If you want to counter the physical costs of getting old, regular exercise might be your best option, researchers report.
The findings “debunk the assumption that aging automatically makes us more frail,” said researcher Janet Lord. She is director of the Institute of Inflammation and Ageing at the University of Birmingham in England.
In the study, the team assessed 84 male and 41 female cyclists, aged 55 to 79. The men had to be able to cycle 62 miles in under 6.5 hours, while the women had to be able to cycle 37 miles in 5.5 hours.
Unlike a “control group” of adults who did not get regular exercise, the cyclists did not have loss of muscle mass or strength, did not have age-related increases in body fat or cholesterol levels, and their immune systems were as robust as much younger people.
Male cyclists also had higher testosterone levels than men in the control group, according to the study authors.
“Our research means we now have strong evidence that encouraging people to commit to regular exercise throughout their lives is a viable solution to the problem that we are living longer but not healthier,” Lord added in a university news release.
The findings were published March 8 in the journal Aging Cell.
Researcher Niharika Arora Duggal, also from the University of Birmingham, said, “We hope these findings prevent the danger that, as a society, we accept that old age and disease are normal bedfellows, and that the third age of man is something to be endured and not enjoyed.”