Cycling: The Secret to Staying Young

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Scientists here at the University of Birmingham have undertaken a study with colleagues at Kings College London in order to assess the relationship between age and a diverse range of physiological functions in a cohort of highly active older individuals (cyclists) aged 55–79 years in whom the effects of lifestyle factors would be ameliorated.

The study can be seen in full in the Journal of Physiology and the results have been recognised by the media across the world with articles published in the New York Times and Time Magazine amongst many others.

Various key points were made in this study, summarised as follows:

  • The relationship between age and physiological function remains poorly defined and there are no physiological markers that can be used to reliably predict the age of an individual.

This could be due to a variety of confounding genetic and lifestyle factors, and in particular to ill-defined and low levels of physical activity.

Significant associations between age and function were observed for many functions. VO2 max was most closely associated with age, but even here the variance in age for any given level was high, precluding the clear identification of the age of any individual.

The data suggest that the relationship between human ageing and physiological function is highly individualistic and modified by inactivity.

Physical activity levels must be taken into account in ageing studies