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Exercise reverses skin aging: Hit the gym if you want to look 20s even when in your 40s

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Staying fit has often been lauded as the key to a healthy lifestyle and now, a new study suggests that exercising aids in reversing skin aging.

Regular exercise is believed to keep one's skin glowing and now a study conducted by researchers at Canada's McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, reveals that it can result in the reduction of skin aging. Apparently, if one exercises frequently, the skin is not only younger looking, but the aging process is also reversed for those who start working out at an older age.

Researchers based their findings on the results of experiments that were conducted on mice and later on humans. The team experimented on mice that were bred to age early and maintained a sedentary life. These mice became weak and lost their fur, which turned gray. By comparison, mice who were active and had access to running wheels stayed healthy and their fur did not turn gray or fall out. On the contrary, the fur was longer and healthier looking.

The scientists' findings were duplicated on human beings with 29 volunteers between ages 20 and 84 being engaged for the experiment.

"We wanted to examine skin that had not been frequently exposed to the sun," says Dr. Mark Tarnopolsky, professor of pediatrics and exercise science at McMaster University.

The researchers evaluated the skin samples of the volunteers and divided them into two groups. One group was made to work out for at least three hours vigorously every week, whereas the second group barely exercised for an hour every week.

Post this regimen, the researchers tested the skin samples of both group members and discovered that both men and women above age 40 who exercised regularly had a "markedly thinner, healthier stratum corneums and thicker dermis layers in their skin." Corneum is the part of the skin that is visible to us.

This basically means that the skin of these individuals was younger looking and felt similar to that of 20- to 30-year olds rather than people their own age.

However, the researchers opined that external factors like the individual's diet, lifestyle and genes may also have played an integral role and could influence the different skin conditions found in those who exercised and the group that had a sedentary lifestyle.

Therefore, the scientists got skin samples from the buttocks of a group of sedentary volunteers and then asked them to exercise. This group of volunteers were aged 65 and above and had standard skin type for their age bracket. The volunteers had to exercise twice a week and either jogged or cycled at a moderate pace which was not too strenuous. This regimen was equal to almost 65 percent of their maximum aerobic capacity for half an hour. The routine continued for three months and after the period lapsed, the researchers tested the skin of the volunteers again for differences.

The scientists found that the skin sample of this group looked pretty different when compared with its look at the start. The inner and outer layers, i.e. the dermis and corneum, both resembled that of 20- to 40- year olds.

"I don't want to over-hype the results, but, really, it was pretty remarkable to see," said Dr. Tarnopolsky.

An interesting finding was the higher levels of myokine (a type of protein secreted by muscle cells) in individuals who exercised more, which may have influenced the skin changes.

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