Here’s some more research that shows clearly that cycling really does help to fight aging. The findings suggest that it is possible to fight aging with cycling. And with other types of exercise too, of course.
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We all know that everything goes south as we age. Anyone over 30 has experienced the horror of noticing yet another ache or pain, yet another wrinkle that definitely was NOT there yesterday, and yet another part of our body that has mysteriously started to surrender to gravity and sag earthwards.
Is the Problem Aging or Inactivity?
But what we are NOT sure about is just how much of this decay is due to the ravages of time, and how much is caused by the years of inactive time we spend at our desks and on our couches. Researcher Stephen Harridge at King’s College London wanted to see just how much an active lifestyle could fight aging. He says:
“We wanted to understand what happens to the functioning of our bodies as we get older if we take the best-case scenario.”
Harridge’s team of researchers studied a group of older people who regularly swing a leg over (a bike), and compared them to standard benchmarks of what we think of as normal aging. This very active group included 85 men and 41 women between 55 and 79 who regularly cycle. These were not competitive athletes, but they were certainly serious recreational cyclists. Not a couch potato among them. The researchers ensured this by setting a high physical benchmark for people to be included in the research.
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The group had to be able to bike at least 37 miles in 5.5 hours (the women) and 62 miles in 6.5 hours (the men). These are benchmarks found in older people with a high level of fitness.
Cognitive and Physical Tests
The test subjects were subjected to a large number of both cognitive and physical tests. Their endurance capacity, muscular mass and strength, pedaling power, metabolic health, balance, memory function, bone density and reflexes were all measured. They also did the Timed Up and Go Test – in which you have to stand up from a chair without the assistance of your arms, walk 10 feet, turn, walk back, and sit down again.
The results were very encouraging. The cyclists’ physical and mental abilities were more like the abilities of young adults than of older people.
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Clear Evidence that Cycling Fights Aging
In fact, the cyclists quite simply did not act their age in almost all of the tests. The group’s ages spanned almost three decades (55 to 79), but their physical abilities were quite stable across these decades. Even the oldest test subjects had the balance, reflexes, metabolic health and memory ability of young adults – clear evidence that cycling fights aging!
Timed Up and Go Results
Their Timed Up and Go results were especially remarkable. It is considered quite normal for people of their age to need at least 7 seconds to do this test, and many take 9 to 10 seconds. However, even the oldest cyclists could do this test in 5 seconds or less, which is considered normal for healthy young adults.
Astonishing Aerobic Capacity
Also, although aerobic capacity is most closely associated with age, there was such a wide variation in each age range that age could not be determined by aerobic capacity. In other words, some of the older cyclists had the aerobic capacity of a person much younger.
The overall findings were that the cyclists had managed to successfully fight aging. As Dr. Harridge said:
“If you gave this dataset to a clinician and asked him to predict the age of one of the cyclists based on his or her test results, it would be impossible. This study shows that being physically active makes your body function on the inside more like a young person’s.”
The researchers concluded:
“The data suggest that the relationship between human aging and physiological function is highly individualistic and modified by inactivity.”
In short, you can fight aging by cycling! If that’s not enough to make you get on your bike, you MUST be under 30. But as for me – I am definitely motivated!
If YOU want to get fit with cycling, check out Average Joe Cyclist’s Complete Cyclist Training Plan.
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Source for this post:
Pollock Ross D., et al. An investigation into the relationship between age and physiological function in highly active older adults. First published: 6 January 2015. https://doi.org/10.1113/jphysiol.2014.282863