In a new study involving people over 70 who have exercised regularly for years, scientists discovered that the participants’ hearts, lungs, and muscles were in equivalent shape to those of people in their 40s.
Researchers from the Human Performance Laboratory at Ball State University in Muncie, IN recently assessed the physical condition of people in their 70s who have been exercising regularly for decades.
The team compared the health measurements of these participants with those of their more sedentary peers and with the measurements of healthy people in their 20s.
Specifically, the investigators measured heart and lung capacity, as well as muscle fitness. They have published their findings in the Journal of Applied Physiology.
Leisure exercise can keep you young
The researchers worked with three types of participants: seven women and 21 men in their 70s who exercised regularly, 10 women and 10 men in their 70s who led sedentary lifestyles, and 10 women and 10 men in their 20s, who were all healthy and who exercised regularly.
Participants in the first category reported having exercised throughout their lives, and they described enjoying frequent physical activity on a leisurely basis. Each of these participants worked out, on average, 5 days per week for a combined total of about 7 hours.
At one stage, the investigators sought to determine the participants’ aerobic endurance by evaluating their VO2 max measurements. This assesses the maximum amount of oxygen that an individual can use during bouts of intense aerobic exercise. The researchers did so by asking the participants to cycle on indoor bikes.
The marker is important because, as the team explains, VO2 max tends to decline by approximately 10 percent every 10 years after a person reaches the age of 30, and this reduction corresponds to an increased risk of disease.
The researchers also performed muscle biopsies on the participants to assess the formation and distribution of small blood vessels in the muscles and to evaluate aerobic enzyme activity, which drives the metabolism of oxygen at the cellular level.
At another stage of the study, the team split the male participants into two groups: the performance group, which trained to compete, and the fitness group, which exercised for leisure.
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