In 1493, Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León stepped aboard a ship bound for America. He would share the voyage with famed explorer Christopher Columbus, who was on his second journey to the New World. Ponce de León didn’t embark on the expedition merely to experience a sightseeing trip, however. He set sail with one goal, one vision, one desire in mind: to find the legendary fountain of youth — that mythical spring of water that would grant eternal youth to the one who drank from it.

De León had many amazing adventures in the New World. History credits him as the first European to discover Florida. Conquering Puerto Rico, he eventually became its governor. But for all his long years of searching, he never discovered what his heart desired most — the source of perpetual youth.

Hundreds of years later, people still continue Ponce de León’s quest. Rather than searching for the fountain of youth in some undiscovered land, however, many today seek youthful vitality in pills, therapies and special diets. Thankfully, there is a healthier option.

When physically challenged through regular exercise, the human body grows stronger and healthier, and ages more slowly. In fact, according to the American Heart Association, regular activity has many whole-person health benefits, including great gains for the body, mind and spirit, and even for social relationships.

Research has clearly shown that with regular physical activity, a person sleeps better and is less susceptible to injury. Mentally, an active person handles stress more effectively; he or she is able to think more clearly and generally has a more positive outlook on life. Socially, people often gain more confidence because they feel and look more vibrant. And spiritually, those who exercise often find a deeper connection to their Creator, who made them for a life of health, happiness and peace.

Is there a real source of eternal youth in this world? Not that we know of. But many researchers believe they have found the closest resource we have for fulfilling the promise of the legendary fountain of youth. It is simply physical activity.