How Exercise Affects Aging (new 9/26/98)
(This article was taken from the newsletter of the North Iowa Touring Club, Mason City, Iowa, and reprinted in the newsletter of the Shasta Wheelman, Redding, California. The article was provided to the Backcountry_Resource_Center, compliments of Gene Leach, Redding, California.)
Studies show aerobic and anaerobic exercise can dramatically reverse many of the physiological changes occurring with aging.
The BRAIN never loses its ability to learn. At any age, it can grow new anatomical connections and function at a high level. Exercise enhances blood flow to the brain reducing stroke risk. It also improves cognitive processing. When older people are tested for reasoning skills and memory, the best scores belong to the most active.
The CENTRAL NERVOUS SYSTEM declines with age, evidenced by slower reaction times and muscles which do not move as quickly. But regular exercise arouses the brain and halts this slide. Studies show older people who are active often have faster muscular movement than younger people who are sedentary.
The strength and size of your MUSCLES decrease by about 1% a year beginning in your 30s. With aerobic exercise, the decline doesnt start until your 60s. Resistance training (anaerobic) is even more effective. The best approach is to combine the two types of workouts, and its never too late. One study showed gains in aerobic capacity and leg strength in 70 year olds who cycle and lift weights.
The pumping capacity of the HEART decreases as you age, forcing your heart rate to rise. This diminishes the bodys efficiency in processing oxygen by 1 to 2 % a year after age 40. Active people have lower heart rates and experience only one-third the aerobic decline of sedentary people. A year of regular cycling can increase the heart function of people in their 60s by 25 to 30 %.
At age 25, the LUNGS are most efficient with capability peaking at a higher level for those who are active. By 45, its down to 82% peak. By 65, its 62%; by 85, 50%. But 60-year old who exercise often have higher oxygen uptake levels than sedentary 20-year olds. Older people in studies have improved lung capacity as much as 76% through cycling and other aerobic training.
While body weight changes minimally in old age, BODY FAT increases with much of it shifting from extremities to the abdominal areas where it can contribute to hypertension and heart trouble. Exercise reduces body fat and lowers blood pressure.
When you reach old age, your body becomes more susceptible to disease and loses its self-repairing abilities. Moderate physical activity can delay the process, increasing LONGEVITY by as much as 3 years. In fact, doctors have begun rethinking the concept of age-related disease. According to the American Journal of Sports Medicine, The literature strongly suggests the greatest threat to health is not the aging process itself, but rather inactivity.
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