The Truth About Exercising and Aging
Can the Excuses: Just Get Moving!
You can come up with a million reasons for not being physically active. Some might even be valid. But know this: Stillness is bad. Roughly 3.2 million people die each year because of physical inactivity. Regular exercise, especially among older adults, is critical to good health.
I’m Just Too Old
Exercise is good for just about everyone, including older adults. Even moderate amounts of physical activity can have a big impact. Talk with your doctor first, of course. If you’ve been inactive, take it easy as you get started, say, 5-10 minutes of moderate activity each day.
I Just Need to Take It Easy
It’s not your age that has you feeling the need to rest -- it’s that you’re not moving. Even older adults with serious health problems -- heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and others -- can live better lives by getting up and moving.
I Don’t Think My Heart Can Take It
The more you do to stay active as you age, the lower your chances are for things like heart attack and stroke. Your doctor can tell you what type of exercises are best, and for how long you should do them. You’ll probably shoot for 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity a week, like a brisk walk or an easy bike ride. Mowing the lawn or a heavy cleaning session counts, too. And you don’t have to do them in 30-minute chunks.
How Is Cycling Good For Aging Bodies?
Most people experience their biological peak between the ages of 20 and 35. After that, you start to lose muscle, and your heart and lung function weakens. As you get older, your exercise capacity and ability to recover from intense activity decline.
However, cycling can actually slow down the progression of aging. The Guardian reported on a study that compared cyclists between the ages of 55 and 79 with a group of healthy adults that did not exercise on a regular basis. The results showed that the cyclists experienced a slower decline in muscle mass than those who did not exercise.
Some other benefits of cycling include:
Stable testosterone levels in men
Constant body fat levels
Improved cholesterol levels
One important finding was that cycling improved immunity. As you age, your thymus, an organ that produces T-cells, shrinks. T-cells participate in your immune response to antigens. The cyclists in the study appeared to make as many T-cells as younger individuals.
In another study, researchers found that participants who underwent interval training significantly changed activity levels in genes that influence mitochondria health. The cyclists in the group saw especially pronounced results. In other words, the decline in the health of muscle cells, which is associated with aging, was protected—and even reversed—in these individuals.
Cycling can also help you live longer. A 2017 study that was published in the BMJ found that people who regularly commuted by bike had a lower risk of death, cardiovascular disease and cancer.