Every July, we attend a fitness and health convention. It is sponsored by IDEAFIT. IDEAFIT is the leader in education in this field. There were 14,000 people from 54 countries attending this year.
Every age, every level of fitness, beginners to the well advanced athlete. Many of the classes I took were on functional aging. Top leaders teach all the lecture classes. The instructors who present the classes were not only about physical movement but applied scientific research also.
With all the research available it seems to be so common that much of our society believes aging is what automatically happens after a certain age. I’ve heard this theory many times. I believe this is due to seeing our parents and family members age in poor health. It seems harder to become aware of the possibilities that it doesn’t have to be this way. I hope that my newsletter will help clarifying and educate fact from fiction regarding all things regarding health, fitness, and aging. The understanding of how and why we age the way we do prolongs life as we learn how much can be done to improve the processes. We have many senior athletes who have proven this. Including many research studies. We can feel so much better.
In a recent issue from Medical News Today it states that “Middle Aged Fitness Protects Health in Old Age.” The article said that, “Middle aged people who regularly exercise and are physically fit have a much lower risk of developing chronic health conditions associated with old age.” The study came from the Cooper Institute in Dallas, Texas. This information is reported in the Archives of Internal Medicine. The authors added that even a moderate increase in fitness during midlife can help reduce the risk of developing several chronic conditions twenty years later.
Several studies have looked into how physical fitness might effect on elderly health and longevity. A report published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in 2008 showed that midlife aerobic fitness can delay biological aging by up to 12 years, as well as securing an independent lifestyle during older age.
Dr. Benjamin L. Willis and team gathered data from Medicare claims with information on participants from the Cooper Center Longitudinal Study, involving 14,726 men and 3,944 women. The data spanned from 1970 to 2008. All the participants were healthy and had an overall median age for 49 years at baseline.
The researchers were looking out for incidences of eight chronic conditions after the age of 65. Alzheimer’s disease, colon or lung cancers, chronic kidney disease, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), stroke, ischemic heart disease, diabetes, and congestive heart failure.
The participants were followed for 26 years. Those in the top quintile for fitness had a considerably lower incidence of chronic conditions later in life compared to the people in the bottom quintile (1.5 vs 28.2 per 100 person years in males and 11.4 vs 20.1 in females). Participants’ fitness levels were measured by getting them to do certain tasks on a treadmill. Even moderate improvements in fitness during aging were found to reduce the risk of developing chronic conditions later on.
Midlife fitness appears to be more closely linked with a lower incidence of chronic diseases later on than improved survival, which also benefits, but less so, the researchers noted that Dr. Willis explained that “Compared with participants with lower midlife fitness, those with higher midlife fitness appeared to spend a greater proportion of their final five years of life with a lower burden of chronic conditions.”
In other words, midlife fitness increases your changes of living healthier during old age and having a lower risk of developing chronic conditions. Your lifespan may benefit slightly too. Your last years of life are more likely to be free of chronic diseases, or at least affected by fewer of them, compared to unfit middle aged people. Nutrition is very important also.
Another study from UT Southwestern Medical Center and The Cooper Institute have known for decades that research has shown that higher cardiorespiratory fitness levels lessen the risk of death, but it previously has been unknown just how much fitness might affect the burden of chronic disease in the most senior years. Which is a concept known as morbidity compression.
Dr. Jarett Berry, assistant professor of internal medicine and senior author of the study available online in the Archives of Internal Medicine, determined that being fit is not just delaying the inevitable, but it is actually lowering the onset of chronic disease in the final years of life.
The researchers in this study examined the patient data of 18,670 participants in the Cooper Center Longitudinal Study, contained more than 250,000 medical records maintained over a 40-year span. This data were linked with the patients’ Medicare claim forms later in life from ages 70 to 85. Analyses during the latest study showed that when patients increased fitness levels by 20 percent in their midlife years, they decreased their chances of developing chronic diseases such as congestive heart failure, Alzheimer’s disease, and colon cancer, decades later by 20 percent.
Like the earlier study individuals who are fitter aged well with fewer chronic illnesses to impact their quality of life. Dr. Benjamin Willis of the Cooper Institute, was the first author on the study.
The positive effects continued until the end of life, with more fit individuals in their final five years of life with fewer chronic diseases. The effects were the same in both men and women.
According to the National Heart, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), adults should get at least 2-1/2 hours of moderate to intense aerobic activity each week to ensure major heart and overall health benefits.
Aging isn’t just about aerobic activity but muscle mass needs to be maintained as well.
As many people advance in chronological years, strength and muscle mass is lost. Whatever is unused is lost. This leads to big problems as muscle supports how our body moves and functions. This leads to problems that have a major impact on our quality of life and health.
Many years ago researchers at Tufts University in Boston developed a theory that all “older” adults should become stronger. Initially there was some skepticism in the medical community. Opening one’s awareness can be like opening a tin can with a screw driver. This comment is my own theory not reported in the study. But the study did get published in the New England Journal of Medicine which proved the sceptics wrong.
The study was conducted on 100 nursing home residents whose average age was 87. One half of the residents participated in ordinary nursing home activities, while the other half worked out intensely with weights for 45 minutes – three times a week. Those residents who participated in the intense training increased walking speed by 12 percent. Four residents who had been using walkers before the study were able to switch to canes!
According to Dr. Karl Knopf the benefits of strength training and exercise are almost limitless. He said, “we are finding that it’s critically important for postmenopausal women to stabilize bone loss and prevent osteoporosis. Strength building exercise programs decrease the risk of diabetes, and decrease the risk of potentially life-threatening hip fractures by increasing balance and muscle mass to better protect the bone.” All ages, especially chronologically older individuals, can benefit dramatically from exercise and strength training. And it is critically important that we be mindful of participating in these activities. Exercise should become a part of our daily routine just like brushing our teeth and getting dressed.
I hope you will all develop a plan for aging well or better then you may be doing now! It is possible and you will feel so much better.
I offer a free 20 minute consultation.
Benjamin L. Willis, Ang Gao, David Leonard, Laura F. DeFina, Jarett D. Berry, Midlife Fitness and the Development of Chronic Conditions in Later Life. Archives of Internal Medicine, 2012 DOI: 10.1001/archinternmed.2012.3400.
Christian Nordqvist. “Middle Aged Fitness Protects health in Old Age.”
Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 28 August 2012. Web.
5 Sep. 2012. http://www.medicalenewstoday.com/249510.php
Keeping Older Muscles Strong. University of Iowa Health Care. Public Release. http://www.euriekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-09/uoih-kom09815.php