As we prepare for Thanksgiving (and in my case, the Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot!) there is some good news on exercise and aging. We know that lifelong regular exercise can reverse many of the effects of aging – at least in “elite” or professional lifelong athletes. But what about “regular people” who commit to a lifestyle of regular activity? Can their bodies become “younger” too?
A recent study (link to full study here) tried to answer this question – by studying the bodies (specifically, muscle tissue) of older individuals who had remained active though regular leisurely activities. The main findings, according to this article in the New York Times summarizing the study:
“The muscles of the older exercisers resembled those of the young people, with as many capillaries and enzymes as theirs, and far more than in the muscles of the sedentary elderly.
The active elderly group did have lower aerobic capacities than the young people, but their capacities were about 40 percent higher than those of their inactive peers.
In fact, when the researchers compared the active older people’s aerobic capacities to those of established data about “normal” capacities at different ages, they calculated that the aged, active group had the cardiovascular health of people 30 years younger than themselves.”
What does this mean?
- Committing to an active lifestyle can slow, or even eliminate” many of the changes in our muscles that we consider “normal aging”
- Even though our overall exercise capacity does diminish over age, these changes are slowed significantly in those who remain active, compared to less active older individuals.
- In the words of one of the researchers, “exercise could help us to build a reserve of good health now that might enable us to slow or evade physical frailty later”
So this is more evidence for all of us to stay active – here is our overview of physical activity and its benefits on heart health, and here are more articles on exercise: