Hitting the 40s and Feeling Old? Science Says This Can Keep You Younger and Happier

Hippocrates in 400 BC said that exercise is man’s best medicine. Physical activity is the cornerstone of healthy aging, which helps not only in developing and maintaining functional abilities but also in enabling well-being in older age.

Researchers set out to assess the health of older adults who had exercised most of their adult lives to see if this could slow down aging. They found that those who had exercised regularly defied the aging process, having the immunity, muscle mass, and cholesterol levels of a young person.

Loss of muscle mass and strength does not occur in those who exercise regularly

125 amateur cyclists, aged 55 to 79, were researched by researchers at the Universities of Birmingham and London’s King’s College. Of these, 84 were men and 41 were women. The required cycling distances for the men and women were 100 km for the men and 60 km for the ladies. The study eliminated people who smoked, drank excessively, had high blood pressure, or had any other medical issues.

The participants conducted a battery of laboratory tests, and their results were contrasted with those of a group of individuals who did not engage in regular physical activity. This cohort included 55 healthy young adults between the ages of 20 and 36 and 75 healthy individuals between the ages of 57 and 80.

The study found that people who routinely exercise do not lose strength or muscle mass. The cyclists’ body fat, cholesterol, and testosterone levels did not rise as they aged, and the men’s levels of the hormone also remained high, suggesting that they may have mostly avoided male menopause.

Regular exercises ensure a strong immune system

Surprisingly, the study also showed that the benefits of exercise extend beyond muscle as the cyclists also had an immune system that did not seem to have aged either.

From the age of 20, the thymus, an organ that produces the immune cells known as T cells, begins to decrease. However, in this study, the thymuses of the cyclists were producing an equal number of T cells as those of a young individual.

The findings coincide with data showing that more than half of those over 65 have at least two ailments and that less than half of individuals over 65 get enough exercise to keep healthy.

Professor Janet Lord, Director of the Institute of Inflammation and Ageing at the University of Birmingham, said “Our findings debunk the assumption that aging automatically makes us frailer. Our research means we now have strong evidence that encouraging people to commit to regular exercise throughout their lives is a viable solution to the problem that we are living longer but not healthier.”

Regular exercises allow the body to age optimally free from problems

Dr. Niharika Arora Duggal, also of the University of Birmingham, said: “We hope these findings prevent the danger that, as a society, we accept that old age and disease are normal bedfellows and that the third age of man is something to be endured and not enjoyed.”

Professor Stephen Harridge, Director of the Centre of Human & Aerospace Physiological Sciences at King’s College London, said: “The findings emphasize the fact that the cyclists do not exercise because they are healthy, but that they are healthy because they have been exercising for such a large proportion of their lives.

“Their bodies have been allowed to age optimally, free from the problems usually caused by inactivity. Remove the activity and their health would likely deteriorate.”

Find an exercise that you enjoy in the environment that suits you

Norman Lazarus, Emeritus Professor at King’s College London and a master cyclist, and Dr Ross Pollock, who undertook the muscle study, both agreed that: “Most of us who exercise have nowhere near the physiological capacities of elite athletes.

“We exercise mainly to enjoy ourselves. Nearly everybody can partake in an exercise that is in keeping with their own physiological capabilities.

“Find an exercise that you enjoy in whatever environment that suits you and make a habit of physical activity. You will reap the rewards in later life by enjoying an independent and productive old age.”

The results of an ongoing collaboration between the two universities, supported by the BUPA foundation, are outlined in two publications published today in Ageing Cell.

To determine whether the bikers maintain their cycling and youth, the researchers plan to continue evaluating them.

Story Source:

Materials provided by the University of Birmingham. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal References:

Ross D. Pollock, Katie A. O’Brien, Lorna J. Daniels, Kathrine B. Nielsen, Anthea Rowlerson, Niharika A. Duggal, Norman R. Lazarus, Janet M. Lord, Andrew Philp, Stephen D. R. Harridge. Properties of the vastus lateralis muscle in relation to age and physiological function in master cyclists aged 55-79 years. Aging Cell, 2018; e12735 DOI: 10.1111/acel.12735

Duggal et al. Major features of Immunesenescence, including Thymic atrophy, are ameliorated by high levels of physical activity in adulthood. Aging Cell, 2018

Page citation:

University of Birmingham. “A lifetime of regular exercise slows down aging, study finds.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 March 2018. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/03/180308143123.htm>.

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