A recent study of a group of active septuagenarians shows that the muscles of older men and women who have been exercising for decades are indistinguishable in many ways from those of healthy 25-year-olds. The study further reveals that a high number of these older men and women had better aerobic capacities than most people within their age range. This makes them biologically about 30 years younger than their chronological ages.
Aging is a natural phenomenon in human development and every second count. As we get older over several years and decades, our immune system and body organs start to get weaker, thereby giving way to ailments and diseases. It happens to every human.
Science, however, is yet to reach a conclusion on the extent to which the physical decline is inevitable with age or if it’s the impacts of our modern lifestyles that determine our physical prowess. But, something seems to be obvious here. Physical activities do alter how we age. Evidence from different studies has discovered that older athletes have healthier muscles, brains, immune systems and hearts when compared with people of the same age who aren’t so active.
But, the various researches so far have only concentrated on competitive masters athletes. Most of these studies usually do not include women and may have failed to study people who exercise recreationally.
In order to bridge this gap, a new study published in August in the Journal of Applied Physiology shows researchers at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., trying to establish the role of physical activities in aging by looking at a distinctive set of older men and women.
“We were very interested in people who had started exercising during the running and exercise booms of the 1970s,” says Scott Trappe, the new study’s senior author and the director of the Human Performance Laboratory at Ball State University. “They took up exercise as a hobby,” he says.
“Some of them then maintained that hobby throughout the next 50 or so years, running, cycling, swimming or otherwise working out often, even if they rarely or never competed,” added Scott Trappe.
This category of men and women, who are already into their 70s, are the people Trappe and his colleagues are looking to study. They were able to find 28 of them through local advertisements and other recruitment methods. Each of these subjects had been physically active for the past fifty years. The researchers also recruited the control group consisting of people of the same age, but who had not been exercising during adulthood, and plus a third group of active young people in their 20s.
The outcome of the study reveals that the muscles of the older exercisers show similarity with those of the young people. The active seniors show similar capillaries and enzymes as the young ones. The capillaries and enzymes found in the active elderly were far more than what is in the muscles of the sedentary elderly.
Although the elderly group has lower aerobic capacities compared to the young people, they have about 40 percent capacities higher than those of their inactive peers. The study shows that the active elderly had the cardiovascular health of people who are 30 years younger than them.
“Together, these findings of muscular and cardiovascular health in active older people suggest that what we now consider to be normal physical deterioration with aging may not be normal or inevitable,” Dr. Trappe says.
“These people were so vigorous,” he continues. “I’m in my 50s and they certainly inspire me to stay active,” he concluded.