Exercise and Aging

Exercise May Slow Some Effects Of Aging-Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness 2000;40:1-10

Middle-aged and elderly individuals may be able to slow some of the effects of aging on the cardiovascular system using exercise. To get the desired results, people-with their doctor’s approval-need to participate in strenuous exercise for at least a half-hour three times a week.

That conclusion is from an analysis of 37 studies including 720 adults aged 46 to 90. In those studies, people who participated in at least 30 minutes of exercise three times a week and achieved at least 80% of VO2 max-the maximum oxygen consumption, which is a measure of the ability to transport and use oxygen during exercise-can slow the decline in cardiovascular health that accompanies old age.

Individuals who exercised at this level for more than 15 weeks showed no significant benefits over those who exercised for less than 15 weeks, suggesting that improvements can be made in less than 4 months and then maintained after that point. The investigators found no difference in fitness between people who walked and jogged, and those who cycled.



Exercise Improves Aging Related Mental Decline & Alzheimer’sArchives of Neurology March, 2001;58:498-504

Although exercise is usually promoted for weight loss and better heart health, there is growing evidence that regular physical activity helps ward off mental declines as people age, and may even protect against Alzheimer’s disease. A new study out of Canada suggests that exercise cuts the risk of Alzheimer’s and less-devastating mental losses, particularly in women.

In a 5-year study of men and women aged 65 and older, researchers found that exercisers were less likely to develop Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, and were less likely to see a drop-off in their mental abilities.

The more a person exercised, the greater the protection for the brain.

People with the highest activity levels were half as likely as inactive individuals to develop Alzheimer’s, and were around 40% less likely to suffer any dementia or mental impairment, the report indicates. Previous research has suggested exercise helps people retain their mental prowess as they age, and may even stave off Alzheimer’s and other dementia. It has been suggested that because exercise helps maintain healthy blood flow and lowers high blood pressure and cholesterol, it may protect the brain just as it does the heart and other organs. The investigators found that the more activity the nearly 5,000 study participants reported at the study’s start, the less likely they were to suffer mental decline.

People who exercised vigorously at least three times per week were considered highly active and had the lowest Alzheimer’s risk.

But those who engaged in light or moderate exercise also saw significant cuts in their risks for Alzheimer’s and mental decline. Women got the lion’s share of these benefits. Although there was an association between exercise and lowered risk of mental decline among men, the researchers report, the link was not nearly as strong as that for women. The reasons are unclear.

 

Comments:

This study appears to be the first to show such broad-ranging effects of exercise-protecting against both the profound dementia of Alzheimer’s to less-serious dips in mental skills. The researchers believe it remains unclear what types of exercise are most beneficial and whether life-long exercise or exercise during old age is more important.

However, simple prudent advice would seem reasonable. I don’t believe that running marathons are necessary to achieve these benefits. More than likely 45-60 minutes of walking, along with some light weight training would be sufficient to provide the observed benefits.

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Good book to check out as well “Spark” The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain.-by John J. Ratey, M.D.


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