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Research shows that Regular Exercise Slows Down Ageing

Updated: Nov 15, 2023

Researchers at the University of Birmingham and King’s College London have found that staying active keeps the body young and healthy. Link to University of Birmingham blog: https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/news/latest/2018/03/regular-exercise-slows-down-ageing.aspx Professor Janet Lord, Director of the Institute of Inflammation and Ageing at the University of Birmingham, said: “Hippocrates in 400 BC said that exercise is man's best medicine, but his message has been lost over time and we are an increasingly sedentary society. “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.” Dr Niharika Arora Duggal, also of the University of Birmingham, said: “We hope these findings prevent the danger that, as a society, we accept that old age and disease are normal bedfellows and that the third age of man is something to be endured and not enjoyed.” Professor Stephen Harridge, Director of the Centre of Human & Aerospace Physiological Sciences at King’s College London, said: “The findings emphasise the fact that the cyclists do not exercise because they are healthy, but that they are healthy because they have been exercising for such a large proportion of their lives. “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. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/acel.12750

Major features of immunesenescence, including reduced thymic output, are ameliorated by high levels of physical activity in adulthood



Summary:

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.

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