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Cycling slows down aging and strengthens the immune system


How does regular cycling affect health?

Exercise and sport are healthy for the human body. Even short walks and cycling help protect against illnesses. Researchers have now found that cycling can even counteract the effects of aging and rejuvenate the immune system.

Scientists at the University of Birmingham and King’s College London found that physical activity reduces the effects of aging and rejuvenates the immune system. The doctors published the results of their study in the English-language journal "Aging Cell".

How do sports and exercise affect aging?

In their study, the experts examined the health of older adults who were physically active for most of their lives. So they wanted to find out whether exercise and exercise can slow down aging. So-called lack of exercise is considered a risk factor for some common diseases.

Experts regularly examined cycling people

A total of 125 cycling people aged 55 to 79 years were recruited for the study. Of these participants, 84 were male and 41 were female. The men had to be able to cycle 100 km in less than 6.5 hours, while the women had to drive 60 km in 5.5 hours. Smokers, heavy drinkers, and people with high blood pressure or other illnesses were excluded from the study.

Participants had to take tests in the laboratory

Participants underwent a series of laboratory tests and were compared to a group of adults who were not regularly physically active. This group consisted of 75 healthy people aged 57 to 80 years and 55 healthy young adults aged 20 to 36 years.

What were the results?

The study found that there was no loss of muscle mass and strength in regularly exercising individuals. In cyclists, body fat or cholesterol levels did not increase with age, and men's testosterone levels increased. The study also found that the benefits of exercise go beyond muscle because cyclists had an immune system that didn't seem to have aged.

Cyclists also produced many T cells in old age

An organ called thymus, which produces immune cells called T cells, begins to shrink from the age of twenty and then produces fewer T cells. However, the glands of the older cyclists in the study continued to produce as many cells as those of a young person.

Exercise is the best medicine

The results show the impact of exercise on health. Less than half of people over 65 are physically active enough. More than half of people over the age of 65 suffer from at least two illnesses. Hippocrates said back then that exercise is the best medicine for people, but his message has been lost over time and we are an increasingly sedentary society today, said Professor Janet Lord of the University of Birmingham.

Health in old age does not have to be automatically weakened

Another important finding of the study is that aging does not automatically weaken people. The current study found strong evidence that regular exercise throughout life is a viable solution to the problem that people today live longer but mostly develop many physical illnesses. Hopefully the results will help society no longer view diseases in old age as a normal part of life, Dr. Niharika Arora Duggal from the University of Birmingham added.

Regular cycling helps the body to age optimally

Regular cycling allows the body to age optimally, free from the problems normally caused by inactivity. Without such activity, the health of those affected would likely deteriorate, says Professor Stephen Harridge of King’s College London.

Find an exercise that suits you

People exercise more when they have fun doing it. Almost everyone can participate in an exercise that corresponds to their own physiological abilities. Find an exercise you can enjoy in any environment that suits you and make it a habit. You'll reap the reward later in life by enjoying an independent and productive age, explains Professor Norman Lazarus of King’s College London.

Where can the results be viewed?

The research results were published in two different articles in the journal "Aging Cell". They are the result of an ongoing joint study by the two universities. Both articles can be viewed online. The first article is entitled "Properties of the vastus lateralis muscle in relation to age and physiological function in master cyclists aged 55 - 79 years". The second article was published under the title "Major features of Immunesenescence, including Thymic atrophy, are ameliorated by high levels of physical activity in adulthood". (as)

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