“However, importantly, our findings debunk the assumption that ageing automatically makes us more frail.
“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.”
“Their bodies have been allowed to age optimally, free from the problems usually caused by inactivity. Remove the activity and their health would likely deteriorate.”
Norman Lazarus, Emeritus Professor at King’s College London and also a master cyclist, and Dr Ross Pollock, who undertook the muscle study, both agreed that: “Most of us who exercise have nowhere near the physiological capacities of elite athletes.
“We exercise mainly to enjoy ourselves. Nearly everybody can partake in an exercise that is in keeping with their own physiological capabilities.
“Find an exercise that you enjoy in whatever environment that suits you and make a habit of physical activity. You will reap the rewards in later life by enjoying an independent and productive old age.”
Details of the research, involving 125 adults (55–79 years) compared with 130 others including 55 young people who did not exercise regularly, are available at the link below (A Summary is given below the link).
Note:“Immunosenescence” refers to the gradual deterioration of the immune system brought on by natural age advancement.
It is widely accepted that aging is accompanied by remodelling of the immune system including thymic atrophy and increased frequency of senescent T cells, leading to immune compromise. However, physical activity, which influences immunity but declines dramatically with age, is not considered in this literature. We assessed immune profiles in 125 adults (55–79 years) who had maintained a high level of physical activity (cycling) for much of their adult lives, 75 age‐matched older adults and 55 young adults not involved in regular exercise. The frequency of naïve T cells and recent thymic emigrants (RTE) were both higher in cyclists compared with inactive elders, and RTE frequency in cyclists was no different to young adults. Compared with their less active counterparts, the cyclists had significantly higher serum levels of the thymoprotective cytokine IL‐7 and lower IL‐6, which promotes thymic atrophy. Cyclists also showed additional evidence of reduced immunesenescence, namely lower Th17 polarization and higher B regulatory cell frequency than inactive elders. Physical activity did not protect against all aspects of immunesenescence: CD28−veCD57+ve senescent CD8 T‐cell frequency did not differ between cyclists and inactive elders. We conclude that many features of immunesenescence may be driven by reduced physical activity with age.