Take a look around you.  Take a look at the people that you work with, interact with on a daily basis.  See your friends and people you went to high school/college with.  We all do it.  We all compare.  I look better than that person.  How does he/she look so good?  The answer, often, is oxidative stress.  Oxidative stress is what occurs when the body is subjected to chronic stresses such as smoking, drinking, stress, poor food choices, lack of physical activity and even long duration cardiovascular exercise.  What happens is that the Oxygen in our body becomes reactive.  It loses an electron and thus becomes susceptible to mutation (free radicals).  Then it must steal electrons from other molecules, subjecting them to mutation.  This becomes a huge chain reaction and creates imbalances in the body’s chemistry.  At the least bit, excessive oxidative stress has shown to accelerate the aging process.  Look at Lindsey Lohan, as a great example.  Her body has been exposed to about as much oxidative stress as you can.  She is 25 years old.  Yikes!!  I’m 36 and she looks older than I do.  I was also shocked to learn that one of the members where I work is 4 years my junior.  I was discussing this with another trainer and we would have pegged him for early 40’s.  You can see it in marathoners and other distance athletes, as well.  The excessive duration of their training ages the body prematurely, however to a significantly less severe degree than if they were doing nothing at all and poisoning their body with other toxic foods and drugs.  Excessive oxidative stress has also been linked to things like atherosclerosis (plaques in the arteries), heart attack, and alzheimer’s among others.

So the goal would be to prevent excessive reactive Oxygen formation and thusly reduce the stress in our bodies.  We can do this through a mixture of exercises and good diet.  In terms of the exercise, cardio is not the only way.  There is a reason that marathoners look older than they are.  It’s the consistently high mileage and work in the Oxidative energy system of the body.  Now, this doesn’t apply as much to the person who signs up for their local marathon and runs maybe one per year. Probably no biggie, there.  But for people who are consistently training running anywhere from 20-50 miles per week, there is a cumulative effect.  We can get the same/better results by mixing in some higher intensity work that stresses other energy systems, and cutting the mileage.  Another discussion for another day, though.  Now, for the diet, we want to consume food sources that contain substances known as “antioxidants”.  We’ve heard of them, but what are they?  They are molecules that just carry around extra electrons.  So that when they meet one of these free radicals, they can neutralize is and stop the chain reaction.  So, it’s really important to include good sources of these in the diet.  Antioxidants include the following:

Vitamin A –  Eggs, Liver, and dark green, orange or yellow fruit or vegetable

Vitamin C – Citrus, bell peppers, tomatoes

Vitamin E – Nuts, seeds, kiwi, cold-water fish (also a good source of A)

Obviously, fresh sources are best, as vitamins are broken down in light and heat.  So eat well, be well and age well.