Cycling and exercise for health
82-year-old Norman Lazarus, a professor emeritus at London’s Kings College, requested that a study be performed on the health of older active cyclists. King’s College and the University of Birmingham took him up on it. Researchers compared 125 amateur cyclists, ages 55 through 79, with a group of people ages 57 through 80 and with a younger group ages 20 through 36. All of the noncycling group were healthy but did not exercise regularly.
Lazarus had noted that he and his riding group were not experiencing many of the frailties, such as joint problems or chronic illness, that affect so many other people as they age. His group had been avid cyclists for most of their lives.
Less evidence of aging in cyclers
The researchers found that those who exercised – in this case cycled – regularly did not show evidence of the outward signs of aging.
The male cyclists in the study had to be able to ride 62 miles in 6½ hours, and females had to be able to ride 37 miles in 5½ hours, according to the study, published in the journal Aging Cell. I’m not a cyclist but seems like a fairly intense regimen.
Less loss of strength
In a series of lab tests, researchers found cyclists did not lose muscle mass and strength like the noncyclists did. The cyclists also stopped the clock on increased body fat and cholesterol, and the men’s testosterone levels remained high.
Improved immune systems
One of the most surprising findings was that the cyclists’ immune systems were equivalent to those of healthy young people in the study, as measured by the presence of immune cells, known as T-cells. The cells are produced by the thymus gland and typically start to decrease as the thymus begins to shrink after age 20. Depleted immune systems are one of the greatest barriers to health in the elderly.
Intense exercise is the key
We know from other studies that cycling is not the important part of this – the intense exercise is.
The CDC recommends that adults get 150 minutes a week of moderately intense exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise.
The moral here – do something! It’s better than nothing. And even if you can’t do even moderately intense exercise now, you soon will be! So get moving!