Regular exercise after the 55-year mark would help slow down the aging of muscles, British and Australian researchers have shown in studies reported by the New York Times.
In a first study, published in 2014, scientists recruited 125 British cyclists, men and women, aged 55 to 79 years. They all cycled regularly, traveling about 650 kilometers a month, but not competing. The study showed that these cyclists had reflexes, memory capacity and a metabolic profile that were more similar to those of a person in their 30s than to a sedentary person in their age group.
The researchers pushed their experiments further by taking the data of some of these cyclists to analyze the aging of their muscle cells. By analyzing muscle tissue taken by biopsy, scientists have been able to determine that the muscles of older cyclists retain their size and composition over decades. Those who traveled the greatest distances a month also had healthier muscles, regardless of age.
In parallel, another team analyzed the immune system of cyclists through blood tests. They were able to determine that active older adults had T-cell counts – white blood cells that attack diseased cells – as high as younger people.
The researchers believe that these results could be related because the muscles secrete a hormone that protects the thymus, a gland in which T lymphocytes develop.
“The message in these studies is that something that seemed as inevitable as aging can actually prevent us,” said the director of the Institute of Inflammation and Aging at the University of Birmingham, Dr. Janet Lord, according to statements reported by the “Times”.