Is Exercise The Fountain Of Youth? New Study On Aging Says Yes!

 

Exercise Really Does Keep You Young

 

Researchers at the University of Birmingham and King’s College London have found that staying active keeps the body young and healthy. 

The exercisers in the older adult study maintained muscle mass and strength, avoided weight gain and high cholesterol, and even kept their immune systems young! 

Plus, the men kept their testosterone level high.

This article will summarize the latest findings on seniors and exercise, and how to take advantage of the latest findings to improve your health, strength and quality of life.

 

The Study

The 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.

The study recruited 125 amateur cyclists aged 55 to 79, 84 of which were male and 41 were female. The men had to be able to cycle 100 km in under 6.5 hours, while the women had to be able to cycle 60 km in 5.5 hours.

 

 

Smokers, heavy drinkers and those with high blood pressure or other health conditions were excluded from the study.

The participants underwent a series of tests in the laboratory and were compared to a group of adults who do not partake in regular physical activity.

The non-exercise group consisted of 75 healthy people aged 57 to 80 and 55 healthy young adults aged 20 to 36.

 

The Results

The study showed that loss of muscle mass and strength did not occur in those who exercise regularly.

The cyclists also did not increase their body fat or cholesterol levels with age and the men’s testosterone levels also remained high, suggesting that they may have avoided most of the male menopause.

More surprisingly, the study also revealed that the benefits of exercise extend beyond muscle.

 

The cyclist’s immune systems did not seem to have aged either.

 

 

 

An organ called the thymus, which makes immune cells called T cells, starts to shrink from the age of 20 and makes less T cells.

In this study, however, the cyclists’ thymuses were making as many T cells as those of a young person.

 

The exercise group:

  • maintained muscle mass and strength
  • avoided fat gain
  • avoided rising cholesterol levels
  • avoided immune system aging
  • men maintained high testosterone levels

 

 Hippocrates Was Right

 

 

The findings come as figures show that less than half of over 65s do enough exercise to stay healthy and more than half of those aged over 65 suffer from at least two diseases.

Professor Janet Lord, Director of the Institute of Inflammation and Ageing at the University of Birmingham, said:

 

“Hippocrates in 400 BC said that exercise is man’s best medicine, but his message has been lost over time and we are an increasingly sedentary society.”

 

However, importantly, these findings debunk the assumption that aging automatically makes us more frail, and provide evidence that people who commit to regular exercise will have healthier lives.

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.”

Norman Lazarus, Emeritus Professor at King’s College London and also 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.”

 

You don’t have to be a professional athlete to reap the benefits: nearly everybody can exercise within their own physiological capabilities.

 

The research findings are detailed in two papers published in Aging Cell and are the result of an ongoing joint study by the two universities, funded by the BUPA foundation.

The researchers hope to continue to assess the cyclists to see if they continue to cycle and stay young.

 

It’s Never Too Late

The majority of adults aged 65 and older remains inactive and fails to meet recommended physical activity guidelines, previous research has shown.

However, these studies have not represented elders living in retirement communities who may have more access to recreational activities and exercise equipment.

 

 

Now, researchers at the University of Missouri found that older adults in retirement communities who reported more exercise experienced less physical decline than their peers who reported less exercise, although many adults — even those who exercised — did not complete muscle-strengthening exercises, which are another defense against physical decline.

“Physical decline is natural in this age group, but we found that people who exercised more declined less,” said Lorraine Phillips, an associate professor in the MU Sinclair School of Nursing.

“The most popular physical activities the residents of the retirement community reported doing were light housework and walking, both of which are easily integrated into individuals’ daily lives, but these exercises are not the best choices for maintaining muscle strength.”

 

Independent Living Exercise Study

 

Seniors who exercised more declined less.

 

Phillips and her colleagues studied the physical activity of 38 residents at TigerPlace, an independent-living community in Columbia, MO, four times in one year.

Phillips’ research, “Retirement Community Residents’ Physical Activity, Depressive Symptoms, and Functional Limitations,” was published in Clinical Nursing Research.

 

Retirement community residents who exercised were studied by researchers at the University of Missouri.

 

The researchers tested the residents’ walking speed, balance and their ability to stand up after sitting in a chair. Then, researchers compared the results of the tests to the residents’ self-reported participation in exercise.

 

Phillips found that residents who reported doing more exercise had more success maintaining their physical abilities over time.

 

Phillips says the national recommendations for exercise include muscle strengthening exercises, such as knee extensions and bicep curls. Most of the study participants did not report completing these types of activities despite daily opportunities for recreational activities and access to exercise equipment.

She says muscle strength is important to individuals of this age group in order for them to maintain their ability to conduct everyday activities such as opening jars, standing up from chairs and supporting their own body weight.

 

Muscle building maintains important functional strength for everyday activities

 

“For older individuals, walking may represent the most familiar and comfortable type of physical activity,” Phillips said. “Muscle-strengthening exercises should be promoted more aggressively in retirement communities and made more appealing to residents.”

 

Muscle building exercises are as important as cardio exercises.

