You are getting older. I guess that is something that we loose sight of easily and don’t really want to be reminded of either. However, with the above point in mind, I want to look at a study done at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School.
The précis of the study goes as follows: – 1966 – 5 healthy men were put on 3 weeks bed rest to see what would happen to them. The results included faster resting heart rates, higher systolic blood pressures, a drop in the heart’s maximum pumping capacity, a rise in body fat, and a fall in muscle strength. After three weeks of rest these men demonstrated health levels of people twice their age. – The men agreed to be evaluated again at age 50. The intervening 30 years had seen an average weight increase of 25% with body fat doubling. Resting heart rates increased, cardiac function decreased and blood pressure increased. – Researchers now took the men and put them on a 6-month regimen of walking, jogging and cycling. The results were as follows: an average of 5kg loss in weight, lower resting heart rates and blood pressures, and their heart’s maximum pumping abilities were back to their baseline level from age 20. – Aerobic power therefore returned to what they enjoyed in their 20’s. Muscle power had diminished with the passage of time, however exercise had dramatically helped to restore their overall health.
The Texas studies showed that endurance exercise is the best way to improve cardiovascular function and slow the effects of aging.
Have a look at the table below to get an idea of the benefits of exercise vs aging.
Exercise vs. aging
|Effect of aging||Effect of exercise|
|Heart and circulation|
|Resting heart rate||Increase||Decrease|
|Maximum heart rate||Decrease||Slows the decrease|
|Maximum pumping capacity||Decrease||Increase|
|Heart muscle stiffness||Increase||Decrease|
|Blood vessel stiffness||Increase||Decrease|
|Number of red blood cells||Decrease||No change|
|Blood viscosity (“thickness”)||Increase||Decrease|
|Maximum oxygen uptake||Decrease||No change|
|Speed of emptying||Decrease||Increase|
|Calcium content and strength||Decrease||Increase|
|Muscle mass and strength||Decrease||Increase|
|LDL (“bad”) cholesterol||Increase||Decrease|
|HDL (“good”) cholesterol||Decrease||Increase|
|Sex hormone levels||Decrease||Slight decrease|
|Nerve conduction and reflexes||Slower||Decrease|
|Quality of sleep||Decrease||Increase|
|Risk of depression||Increase||Decrease|
Bottom line, it does not matter at what age you begin to excercise, the main point is that you begin. Aim for endurance sports such as swimming, biking and running. Please make sure with your Doctor that you can embark on an exercise program without risk to your health.
We will look at some further benefits in a subsequent blog.