Aerobic activity can be demanding. It requires a good deal of energy to operate all the systems of the body, which together produce enough power so that efficient movement can be produced. However, as we age, especially after 50 years old changes are occurring in the body that may reduce the efficiency we once had. Along with the body struggling to attain performances, the experience of either nagging injuries, major injuries or a host of other problems have become quite common. The will to exercise becomes even more difficult to sustain with a decline in what the body could once do, a lack of interest and motivation to exercise, an increase in body weight, an increased susceptibility to injury and the delayed healing process that goes along with aging.
REASONS FOR DECLINE
Several physiological reasons can explain this decline. One of the major reasons is an aging heart. It no longer pumps blood as efficiently as it once did. The maximum amount of blood pumped from the left ventricle (the most important chamber of the heart for providing blood to the body) is reduced considerably, thus affecting the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the muscles. According to physiological research, heart rate is reduced about one beat per minute each year after the age of forty. As for the respiratory system, there is a decrease in the elasticity of lungs and chest muscles, thus reducing the amount of oxygen that can be taken in and delivered to the body to operate at peak level. The skeletal/muscular systems are also affected by the aging process. Both systems begin to decline but the muscular system more so than the skeletal system. Muscle mass and function decline as we age and affects both performance and the healing process. Physiologists claim that strength declines approximately one to two percent a year after the age of 25. Finally, the digestive system does not breakdown, absorb or deliver the nutrients to the body as well as it once did. This reduction in absorption and delivery of nutrients to the body cells may further jeopardize both performance and, more importantly, the healing process from strenuous workouts or injuries. Part of this healing process lies in the reduced functioning of the immune system.
A recent study reported in Science Daily (2018) from the University of Birmingham and King’s College London found that exercising has a significant influence for staying relatively young and healthy. The study was conducted on 125 amateur cyclists between the ages of 55 to 79. Eighty-four of the subjects were male and 41 females. They were all active and had to cycle a predetermined distance in a certain time to be included in the study. All participants were healthy. They participated in several physiological tests and were compared to 75 healthy adults between the ages of 57 and 80 and 55 healthy young adults all of whom did not exercise. Results of the study demonstrated that those who exercised regularly maintained muscle mass, strength, did not increase body fat or cholesterol levels and maintained high testosterone levels. Furthermore, T cell proliferation of the immune system did not decline. Proof of this was found in the thymus glands of these exercises which produced just as many T cells as those of younger participants. The following quote summarizes the importance of this research, “Our research means we now have strong evidence that encouraging people to commit to regular exercise throughout their lives is a viable solution to the problem that we are living longer but not healthier.”
Some other pertinent facts about aerobic exercise, especially related to those individuals over 50 years old, are it increases cognitive functioning, and improves mood, anxiety and depression. Because of the many benefits of aerobic exercise, it is sometimes referred to as the “miracle drug.”
REDUCING THE DECLINE
Even though the functions of these previous systems seem to decline, aerobic exercise can have a significant impact on reversing or slowing these setbacks. Starting and staying with some form of aerobic exercise is definitely beneficial for the body and brain. Getting off the couch and moving will make all the difference in the world.
Ross D. Pollock, Katie A. O’Brien, Lorna J. Daniels, Kathrine B, Nielesen, Anthea Rowlerson, Niharika A. Duggal, Norman R. Lazarus, Janet M. Lord, Andrew Philp, and Stephen D. R. Harridge. “Properties of the Vastus Lateralis Muscle in Relation to Age and Physiological Function in Master Cyclists Aged 55-79 Years.” Aging Cell, 2018; E12735 coi: 10.1111/acel.12735
Duggal e al. Major Features of Innunesenesceince, Including Thymic Atrophy, are Ameliorated by High Levels of Physical Activity in Adulthood. Aging Cell, 2018 University of Birmingham. “A Lifetime of Regular Exercises Slows Down Aging, Study Finds.” Science Daily, 8 March 2018.
Brodwin, Erin. There’s Even More Evidence that one Type of Exercise is the Closest Thing to a Miracle Drug that we have.” Business Insider. October 4, 2017.