 

To combat the lack of physical activity among seniors, Phillips says health care providers should discuss exercise programs with their patients and share the possible risks associated with their lack of exercise, such as losing their ability to live independently.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, individuals 65 years of age and older that have no limiting health conditions should do muscle-strengthening activities that work all major muscle groups at least two days a week.

Phillips’ research, “Retirement Community Residents’ Physical Activity, Depressive Symptoms, and Functional Limitations,” was published in Clinical Nursing Research.

 

Comfort Bikes For Seniors

 

Not an athlete?  Not a problem! If you’re a little older and have physical challenges, consider a bicycle made for comfort: the comfort bike.

Comfort bikes, also called cruisers, are built with ergonomics in mind:  a comfortable, cushioned saddle and high-rise handlebars for an upright riding position.

These bikes provide a smooth ride, with wide tires, few gears and shock-absorbing forks and set posts.

These are the most highly-rated comfort bikes for seniors:

 

Firmstrong Urban Lady Beach Cruiser

 

Firmstrong Urban Lady Beach Cruiser Bicycle

 

The Urban Lady Beach Cruiser is a super-comfortable 26 inch, single-speed bicycle, with a 15 inch durable steel frame and aluminum wheels.

The white-wall balloon tires provide a cushioned ride, and the oversized seat has dual springs for added comfort.  The wide handlebars have rubber grips, so they’re easy on the hands.  

The reviews for this bike are solidly positive, with purchasers describing it as “solid” and “awesome”.  

This bike is sized for women 5 to 6 feet tall. Other sizes and colors are also available.

 

Firmstrong Urban Man Beach Cruiser Bicycle

 

Firmstrong Urban Man Beach Cruiser

 

The top rated men’s cruiser is also from Firmstrong.  The Urban Man Beach Cruiser a 26 inch men’s single speed cruiser, with a 17 inch durable steel frame and 26 inch aluminum wheels.

Like the Lady’s version, you’ll get a smooth ride with it’s balloon tires and dual spring oversized seat.  Its wide handlebars have foam grips.

Reviewers are very happy with this bike, which purchasers commenting that it’s both heavy duty and good looking!

This bike is sized for men from 5′ 4” to 6′ 2″.  Other sizes and colors are also available.

 

Recumbent Bikes For Seniors

 

Recumbent bikes are an excellent alternative to cruisers. They support your back and reduce pressure on the perineum and sitting bones.

Recumbent bikes, in particular, are an excellent option for those with low back pain as the bike provides added support for the back.

They’re also good for those who are new to cycling, and can provide a cardiovascular workout for users of virtually all ability levels.

 

Recumbent Bike Benefits

Aside from not being weather-dependent, recumbent bikes have numerous advantages over cruisers and upright exercise bikes.

 

Easier On Your Lower Back

Recumbent bikes are easier on the lower back (lumbar spine) due to the way that you sit in the bike.

While an upright bike has you hunched over the handlebars, a recumbent bike encourages better spinal posture.

 

Gentler On Your Joints

Recumbent bikes are gentle on all your joints. Your lower back is supported by the bucket seat and your knees and ankles are protected from potential injurious impact. 

Due to the low impact the recumbent bike reduces the risk of pain and can build strength. If your back and hips are affected by rheumatoid arthritis, a recumbent bike may be easier to use due to the reclining position with your weight spread over your back and buttocks.

 

Larger, More Comfortable Seat

The fact that the seat is larger on a recumbent bike tends to be one of the most enticing features. An upright bike generally has a smaller seat and can be uncomfortable for many riders.

 

Stable and Safe

Recumbent bikes are generally safer because you cannot stand up on the pedals. This eliminates many of the injuries that occur when using an upright bike.

A recumbent bike is a good choice for most people with neurological conditions since the bike provides a workout for individuals of all ability levels. It is safe and provides a low impact total body workout.

These are the top rated recumbent bikes:

 

Marcy Magnetic Recumbent Exercise Bike

 

Marcy Magnetic Recumbent Exercise Bike

 

The Marcy Magnetic Recumbent Exercise Bike is a sturdy, durable unit; made with heavy-duty steel construction and a premium steel frame, this bike combines design and performance.

This bike features 8 levels of resistance, and 8 preset levels

The tension-control knob allows you to adjust the difficulty, and the high-tech LCD monitor has a durable ultra-functional computer screen that acts as an odometer. 

The sharp display panel shows time, speed, distance and calories in extra-large numbers for improved readability.

Adjust the seat length according to your height to get the best workout, and grab onto the ergonomic, padded handles for maximum comfort.

Several reviewers reported that you definitely get your money’s worth from this bike, but one reviewer warned that at 6′ 5″, he found the bike not to be a great fit.

 

Sunny Health & Fitness Magnetic Recumbent Exercise Bike

 

Sunny Health & Fitness Magnetic Recumbent Exercise Bike

 

The Sunny H & F Magnetic Recumbent Bike is a heavy duty bike with a weight capacity of 300 lbs.

It features a reliable and quiet magnetic resistance system and strap pedals, with 8 levels of resistance.

The LCD displays time, speed, distance, calories and pulse via the pulse grip heart rate monitor.

It also has transportation wheels for easy relocation.

Most reviews were positive, but one reported finding this bike uncomfortable to sit in.

 

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