Active lifestyle may promote graceful aging

January 16, 2015

Topic: fragility fractures

There is plenty of research that reveals the benefits of aging. The latest pro notes that regular physical activity may contribute to aging gracefully.

There is plenty of research that reveals the benefits of exercise. The latest pro notes that regular physical activity may contribute to aging gracefully, according to a collaborative study from the University of Birmingham and King's College.

The study authors used a group of older adults, all who cycled regularly. After testing their physiological functions after a cycling session

"In many models of ageing lifespan is the primary measure, but in human beings this is arguably less important than the consequences of deterioration in health. Healthy life expectancy - our healthspan - is not keeping pace with the average lifespan, and the years we spend with poor health and disabilities in old age are growing," noted lead study author Ross Pollock, Ph.D.

Disputing beliefs
The researchers tested older cyclists and found that their bodies operated at a much younger age than their counterparts who did not exercise. All of the cyclists were between the ages of 55 and 79. There were 41 female cyclists and 84 male cyclists in the study. These findings disprove prior research that suggested that weakness and fragility was a part of aging. The results were published in the Journal of Physiology.

Each participant underwent several tests to create a health profile that had information on their heart, lung, bone, cognitive, metabolic and neuromuscular health on it. All of the cyclists practiced healthy lifestyles, and did not smoke, drink or have high levels of blood pressure. The scientists also observed the amount of oxygen athletes took in, how strong they were and how quick their reflexes were.

The researchers suspect that people who do experience ailing health problems, such as fragility fractures, may live more sedentary lives or choose not to exercise as frequently. Male participants had to be able to at least 100 km in about 6.5 hours, and females had to be able to cycle about 60 km in 5.5 hours. 

An unexpected performance
The study authors discovered that age had little influence on the participants' performances. They noted that within the group, cyclists of the same age had similar performances. The only link to their age was how much oxygen the athletes took in. However, the researchers noted even that did not fully match up.

They also tested the participants on their basic movement abilities, and how quickly it took them to move around. If a person takes more than 15 seconds to get up from a chair, walk away, turn around and sit back down, they have a significant likelihood of falling. The oldest participants in the study took much less time than that to complete the task. Normally, the times would be correlated to an average young adult.

They noted that unlike previous beliefs, aging is up to the person involved. People who live healthy lifestyles may live longer and live a better quality of life than people who do not take care of themselves or who are mostly sedentary. Yet the researchers are very concerned for the current aging population.

They noted that many older adults in the U.S. are not taking care of themselves as they should, and are living inactive lives with very little exercise involved. Those who are not physically active have a tendency to develop a series of health conditions. The researchers stated that many may believe that people are inactive because they are old. However, they may be inactive because they have not been active historically, causing their muscles to atrophy and bones to weaken. They noted that centuries ago, being physically active was part of people's normal lifestyle. As a result, the human body is still genetically predispositioned to survive with regular exercise. Without it, the body suffers.

Known health benefits of exercise
The Harvard School of Public Health noted that physical activity has many proven health benefits. Aside from promoting longevity, regular exercise helps lower the chances of heart disease and high blood pressure, it reduces the risk of breast and colon cancer, prevents diabetes, improves cognitive function and inhibits the development of osteoporosis, which can cause fragility fractures.

They also acknowledged that in time, it is natural for people to experience some form of aging. However, the speed that people are currently aging is concerning. They stated, that certain activities, such as cycling, can keep a person physically and mentally stimulated, as people have to constantly pay attention while they perform the activity. Like most physical activities, it gives your heart, lungs and body a good workout, which is healthy.

Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine news & articles

More articles