Here's the thing -
science reporters and some scientists are so excited to share what could be helpful, healthful new information that they often make the big reveal before the data is in. So we have had butter and eggs, bad, no actually good, no actually really good ... you know the seesaw. But there is one category where there is universal agreement and the more we study and the more we learn the more we discover that exercise makes life better. Especially as we age. AND, because life expectancy has greatly increased in this country living longer can easily mean living better longer.
Gretchen Reynolds wrote in the New York Times this week
"For the new study, which was published in August in the Journal of Applied Physiology, researchers at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., decided to look at a distinctive set of older men and women. We were very interested in people who had started exercising during the running and exercise booms of the 1970s,” says Scott Trappe, the director of the Human Performance Laboratory at Ball State and the new study’s senior author."
People who began when exercise began to be a thing to do. People who were not competitive athletes, but made exercise an essential part of their lives and never gave it up.
The researchers" found 28 of them, including seven women, each of whom had been physically active for the past five decades. They also recruited a second group of age-matched older people who had not exercised during adulthood and a third group of active young people in their 20s. The researchers tested both groups "focusing on the cardiovascular system and muscles because they are believed inevitably to decline with age and the scientists had expected they would see what a “hierarchical pattern” in differences between the groups."
"The young people, they thought, would possess the most robust muscles and aerobic capacities, with the lifelong exercisers being slightly weaker on both counts and the older non-exercisers punier still. Surprisingly, "the muscles of the older exercisers resembled those of the young people, with as many capillaries and enzymes as theirs, and far more than in the muscles of the sedentary elderly."
And, "In fact, when the researchers compared the active older people’s aerobic capacities to those of established data about “normal” capacities at different ages, they calculated that the aged, active group had the cardiovascular health of people 30 years younger than themselves."
Scott Trappe, the director of the Human Performance Laboratory at Ball State and the new study’s senior author concluded, "Together, these findings about muscular and cardiovascular health in active older people suggest that what we now consider to be normal physical deterioration with ageing “may not be normal or inevitable,”
This was a small study and it doesn't tell us what the outcome might be if we looked at healthy older people who began exercising later in life or were sporadic exercisers ... but it should encourage all of us to find something we love to do that will keep us moving!