Saturday, January 10, 2015

exercise keeps us young

Although it's going to be too cold for me to ride today, I thought I'd post a link to this article in the NY Times about how exercise keeps us young (thanks to The Excellent Wife [TEW] for the link).

From the linked article:

In the new study, which was published this week in The Journal of Physiology, scientists at King’s College London and the University of Birmingham in England decided to use a different approach. They removed inactivity as a factor in their study of aging by looking at the health of older people who move quite a bit. “We wanted to understand what happens to the functioning of our bodies as we get older if we take the best-case scenario,” said Stephen Harridge, senior author of the study and director of the Centre of Human and Aerospace Physiological Sciences at King’s College London.
To accomplish that goal, the scientists recruited 85 men and 41 women aged between 55 and 79 who bicycle regularly. The volunteers were all serious recreational riders but not competitive athletes. The men had to be able to ride at least 62 miles in six and a half hours and the women 37 miles in five and a half hours, benchmarks typical of a high degree of fitness in older people. 
TL;DR results:
 As it turned out, the cyclists did not show their age. On almost all measures, their physical functioning remained fairly stable across the decades and was much closer to that of young adults than of people their age. As a group, even the oldest cyclists had younger people’s levels of balance, reflexes, metabolic health and memory ability.  

Read the article; it's not all as simple as that, and, of course, the results don't last forever. My favorite part is the description of "serious recreational riders": men who have to average 9.5 mph, and women who have to average less that 6.75 mph. TEW doesn't like to ride more than about 25 miles, but she could do 25, come home, take a nap, and get up and still finish the rest in the allotted time.

I also like the chainring tattoo in the pic (it's from the article).

1 comment:

  1. From a scientist's standpoint, I have some problems with this article. This isn't surprising, since news articles about scientific papers all too often dumb the issue down and go for a simple conclusion that is, more often than not, wrong.

    First, by choosing active subjects for the study and then concluding that activity keeps the subjects "younger," the authors have selected for a group that would lead them to this conclusion. It's like saying that the high school honors students do better on standardized tests. Duh.

    What if the active people are active because they are active, and therefore more likely to be more fit in the first place? If they're the sort of people who enjoy exercise to begin with, they're more likely to have been more athletic to begin with.

    Second, the sample size -- 126 people -- is tiny. The smaller the sample size, the more likely that the results will wash out in a larger study.

    Third, think about what the "Timed Up and Go" test is testing. Leg strength and core strength. What do cyclists tend to have?

    Last, for better or for worse, there's nothing in this article that hasn't been part of the health canon for a long time: stay active to stay healthy. One more tiny, cherry-picked group of fit people hasn't told us anything we didn't already know.