A group of seniors that had been exercising for most of their lives was recently part of a study. The findings, as you might have expected, were quite encouraging for those that have been long time supporters of exercise. On average, people who have spent years exercising tend to have younger bodies. They have more muscle mass, better immunity toward illness, healthier body weights, and lower cholesterol levels than those of the same age. In fact, their numbers are comparable with people decades younger than they are.
If this isn’t encouragement to start exercising early in life, I’m not sure what is.
The findings were confirmed in a study of 125 individuals age 55 to 79. The majority of these people were male, but more than 40 were female. The males had to be able to bike 100 kilometers in less than 6.5 hours, while the females had to be able to bike 60 km in less than 5.5 hours. These study participants were examined, and things like body fat and cholesterol levels were measured. In males, testosterone levels were also measured. What they found was that these levels were almost identical to individuals that were decades younger.
This study was conducted in London, England, by the University of Birmingham and King’s College. There’s a lot more work to do in this field, especially when it comes to making exercise more accessible for seniors, but this study has shown that exercise might be even better than what was once thought.
One interesting finding was that the thymus, an organ found in men that begins to shrink around the age of 20, had not diminished in size in a considerable way. It is believed that the shrinking of this organ is responsible for what’s often referred to as male menopause because it produce testosterone. Because this organ was much larger in men that exercised, they were less likely to gain body fat, were more active, and had more energy. In other words, men that exercised had more energy than men that didn’t. Even though exercise can be tiring at times, the long term benefits of it look to be far more powerful than what many have previously thought.
However, one of the most important things that comes from this study is the refutation of the concept that aging must bring about frailness and weakness. The exact opposite was concluded in this study. The more active we are, the slower we age.
This is incredibly good news for many seniors today. Exercise can be intense–like biking for 100 km–but it doesn’t always need to be. In fact, other studies have shown that much less exercise can be beneficial, too. 15 minutes of walking per day, for example, can go a long way toward helping elderly folks improve their health. Very few people are fit enough to go out and bike for 6 hours. But most people can spend a few minutes walking around the block. Starting small can give us some noticeable improvements in health, and eventually lead to a higher quality of life and delay the need for senior care.