulating levels of cytokines and hormones, and these changes may be involved in the anti-aging effects of exercise. 

Muscle is the organ of longevity

Coincidentally, I joined a gym a couple of weeks ago just before reading this research, but it’s certainly had me stacking up the weights on the pull-up bar.

And it all adds to what is fast emerging as concrete science around the role muscle plays in aging.

Dr Gabrielle Lyon holds her book Forever Strong
Dr Gabrielle Lyon practices muscle-centric medicine.

In her book, Forever Strong, New York-based Dr Gabrielle Lyon argues that muscle is actually the organ of longevity, and believes that loss of muscle mass is one of the greatest contributors to age-related disease, physical and mental decline.

She believes weight training is essential to mitigating these effects as we age and I’ve given her book to my 80-year-old parents to read, who will be running for cover each time I darken their front door.

Already I have them lifting weight and doing squats while holding them too, and my mother does 200 repetitions each morning on a climbing machine.

What has become increasingly evident to me as I’ve studied the best ways to preserve our vitality as we age, is that we have got our attitude to aging all wrong.

We can’t afford to wind down

People tend to look at retirement and later life as a time of winding down and pottering.

And while this is a time in life to enjoy lower stress levels and a less pressurised lifestyle, it’s a big mistake to become less physically active.

The preservation of our skin, muscle and other organs are intrinsically linked.

None operates in isolation, and the core longevity essentials of a diet made up of natural wholefoods with a particular focus on our protein intake, adequate sleep, and regular exercise that includes both aerobic and resistance training affect every aspect of our wellbeing.

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