Movement is Medicine: The Best Way to Keep Your Body Young

Aside from all the holiday cheer in the air this time of year, some of the most common messages we hear on the radio or see in the news involve New Year’s resolutions to get healthy or prompts to take early advantage of discounted gym memberships.

And while we, of course, always support the idea that incorporating physical exercise into your day-to-day routine is the best way to go, we know that these resolutions don’t always get seen through. We’re guilty of it, too. We’re all busy! But this year, we’ve got an extra reason to stay the course: an August study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology.

You may have caught this story we shared on our social media this weekend but in case you missed it, we felt it was worth another look. According to researchers from Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, the muscles of a group of active 70-year-olds who have exercised for decades are indistinguishable in many ways from those of healthy 25-year-olds. The men and women observed in the study also had much higher aerobic capacities than most people their age, rendering them biologically about 30 years younger than the age on their driver’s license.

Studies have found that older professional athletes have healthier muscles, brains, immune systems and hearts than people of the same age who are sedentary, but what about regular folks who exercise recreationally?

To find out, the Ball State researchers looked for men and women in their 70s who had spent years running, cycling, swimming, or frequently exercising, most of whom never competed at any level but had been active since their 20s. They also recruited a second group of 70-year-olds who had not exercised during adulthood and a third group of active young people in their 20s.

All three groups were tested for their aerobic capacities and had the number of capillaries and levels of certain enzymes in their muscles measured. The Ball State team thought that the 20-year-olds would possess the healthiest muscles and aerobic capacities and the lifelong exercisers would fall somewhere between the 20-somethings and the non-exercisers in their 70s.

Instead, the muscles of the older exercisers almost identically resembled those of the young people. The active elderly group did have lower aerobic capacities than the young people, but the non-exercising 70-somethings had capacities that were some 40% lower. In fact, when the researchers compared the active older people’s aerobic capacities to established “normal” capacities at different ages, the active group had the cardiovascular health of people 30 years younger.

What does this mean? There’s still research to be done (i.e. how genes, income, diet, and other lifestyle factors contribute), but this study indicates that the wear and tear we’ve come to expect as a sign of aging may not necessarily be a foregone conclusion.

In any event, it’s never too soon to work physical activity into your daily routine. Whether you want to incorporate yoga, walking, lifting weights, or competing in a triathlon, the expert PT Central team is here to help you work smarter, not harder to reach your goals. Reach out to us today – we’re here as a resource to guide you along and keep you healthy throughout the process!

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